Wisconsin Paper ‘Connects’ With Readers

By: Miki Johnson

When editors at The Journal Times in Racine, Wisc., were looking for a way to keep up single- copy sales between Christmas and the new year, reporter Janine Anderson recalled an old idea. About a year prior, she had heard a National Public Radio story in which a reporter tracked down and interviewed someone who had greatly impacted his or her life. Anderson wanted to expand the idea, forming a chain of community members who had a positive effect on each other’s lives, illustrating what even small acts of kindness can inspire.

Anderson began her eight-day series called “We Are All Connected” with a woman who seemed to know everyone in town, recommended by the owner of a local restaurant. She cited a friend she admired who ran a local soup kitchen. That woman, in turn, described a couple who had helped her run the kitchen over the years, and so on.

These tributes continued through seven connections, running Dec. 25 through Jan. 1. The “Connected” series appeared on the Journal Times’ front page all but one day, under a logo with a string of beads, which was carried over to the Web design.

Anderson said readers and fellow reporters were intrigued by her series and friends told her, by the end, they were “glued to the final piece.” The person at the end ? or is it the beginning? ? of the chain turned out to be Weldon Owens, a history teacher and football coach who pointed dozens of previously uninterested high school students toward college and often helped them find money to pay their tuitions.

“It made me realize again that I’m incredibly lucky to be a reporter,” Anderson declared, because when a “crazy idea” like this hits, she can go out, find the examples, and share them with her community.

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