I mentioned last week that we are entering a period of change and readjustment to a tighter paper as we seek to accommodate the convulsive advertising environment that is affecting all media, especially print. This week I continue the unhappy chore with the announcement of the departure of Kent Williams from the Isthmus staff.
You know him primarily as Isthmus' first-string movie critic, and a fine one he is too. Secondarily you would know him as a fine arts writer, and he's done pretty well at that as well. A quick perusal of Isthmus' awards wall yields nine Milwaukee Press Club first-place awards for arts criticism. This is the preeminent statewide journalism competition, and Williams has dominated it during his Isthmus tenure. His absence will open up the category, to the relief of arts writers throughout Wisconsin, though he's still eligible for the 2008 awards, which will be announced in March. He's also received national recognition, including the Association of Alternative Newspapers' first place for arts criticism. He may have even more awards in deep storage.
Something you probably don't know: Kent Williams is Mr. Right. Yes, he's been penning the third-generation Isthmus advice column since September 1993. (The first two generations were "Ursula Understands" and "Ask Isadora.") The final Mr. Right appears in this issue. No replacement has as yet been identified. This is also the final appearance by Williams as our regular film reviewer. He will, however, have the arts feature in next week's issue, a look forward to the Oscars.
Kent Williams came to Isthmus in February 1989 from southern Illinois. A 1980 graduate of the University of Illinois, he spent several years post-graduation writing arts criticism for a number of publications, including C-U Weekly, an early alternative paper in Urbana; Illinois Times, a still-active alt in Springfield, Ill.; and the Champaign-Urbana News Gazette, a daily.
It's not easy saying goodbye to people as talented, intelligent and loyal as Williams, but it is what the tenuous times require, and I'm sure all parties will prosper in the end. We part on good terms and with no regrets, all the way around.