With this issue an era at Isthmus comes to a close. After 25 and a quarter years, news editor Bill Lueders is moving on. Lueders, a Milwaukee native, came to Madison when former managing editor Marc Eisen left to take a job for a couple of years with The Capital Times. Upon assuming the role of news editor, Lueders' first writing for the paper was in the now-defunct column The Bottom Line, in which he introduced himself to Madison. It was titled "Hello, Disneyland."
I'm sure that after 25-plus years, a lot of the fantasy has gone out of Madison for Lueders, a great deal of it having disappeared in the last few months. But it seems to have grown on him to the extent that he's not going away; he'll still be around the circus that is Madison/Wisconsin politics.
Lueders has done a great job. He was a devotee of the late Erwin Knoll, former Progressive editor, whose biography was his first book and who was probably his great inspiration in turning over rocks and digging up dirt. Muckraking is not a pejorative term when the muck is flowing under the door. He's done voluminous enterprise reporting, aided by a drumbeat of tips and complaints from citizens, ordinary and otherwise, who knew they could rely on him to get to the bottom of an issue. Sometimes the complainers were way off base, but Lueders always gave them a fair hearing, painful as that sometimes was.
The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism will gain from Isthmus' loss. Lueders will join former Wisconsin State Journal reporter Andy Hall there, as director of the "money and politics project." I'm sure he'll have plenty to do in the style of his popular biweekly Watchdog department. (Watchdog is also the title of his most recent book.)
In his departing Opinion column, titled "Fond Farewells," he states, "Over the years I've loved Isthmus and clashed with it." True enough. Lueders can sometimes be difficult to deal with, though that can be said of a lot of us. But you don't want a lapdog for a watchdog. He was successful because of his doggedness (there's that canine reference again), intelligence and sense of fairness. And I'll issue this warning to those politicians who find Bill on their scent: Be afraid. Be very afraid.