As we have from time to time in the past, Isthmus this week delves into the seamier side of Madison - the city we exist to cover - because it's part of where we live, and because what goes on in any part of town eventually affects us all. We may abhor some of the things that transpire in the low-end, low-rent motels around town, and consider them divorced from our everyday lives, but eventually we pay a price for them in our taxes, the strain on city resources and, occasionally, a personal encounter.
Often, when we turn over rocks and look at unpleasantries, it's writer Nathan Comp who is flipping the stones. He's done stories on troubled housing developments, negligent drivers, gun violence, sex offenders among us, post-traumatic stress disorder in returning Iraq vets (which won a Milwaukee Press Club award), and child and adolescent mental health (which won recognition from the state's psychiatric association). So it is this week with "Heartbreak Motels," Comp's latest, and possibly last, report for Isthmus.
This story looks at the travails of running facilities that are the last of the single-room-occupancy type of accommodation left in Madison, which sometimes double as the bottom rung on the institutional housing ladder. It demonstrates the typical thoroughness Comp brings to his projects. He interviews not only the motel owners, but also their neighbors, the police and university experts. He takes little for granted and tries to understand both sides of a rationale. He gives his topic the respect it deserves by not prejudging, letting the story tell itself.
Comp possesses the necessary ingredient to make a successful writer - wide-ranging curiosity. He's written stories for Isthmus about Freakfest 2006, the city's first attempt to control Halloween mayhem; nanotech; the popularity of the maverick presidential candidate Ron Paul; and doing business on East Johnson Street. He's also done some timely news reporting on The Daily Page, as well as penning "Comp Time," an informative series of interviews with local persons of significance, which ran for 30 weeks.
Nathan Comp was the editor of Coreweekly, a Capital Newspaper weekly that lasted from August 2004 to January 2006. He began freelancing subsequent to that, appearing in our pages shortly thereafter. He has now "left the building" as they say, relocating to Philadelphia, where he plans to continue his writing career. We appreciate his contributions to Isthmus during his time here; he certainly deserves our thanks for the work he has done on behalf of Madison journalism.