These are indeed challenging times for newspapers, but that's no reason to not keep moving forward. In that spirit, Dean Robbins has been named the fourth editor of Isthmus in its nearly 33 year publishing history.
Isthmus has been without an editor in chief since former editor Marc Eisen stepped down from that role in October 2007. Since that time the paper has been guided by an editorial board, which was formed when Eisen relinquished editorial management to concentrate on writing. He left the paper entirely last summer when the current economic malaise tightened its grip, though he has continued to contribute to the paper on occasion.
Robbins took an unpaid leave at the same time to help ease the paper's financial situation. He has worked this fall in his wife's home business, editing technical books and manuals. He will rejoin the staff and assume his new duties on Jan. 5.
Times have gotten tougher for newspapers lately, especially for daily newspapers. Readers are familiar with developments in Madison, as The Capital Times abandoned daily print publishing to reconstitute itself this past April as an online news organ with two weekly print editions. Just this week came the news that the two dailies in my former hometown, Detroit, have determined to reduce home delivery of their newspapers to three days a week and concentrate more on their web operations. The Detroit Media Partnership, which prints and runs the business operations of the city's two daily newspapers, the Detroit News and the Free Press, will deliver on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. They will still print editions on the other four days for newsstand sales.
Weekly publications retain their viability, and Robbins' appointment signals the determination of this newspaper to continue to strive for improvement in all editorial platforms.
Robbins first came to Isthmus in 1983 as an arts writer and backup copy editor. He is a 1980 honors graduate of Grinnell College, majoring in English, and he served a couple of stints as a high school English teacher. He became arts editor of Isthmus in 1985, a post he held until his 1989 departure to become a developmental editor at William C. Brown, a Madison book publishing company. He returned to his position as arts editor in 1991, a post he retained until his leave this fall, when he was succeeded as arts editor by Kenneth Burns.
We eagerly await Robbins' return in January, and wish him the greatest success in his new position.