By Robert Gebelhoff, Marquette University Senior
One year into publishing Madisonâ€™s Isthmus in 1977, the alternative newspaperâ€™s owners traded ad space for tuxedos and rented out a local ballroom to celebrate its first anniversary.
Seasoned reporters from across the region came to join the celebration â€” and to stare befuddled at their brand new competition, which at the time was bumping along and struggling with its finances.
The newspaper has come a long way since then. With a little bit of time and a lot of hard work, it became a widely respected source of news, directed under the leadership of its publisher Vince Oâ€™Hern.
â€œI always loved the work,â€ Oâ€™Hern said, describing his 38-year tenure at the paper.
Oâ€™Hern, 71, launched Isthmus in 1976 in a partnership with a local journalist named Fred Milverstedt, whom he eventually bought out a few years later.
It took until earlier this year for Oâ€™Hern to decide to retire, selling the paper to a group that would keep it independent and local. Although his leadership of Isthmus has come to an end, he looks back on the paperâ€™s work, which included capturing the flowering alternative culture scene in Madison, to news coverage that included exposing drug use among politicians in the rotunda.
Isthmus has received numerous journalism awards, including from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia and the Milwaukee Press Club. Many accomplished reporters started off their careers with the paper including those who made their way to the Los Angeles Times, Time Magazine and the New York Times.
Early on, Oâ€™Hern spent countless hours scraping by and bartending to make ends meet. To those just starting in the industry, he said he expects nothing less.
â€œGet ready to work hard,â€ Oâ€™Hern said. â€œThereâ€™s no resting in a world like this. Every day is a new news day.â€