“Isthmus” back in circulation after 17-month hiatus

The now-monthly publication has been around in Madison since 1976
Published: Aug. 6, 2021 at 10:55 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 6, 2021 at 5:15 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A local newspaper is back in circulation after taking a 17-month hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It really is exhilarating. I think we are all a little dazed from all the effort that it took and the very late nights and the anxiety,” said Judy Davidoff, editor and president of Isthmus.

Isthmus has been a staple in the Madison community since 1976.

Isthmus is Madison’s community newspaper. It tells you what’s going on in town, it covers local news. I think it really connects the people in this community to this city,” said Davidoff.

“It’s engrained in the city. It’s how people plan their weekends, it’s how people find out what is going on,” said Jason Joyce, publisher of Isthmus. “People also appreciate the in-depth journalism and criticism that we bring to it.”

Like a countless number of other businesses and industries, the effects of the pandemic were felt almost immediately at the newspaper.

“In March 2020, COVID-19 came to Madison and within days, all the advertising really dried up,” said Judy Davidoff, editor and president of Isthmus. “Restaurants were closing, venues were closing. All that revenue that supported print products dried up.”

Judy Davidoff and Jason Joyce proudly display the first Isthmus newspaper printed in 17 months
Judy Davidoff and Jason Joyce proudly display the first Isthmus newspaper printed in 17 months(Tim Elliott)

Davidoff says the former owners of the paper decided to shut down most of the operation rather than incur more expenses. Many staff members were laid off as a result. A portion of the editorial team decided to continue producing a limited amount of content, but strictly for their website and social media channels. Many of them worked on a volunteer basis.

This summer, the former owners donated the intellectual property and the paper switched to a non-profit organization.

Now, Isthmus is back with a brand new 39-page edition for the month of August. They printed 33,000 papers this month. You can find them in grocery stores, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and libraries.

“I think people appreciate having the printed product in their hands again. They appreciate having something that is aesthetically so beautiful. I think they appreciate the thought behind it,” said Davidoff.

“The print product and the ability to be able to spread that out on the table and really spend some time with it is really a part of Madison,” added Joyce.

The cover art on the August 2021 is a reference to the famous photo featuring former president Harry S. Truman. In the original photo, President Truman holds up an edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune. The headline incorrectly stated “Dewey Defeats Truman”. In fact, Truman went on to win the presidency in 1948.

As of now, the plan is to keep publishing a new newspaper every month.

“I think it’s necessary it continues, and I hope print (newspapers) will be around for a while,” said Joyce.

The Isthmus relies heavily on donations from readers. If you’d like to donate and support local journalism, click here

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