This week marks the final issue of Isthmus presided over by Marc Eisen's editorial leadership. After a 30-year association, we send him into the world, compelled by changing times and restricted budgets.
Eisen first entered the brave new world of Isthmus as a recent UW-Parkside graduate working at a paper in West Bend. He showed up looking for freelance assignments and produced his first, "The Bins Are Still a Bargain," which appeared in the March 27, 1977 issue, less than a year after the paper got its start. In it he reveled in being able to find albums by Tracey Nelson, Derek & the Dominoes, the Byrds and Boz Scaggs in the cutout bin. He also served notice as to the range of his intellectual interests and ability.
By April 1978 Eisen was on staff as associate editor. In those days folks were heavily compensated in title - in money, not so much. He rapidly proved his worth when he won what was probably Isthmus' first press award in March 1980. The now-defunct Madison Press Club recognized him for "Best News Story in a Weekly Newspaper" - the story being "The Rapist," published by us in October 1979.
On the occasion of the award I wrote in this column: "That story epitomizes Marc's work: thorough, conscientious, fair and concerned not just with the facts, but with the truth that gives the facts their significance. He deserved the award not just for 'The Rapist,' but for solid reporting week after week."
That first award was followed by a steady stream of others in the ensuing years on topics as varied as illegal real estate tie-ins in Dane County and the sorry state of the Wisconsin Medicaid program. That last one got him a trip to New York and $2,500 from the national Champion Media Awards.
In 1986 Eisen left Isthmus to work for The Capital Times, prompting these words from me in this column: "His contributions to the paper have been invaluable and his professional growth during his term here has been enormous. In a personal vein, I lose an alter ego and a relationship of trust that meant much to me."
Eisen returned to Isthmus in August 1988 as editor, and for the last 20 years he has produced a distinguished body of work visiting a broad selection of topics. But for the life of me I can come up with no more heartfelt words upon his departure than I did in 1988. Marc Eisen may have been the most important person ever to work at Isthmus. Beyond his journalism, he leaves a legacy of well-schooled staffers and a tradition of fairness and thoroughness. He leaves a standard that those remaining must strive to maintain. We hope to see his writing in our pages again. But what he leaves us with is more than ink on paper.