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2022: The Year in Recombobulation
What a year it was.
The Recombobulation Area is a six-time Milwaukee Press Club award-winning weekly opinion column and online publication written and published by veteran Milwaukee journalist Dan Shafer. Learn more about it here.
That’s right folks, the year 2022 is coming to an end. So, we’re doing the thing that all publications do in the final weeks of the year: We’re taking a look back.
And my goodness did we all do a lot of voting this year. This year in Milwaukee and Wisconsin was in many ways defined by elections. In Milwaukee, we began 2022 by electing our city’s first new mayor in nearly two decades, and November’s not-a-red-wave midterm was the year’s biggest political story, and Wisconsin was, of course, a huge part of that.
Here at The Recombobulation Area, we wrote a whole lot about all of those elections, from the mayor’s race in February and April to the August primaries to the general election in November to all of the polls and interviews and storylines in between.
In fact, most of our most-read stories of 2022 were elections-related, and our No. 1 most-read story of the year was our post-election breakdown, ‘15 Takeaways from the 2022 Midterm Election in Wisconsin’. Turns out a whole lot of people pay attention to elections in the most closely contested swing state in the nation!
Our coverage of elections in the Wisconsin State Legislature also proved to be some of our most popular stories of the year. The “Election Preview” series, where we previewed all 116 races on the ballot across the state (Senate and Assembly!), and our continuing coverage of the potential supermajority (an outcome that Democrats ultimately prevented), accounted for four of our Top 15 most-read stories. Additionally, our story on LuAnn Bird, the Democratic candidate for the State Assembly’s 84th District – “Bird on a Wire” – was our most-read feature of the year.
Also pretty big for us in 2022: We found ourselves in the pages of The New York Times, where I contributed a piece to the Opinion section on Mandela Barnes’ campaign for Senate and a generational shift unfolding in American politics.
The year 2021 was when we published our multi-part series on the proposed expansion of the East-West Corridor of I-94 – “Expanding the Divide” – and this year, that series earned us three awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, including our first Gold honor – for Best Multi-Story Coverage of a Single Feature Topic or Event.
Our coverage of the highway project has continued on into 2022. We broke the news here at The Recombobulation Area that the future of the Stadium Freeway would be reexamined, and wrote about the tremendous opportunity that such a reimagining could bring to the city of Milwaukee. We also continued to cover the latest developments with the project, like its various improvements and the symbolic endpoint of the six vs. eight debate.
The Recombobulation Area is a reader-supported publication. To help fund our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
The Recombobulation Area has grown a whole lot this year. An important part of that growth has been through developing partnerships and working with new contributors. We formed partnerships with Heartland Signal and Milwaukee Record, and welcomed several contributors to our pages, including Marquette University political science professor Phil Rocco, and Angela Lang, executive director of Black Leaders Organizing for Communities. Robin Palm, Sam Harshner and Jay Bullock each also contributed terrific pieces.
The Recombobulation Area also grew through events this year. In 2021, we held our first live event, and in 2022, we held three more. We hosted live conversations with both the Mayor and County Executive. You can revisit our conversations with Cavalier Johnson at Boone & Crockett (podcast, video) and David Crowley at Anodyne Walker’s Point (podcast, video). We also hosted Marquette University Law School Poll director Charles Franklin for an event at Dandy in Washington Heights.
We also did a whole lot more work with radio and television, guest hosting our friend Kristin Brey’s new radio show, “As Goes Wisconsin,” and stepping in to host several episodes of “Connect MKE” on CW18 Milwaukee and My24 Milwaukee. You also heard me regularly on shows across the Civic Media network and on WCPT 820 in Chicago with Patti Vazquez.
And while we did cover a range of topics this year – yes, even our semi-annual Bucks column – on the whole, elections really dominated our coverage in 2022.
Here’s a look back at what we had to say about elections and politics this year.
The Milwaukee Mayor’s Race
Feature stories and commentary
Rocco: ‘Whose Cream City?’
Bike Fed: ‘9 Biking Projects for Milwaukee’s Next Mayor’
Urban Spaceship: ‘11 Urbanism Must-Haves for Milwaukee’s Next Mayor’
The August primaries
The November election
‘Heartland Signal: 'Breaking down Friday’s Wisconsin Senate debate'’
‘Heartland Signal: 'Independents, young men shift right: Breaking down the October Marquette poll'’
Heartland Signal: 'Tim Michels and one-party rule in Wisconsin'
This will be the 97th and final newsletter we’re sending in 2022. I guess that means we’re a little bit more than just a weekly column now. Thanks to all of you who have subscribed, read, and shared our work over the past year. We’ve experienced tremendous growth for this scrappy little publication in 2022. It’s been quite the year for us, and we’ve got big things planned for 2023. So, stay tuned.
And, of course, one final, simple reminder to subscribe to The Recombobulation Area.
Happy holidays, and we’ll see you in the new year!
Dan Shafer is a journalist from Milwaukee who writes and publishes The Recombobulation Area. He previously worked at Seattle Magazine, Seattle Business Magazine, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine, and BizTimes Milwaukee. He’s also written for The New York Times, The Daily Beast, Heartland Signal, Belt Magazine, WisPolitics, and Milwaukee Record. He’s won 13 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards. He’s on Twitter at @DanRShafer.
The Recombobulation Area is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Follow Dan Shafer on Twitter at @DanRShafer.