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DuPre’, Mike / Century of stories : a 100 year reflection of Janesville and surrounding communities

Preface,   pp. VIII-X


The idea for "Century of Stories" germinated in shoptalk at the Gazette newsroom Christmas party in 1998.
A few of us were talking about the annual chore of publishing the Progress edition, when I said, "What are we
gonna do next year, when everybody thinks it's the end of the century?"
Eyes widened. Chatter stopped. Beer was gulped instead of sipped.
"We could do a 100-inch story with one item from each year," I suggested and watched Barb Uebelacker, then the
news editor, blanch.
From journalism school on, we've been drilled: "Be concise. Write short stories."
And getting enough space for such a long story isn't easy. But "Century of Stories" became much more than a
single story.
A few days later, I suggested to Editor Scott Angus that we make the annual Progress edition a century recap. But
he pointed out that the Gazette is a for-profit business that wants more, rather than fewer, revenue opportunities.
Well, I countered, if we're going to do this right, it will take all year. We could publish the retrospective in 10
monthly installments, one for each decade. That would give us 10 chances to sell advertising and newspapers.
Angus pitched the idea to General Manager Dave Johnson and other department heads. They liked it.
The problem with any good idea is that it always degenerates into a lot of hard work. It was my idea, so it became
my project.
I was not a "history buff." But I guess I appeared that way because I suggested and wrote
many articles about local veterans' experiences in World War II.
I envisioned a graphically oriented, horizontally structured time line of local history to accompany similar time
lines of the last century's accomplishments and failures in science, industry, entertainment, national and
international affairs. Accompanying them would be an overview and a feature story or two about the more
interesting or influential local folks and happenings.
At the same time we were hashing out the concept, we learned that a news syndicate was offering what we needed:
decade-by-decade recaps of the 20th century's national and international personalities, events and trends. But the
syndicate's retrospectives were in classic, vertical newspaper style, so we decided to follow that format.
The process meant finding nuggets of news, or notes, and not just of what the city council or county board did or
didn't do.
We published the first eight-page section March 27.
That's when the readers essentially took over. Their response startled us. When people dislike an article, we might
get three or four calls. When they like a story, we might get one or two.
Over the next four days, no fewer than a dozen readers called to ask if they had missed a section or when the next
one was coming out.
They loved the notes. Especially the obscure or quirky items about people's idiosyncrasies, foibles and follies. Just
as with contemporary news, readers appreciated most the stuff that prompted them to say, "Hey, listen to
this!"...even if it wasn't about some earthshaking event.
In all our collective years in the newspaper business, we had not seen such a positive response. So we responded
to with more notes and more stories.
The folks at Terry Printing of Janesville saw what the Gazette was doing, and Mark Terry approached the
newspaper about forming a partnership to turn the 10 newspaper sections into a book. That, too, was part of my
original idea, but while the Gazette has plenty of experience publishing newspapers, it has little experience
publishing books.
Terry Printing provided the expertise and equipment to transform "Century of Stories" into this book.
Local history provided more than enough material and is the sole subject of this book. The Gazette purchased the
news syndicate's national and international retrospectives, but the deal was for one-time publication.

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