Reporters, photographers share 2011 favorites
Gazette photographers selected their favorite photos from 2011.
Reporters and photographers interview hundreds of people, write dozens of stories and take thousands of photographs in a year’s time.
Some are drudgery; others are a delight.
Some become favorites that they’ll never forget.
Here are some articles and photos Gazette reporters and photographers chose as favorites from 2011:
Reporter: Gina Duwe
Date published: May 20
Synopsis: Eleven motor coaches of veterans and volunteers returned home from VetsRoll 2, a four-day trip to Washington, D.C., for veterans who had never seen the war memorials in their honor there.
I remember grumbling about getting the assignment to drive to Beloit and cover this later-evening event that may or may not happen on time, creating logistical and deadline challenges. After the event, I felt fortunate that I received the assignment.
The warm welcome home created by area residents, police, fire, EMS and other veterans brought tears to the eyes of many in the crowd, including mine. It was great to see the veterans receive the welcome many told me they never got when they returned from war.
“This makes up for everything,” one Korean War veteran told me.
Reporter: Ann Marie Ames
Headline: “Here’s looking at ewe, kid”
Date published: April 16
Synopsis: The Jackson family raises 300 ewes and their lambs in one of Rock County’s few commercial sheep farms.
Some people have aspirations to skydive or climb mountains. Ag nerd that I am, I’d always wanted to write a story about lambing season. I finally checked it off the list in April after spending a Saturday on the Jackson family farm north of Clinton.
The whole Jackson family was there, along with about 600 ewes and lambs. Photographer Dan Lassiter was in his element with “ewe” puns. Jackie asked if I’d do her a favor and play with some Border collie puppies. That’s like asking if I would do someone a favor and take $1 million. Overall, it was a pretty great few hours of reporting.
Reporter: Anna Marie Lux
Date published: Nov. 10
Synopsis: The story talked about a storm that cut a 34-mile path of destruction through Rock County in November 1911.
I have many favorite stories of 2011, but one that comes to mind first is about a deadly storm that occurred more than 100 years ago. Margie Douglas Boylen of Janesville shared with me the memories of her grandfather, who lived through the killer tornado of Nov. 11, 1911.
Like most tornadoes, the storm did things that left people shaking their heads, even a century later. A house was torn from its foundation and carried 60 feet, but no dishes were broken. Two buggies were wrapped around a tree like wooden ribbons. A bull was lifted out of its barn and dropped in a field, where it was found alive and still tied to the barn stanchion.
I heard from a number of people after the story was published. They wanted to share memories of the event passed down to them. They also wanted to express amazement at what nature can do in a few moments of fury.
The weather shapes our lives everyday. We are experts at talking about it. But this particular storm, so destructive and so unusual, ripped its way into family histories that continue to be passed from generation to generation.
Reporter: Catherine W. Idzerda
Date published: Feb. 7
Synopsis: This story describes a bar scene in downtown Janesville during the Super Bowl.
I’m all about darkly ironic. I don’t really drink, I don’t really go to the bars, and I don’t usually watch football. Really the only thing that makes the game tolerable is the presence of the yellow, first-down line. Anyway, it was darkly ironic that I was assigned to do the color feature on the mood in Janesville bars during the Super Bowl.
“Fabulous,” I thought, “An evening spent with drinkers watching paint dry.”
But it turned out to be a lot of fun.
Patrick Wygans of Wiggy’s was an excellent host, and I found a guy at the bar willing to answer my questions about the game. When I ask questions at home, the response usually is, “Don’t you have a book to read or something?”
Then, down at a bar on Main Street, I ran into a fellow curler, and that made the whole experience seem more palatable—OK, alright, I got swept up in the excitement.
Reporter: Frank Schultz
Date published: Feb. 7
Synopsis: Some Janesville Craig High School girls have taken their love of hip-hop dancing to the basketball court, entertaining the crowds.
These black, white and brown girls got some pushback with racial overtones when they started a hip-hop dance group. But the enthusiasm of the 2exclusive dancers infected the crowds when they performed at halftime of basketball games in the Craig gym, winning fans and, I think, opening the eyes of some of their fellow students.
I attended a 2exclusive practice and talked to the girls. Their love for the music, for the moves and for each other was apparent. I had to laugh at their sense of humor about the sometimes silly comments from a few uninformed students. I also got the impression these girls had found a way to fit in at school, something that might not have happened for some of them in any other way.
Reporter: Shelly Birkelo
Headline: “Whole world is watching”
Date published: Oct. 24
Synopsis: Two Wausau firefighters, one of them Janesville native Jared Thompson, gained worldwide attention after reviving a dog rescued from a house fire. Their heroic effort was captured by a local newspaper photographer and after hitting the wire services, gained international recognition.
Jared Thompson, a modest firefighter of almost a decade, didn’t expect to get any attention for the job he was hired to do. Yet the experience was something he said he would never forget.
“I go to work to assist people with whatever it is they need help with. I think any firefighter in the nation would have done the same thing. I got sworn in as a firefighter to protect and serve residents of Wausau, and this resident just happened to be a dog.’’
Reporter: Jim Leute
Headline: “An added dimension”
Date published: June 28
Synopsis: This was a feature story on the growth of Data Dimensions in Janesville.
With plenty of negative economic news hopefully behind us, it’s always a pleasure to report positive stories, and Data Dimensions fits the bill.
The Janesville company, which specializes in document conversion and management, announced plans a couple of years ago to expand. Its owners could have expanded the company anywhere, but they decided to do it in Janesville. The results have been nothing short of remarkable for both the company and the community.