Madison Magazine columnists speak their minds

These columnists tell it like it is

Words are powerful. A good example is when guest writer John Wiley, former chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, penned “A Lament for Wisconsin” in the August 2015 issue, which was an unfettered plea for Wisconsin to “wake up” and recover its history. We need people – like Wiley and these five regular columnists – who can tell it like it is. Over the years, they have done exactly that, no holds barred.

James Selk
James Selk became editor of Madison Select in 1978 (“Select” was dropped from the name of the magazine the following August). He retired in 1991 but continued to write about local politics in his “Selk at Large” column until June 1998. He died in a car accident on Nov. 15, 1998.

Memorable Quote: “One of the more cosmopolitan aspects of Madison life is the refusal of our city council to be bound to matters of civic interest. … The more I watch the proceedings of the city council, the more I think it would be better for the citizens of Madison if the council members addressed exclusively matters of national and international significance. In the first place no one in world power is going to pay any attention to what they do and say and write. In the second place, as long as they are concerned with European and Asian affairs, they aren’t going to screw up anything locally.” – “Editor’s Corner,” April 1982

Brennan Nardi
Brennan Nardi served as this magazine’s editor from 2005 to 2015. So she was helming the publication in 2011 when thousands of people converged on the Capitol to protest Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislation ending collective bargaining for public employees. She took issue with the governor’s criticisms of Madison and its residents.

Memorable Quote: “There are plenty of things to improve upon in this city, but a lot of reasons to celebrate and champion: clean lakes, cleaner government, exceptional schools and health care, beautiful parks and bike paths, successful family farms, vibrant arts and a progressive business environment …. The way Scott Walker’s behaving, you’d think there’s something wrong with that. You’d also think we don’t pay our fair share of taxes, which I find offensive.” – “The Big Breakup,” April 2011

John Roach
John Roach, a Madison-based, world-traveling independent television producer, started penning his monthly back-of-the-book column in July 1992 initially in the form of a letter to editor Doug Moe. This issue marks the 25th anniversary of Roach’s column.

Memorable Quote: “We humans are absolute masters of denial. We can see violence, injustice and all sorts of awful things, and yet go on with our merry lives as if they don’t exist because we are talented at convincing ourselves we are faultless. … Madison’s own struggle with denial has become public in a big way of late thanks to the Race to Equity report. Now the whole nation knows that Madison, Milwaukee and Wisconsin have the wonderful distinction of owning America’s greatest academic and incarceration gaps.” – “The Fine Art of Looking the Other Way,” June 2014

Rebecca Ryan
As an economist, consultant and “futurist,” Rebecca Ryan wrote an engaging business column for the magazine from 2010 to 2015. Her writing sometimes sparked controversy, such as the one headlined “The Tier-Two Tradeoff” published in September 2015.

Memorable Quote: “For all of its ‘best places to live’ awards, Madison is simply an affordable, Midwestern college town. Which is why Caucasian retirees love it. … If you’re not a Caucasian retiree – if you’re a young professional and/or Latino and/or African American and/or have a tank full of ambition and drive – Madison may break your heart. … Living in a tier-two city like Madison comes with an opportunity cost. Your career, your opportunities, your network — all will be limited.” – “The Tier-Two Tradeoff,” September 2015

Madison’s Big-Picture Thinker: Neil HeinenMadison Magazine columnists speak their minds

Five times Neil Heinen wrote cover stories that put Madison’s biggest development, social and economic issues into perspective, giving us hope for the city’s future and providing reality checks in the name of progress:

“While Madison with all its well-documented assets is perfectly situated to be the heart of these growth strategies, we need our partners and allies in the communities surrounding us to become the regional force that can actually compete with Austin and Columbus and Portland and Raleigh and — let’s not kid ourselves — Ames and Omaha and Sioux Falls.” -“Advance Now: Why 2013 Is the Make-or-Break Year for Business to Boom,” January 2013

“It’s important to have a global strategy, modest as it may be. Sister City relationships, such as Madison’s ties to Freiburg, Germany, or Mantova, Italy, can bring a modicum of globalism to a city. So can universities with foreign students. But truly global cities have more. Much more.” –“Think Global, Act Local,” January 2014

“Like many more self-aware cities, Madison is now viewing its future through the lenses of innovation, diversity, creativity, globalism and change. Our physical landscape is beginning to reflect that future. And, now, our leadership is as well.” –“The New Face of Madison Leadership,” January 2016

“As our region makes the transition to a more entrepreneurial, knowledge-based economy, the convergence of established and influential conscious capitalists and startup innovators makes Madison an inviting environment for exploring the potential of higher-purpose business practices.” –“Conscious Capitalism,” January 2017

“If Dane County is going to be recognized as a national leader in criminal justice reform, as it is poised to be, this is the year to cement commitment to community restorative courts as a fundamental component of that reform.” –“Second Chances,” January 2018

For more on the 40th Anniversary of Madison Magazine, click here.