Gazette reporters, photographers share 2012 favorites
Gazette photographers selected their favorite photos from 2012.
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 2012:
Reporter: Frank Schultz
Headline: Small bug, big problem
Date published: June 27
Synopsis: The dreaded, tree-killing emerald ash borer is discovered in Janesville.
I had been writing about this invasive, destructive beetle since 2005, after a Janesville city worker tipped me off that it was coming, and there wasn’t much anybody could do to stop it.
So it was with a mixture of satisfaction and sadness that I reported the first confirmed sighting of EAB in Janesville. The story had come full circle. I was satisfied that my warnings had been correct. I was sad that my town, too, was fated to lose most if not all of its ash trees.
The best part of the story: After all the money and effort by the government to track the EAB, it was the sharp eyes of a 5-year-old combined with the knowledge of the beetle by the boy’s parents that led to its discovery at their east side residence.
Reporter: Shelly Birkelo
Date published: April 12
Synopsis: Collecting antiques—primarily tools—has become a lifetime hobby for Ron Jensen, 68, of Albion.
After 35 years in this job, I’m still amazed when people invite complete strangers—a reporter and photographer—into their homes to share priceless collections.
This man had tools in every room of his house. So just when this reporter thought she had seen the last of his collection, he would take me into another room.
Also a history buff, this collector had catalogued every piece in his collection, noting when he bought it, where he bought it or received it from and whether it was a gift and how much he’d paid for it. He also could explain, in detail, how each tool works.
Reporter: Jim Leute
Headline: Road rage: David defeats Goliath
Date published: Spring 2012
Synopsis: When word started getting around that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation wanted to build a new road to connect Highway 11 south of Janesville to Highway 14 west of the city, a coalition of landowners and neighbors put their foot on the brakes.
Spearheaded by Michael Everhart, the group Neighbors United formed to oppose state proposals they said would destroy homes and rip up hundreds of acres of farmland to connect the two highways.
The group did its homework, talked to anyone who would listen and organized a campaign that culminated in May when the state announced its decision to abandon the project indefinitely, in part because of intense local opposition.
Whether you agreed or disagreed with Neighbors United, you have to applaud the group's organization and effort in standing up to a state agency that usually gets its way.
Reporter: Catherine W. Idzerda
Headline: How bad is it? Hope for hail
Date published: July 15
Synopsis: In the dark days of the Great Recession, deepened locally by the closure of Janesville's GM plant, Rock County agriculture stayed strong. Last summer's drought made a difference not only to farmers but also to the local economy.
I think people forget that agriculture is a crucial part of Rock County's economy. It represents almost 10 percent of the county's economy and contributes $1.45 billion in business sales. In addition, the story gave me an opportunity talk to Rene Johnson of Union Bank and Trust; farmer Doug Rebout and UW-Madison professor of agriculture and applied economics Steven Deller. All of them get the complexities of the issue and don't just give talking points.
Reporter: Ann Marie Ames
Headline: Recapping RECAP
Date published: Oct. 14
Synopsis: The Rock County Sheriff’s Office this year celebrates the 20th anniversary of the RECAP program, which provides addiction-recovery, mental health and education services for inmates as alternatives to prison sentences.
This story was a breath of fresh air because I got to talk directly to program participants as opposed to the officials who plan and run programs.
The interviews started on a July morning at the Rock County Community Garden. I was welcomed into a circle of three women contentedly peeling onions and sorting work gloves. We talked for an hour. People kept trying to get me a chair, but I was happy as part of their circle on the blacktop.
Over the next few months, I went to a parenting class, a reading class and an addiction-recovery class. I saw men in their 20’s reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” for the first time. I heard them explain what it felt like to start accepting their addictions. I got to know a few of them by name, and I think of them often. I sincerely hope they can hang on to their sobriety in the real world.
Reporter: Anna Marie Lux
Date published: Feb. 14
Synopsis: Russ and Reva Porter, married almost 64 years, reflect the true meaning of love.
My favorite column of 2012 is a love story starring Russ and Reva Porter. I met 85-year-old Russ at St. Elizabeth Manor’s home in Footville, where he went daily to be with his wife, Reva. For much of the day, he fed Reva, comforted her and did not wander far from her side. After almost 64 years of marriage, Russ would have it no other way.
It did not matter to him that 83-year-old Reva had lost interest in eating. Or that Alzheimer’s disease had robbed her of her vibrant personality. Reva still was the love of his life, now and forever. Who could forget the image of them sitting side-by-side and dozing in front of the fireplace, with their hands gently intertwined?
Reporter: Marcia Nelesen
Date published: March 26
Date published: July 22
Date published: Aug. 18
Synopsis: The best thing about my job is the extraordinary people I get to meet.
Sometimes, you just click with people, and that happened several times in 2012.
The notables include:
-- Dan Reilly, a Fulton Township musician. His house must be some kind of time warp. I went inside planning to spend an hour and upon leaving was astonished to find I had been there almost three.
-- Deb Cary, the businesswoman behind New Glarus Brewery, is intelligent, humorous and, the best of all, down-to-earth. The interview contributed to a delightful morning.
-- Maria Ramirez and Eduardo Suarez are married journalists stationed in New York who traveled to Janesville in the craziness that followed Paul Ryan’s nomination for vice president. We ended up together at a local eatery and keep in touch today.
Hopefully, our paths—and the paths of other extraordinary people I continue to meet—will cross in the future.
Reporter: Gina Duwe
Date published: Jan. 25
Synopsis: Benjamin Jackson, 7, gave a well-rehearsed presentation to his second-grade classmates in Footville about how they should join him in donating $2 from his weekly allowance to help build a new library in Orfordville.
Talk about one adorable child! I was so impressed by the professionalism and courage this young boy showed to get up in front of his peers and explain how much he likes to read and why it's important the community has a nice library. The young philanthropist set a great example for everyone. Plus, he had such cute things to say, such as "We live three minutes from the library, six minutes by pogo stick."
Reporter: Stan Milam
Headline: UW-W athletics rank fifth
Date published: June 8
Synopsis: This story highlighted UW-Whitewater's athletic achievements including national championships in football and basketball.
I was impressed with UW-Whitewater Athletic Director Paul Plinski's comments regarding how the award is an indication of overall success as an educational institution as well as athletic achievements. It was a positive story instead of the usual grim news.