UPDATE, April 2024: Read our latest press release on what’s been happening at The Recombobulation Area here:

Welcome to the Recombobulation Area!

The Recombobulation Area is a weekly opinion column and online publication covering news and politics in Milwaukee and Wisconsin. The publication is completely independent and is funded by readers who subscribe right here on Substack. It is written, edited and published by veteran Milwaukee journalist Dan Shafer.

The publication features bold opinions, in-depth analysis, extensively reported feature stories, podcasts, guest contributors, live events and more, with a unique perspective on the state’s largest city and the most closely contested swing state in the nation. 

This column gets its name from the semi-famous post-security area at the Milwaukee's Mitchell Airport where one “recombobulates” (which is not a real word nor something that exists anywhere else in the world, making it basically perfect). The news cycle in Milwaukee and Wisconsin can often be discombobulating. That’s why we need The Recombobulation Area, to help piece everything together before you move on to wherever it is that you’re going. 

The weekly column is free to all, and the majority of the content you see at The Recombobulation Area is free, but the publication is made possible by our paid subscribers. You can get started with just $5 per month or subscribe for a full year for $50. The vast majority of our funding comes directly from our readers, and we’re pretty proud of that. 

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Launched in 2019 as a part-time project by veteran Milwaukee journalist Dan Shafer, who was a stay-at-home dad at the time, The Recombobulation Area has grown considerably over the last few years, and is now a staple of the media landscape in Wisconsin, reaching thousands and thousands of readers with each newsletter. 

The publication has been honored by the Milwaukee Press Club, winning 10 awards in three years, including a Gold award in 2022 for “Best Multi-Story Coverage of a Single Feature Topic or Event (Writing)” for our groundbreaking multi-part series on the proposed expansion of I-94 in the city of Milwaukee, “Expanding the Divide.” Additional awards include multiple wins for “Best Column,” “Best Public Service Story or Series,” and “Best Single Editorial.”

In 2022, Shafer also contributed a column to The New York Times’ Opinion section and The Recombobulation Area was also named one of Substack’s featured publications. 

Also in 2022, as the publication became a full-time endeavor, The Recombobulation Area has formed partnerships with Heartland Signal and Milwaukee Record, and presented live events featuring Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson, Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley and Marquette University Law School pollster Charles Franklin.

Shafer has also become a regular guest on the Civic Media network, filling in as a guest host for Kristin Brey on “As Goes Wisconsin,” and appearing weekly on “Dueling Tangents.” He also appears weekly on WCPT 820 AM on “Driving it Home with Patti Vasquez.”

Before launching The Recombobulation Area, Shafer was a staff writer, reporter and editor at several publications since 2010, mostly in Milwaukee. He worked as the digital managing editor at Seattle magazine and Seattle Business magazine; a reporter at the Milwaukee Business Journal; an assistant editor and digital editor at Milwaukee Magazine; a reporter at BizTimes Milwaukee; and managing editor at ThirdCoast Digest. He has also contributed at The New York Times, The Daily Beast, Belt Magazine, Heartland Signal, WisPolitics and Milwaukee Record. He has won 17 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards. He is on Twitter at @DanRShafer.

You can find The Recombobulation Area on Facebook and on Instagram

After years of disruption — most of it harmful to journalism — today’s media could use some recombobulation. That is what we hope to deliver in this column and with this publication as it continues to grow.

We invite you to gather your things, put your shoes back on, and join us. It could be quite the ride.

If you’re interested in contacting Dan Shafer or The Recombobulation Area, or if you have any other questions, news tips, column ideas (or even just a funny story to share), email headquarters at therecombobulationarea@gmail.com.

Subscribe to The Recombobulation Area

The Recombobulation Area is an award-winning weekly opinion column and online publication by longtime Milwaukee journalist Dan Shafer, covering news and politics in Milwaukee and Wisconsin. We live in discombobulating times. Let's recombobulate.


Dan Shafer writes and publishes a weekly opinion column called The Recombobulation Area.