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The Paper
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Buh-bye, 2006

I guess you could go on and on about whether or not 2006 was a very good year, and in the next week many people will do just that, for one thing is indisputable - it's almost over. It's pundit time.

Perhaps you're sensitive to the upheaval in the domestic automobile and media industries, in which case you're probably thinking this was one tough annum. On the other hand, if you are among those who think the American voters finally got one right, you may still be on a November high.

Around here, we certainly had our challenges during 2006, but we had our triumphs too. The latest came just last week, when we learned that freelance writer Jennifer Smith was among 25 arts journalists chosen by the National Endowment for the Arts to participate in the Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater. The institute provides "intensive training for theater critics who work outside the top three markets," and Madison certainly qualifies. Isthmus sponsored Smith, who is a regular contributor to our arts coverage.

The program will take place from Jan. 30 to Feb. 9, 2007 in Los Angeles, hosted by the University of Southern California's Annenberg School. Why is arts criticism important? Geoffrey Cowan, dean of the Annenberg School for Communications and a recognized playwright in his own, has this to say: "First-rate arts criticism helps strengthen cultural institutions and the communities they serve."

We couldn't agree more. That's why we do so much of it. And that's why, in this last issue of 2006, we apply that philosophy across the board. This is the week for our critics, including Smith, to contribute to the omnibus arts-year-in-review story, assembled by our arts editor, Dean Robbins. It's also the week Rich Albertoni reviews the year in local music, Jerry Minnich and Raphael Kadushin recall their memorable experiences in pursuit of a meal, and Jason Joyce looks back at the year that was in sports. (How 'bout them Packers? Still alive, theoretically, with a game left.)

And, of course, we have that granddaddy of critic-strengthens-community exercises, "Cheap Shots." Once again, Isthmus news editor Bill Lueders wields the skewers as he looks back over the hypocrisies and contradictions of 2006. Read this before you decide whether it was a good year, a bad year or, perhaps, just another year.

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