190623_BLISS_SKIP

In this 2009 photo, Gazette Publisher Skip Bliss holds a copy of the newspaper at the Bliss Communications printing and distribution plant in Janesville. Members of the Bliss family have owned The Gazette since 1883. The plant and all five Bliss publications will soon be sold to the Adams Publishing Group.

Sidney H. Bliss’ name appears each day at the lower left of this page, though many readers likely know little about him or how he has influenced Gazette editorials and the principles guiding them.

Skip, as he’s known, has been the soul of The Gazette and its Opinion Page for many years. Readers experience his passion for journalism whenever they open this newspaper. It is no coincidence The Gazette earned overall Newspaper of the Year awards from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association the past four years.

Skip’s contributions to The Gazette are too numerous to list in this space, but with the sale of The Gazette to the Adams Publishing Group expected to close soon, there’s no better time to honor Skip, in particular his commitment to the Opinion Page.

Skip summed up his view of The Gazette’s role in the community in a letter announcing the pending sale of The Gazette to the Adams Publishing Group and Bliss Communication’s two radio stations, WCLO and WJVL, to Ben Thompson of Big Radio. “As sources of increasingly biased information have proliferated, we have remained steadfastly independent,” Skip wrote in the June 4 letter. “We have always respected your right to the truth and kept the mission of providing it sacred to the best of our ability.”

On the Opinion Page, we embark on a truth-finding mission every day. It’s sometimes messy but almost always an adventure. Skip Bliss has been a big part of this adventure, helping to shape the editorial board’s positions on issues affecting the community. His leadership has permitted the Opinion Page to thrive while other newspapers have chipped away at their opinion content.

Some newspapers have stopped writing editorials altogether, and many newspapers that continue to publish editorials no longer do candidate endorsements.

Staying silent isn’t for Skip, however. “There’s a group of people in journalism who believe, ‘Who are we to tell people who to vote for?’ I’ve never subscribed to that,” Skip said in an interview about his approach to the Opinion Page. “If it (an endorsement) stimulated conversation ahead of an election, I think that’s a good thing.”

With the pending sale of The Gazette, the leadership Skip provided will shift to the Adams Publishing Group. We believe Adams will continue to support the vigorous exchange of ideas on the Opinion Page, including through the publication of editorials exposing problems and pointing out success stories within the community.

Readers don’t always like what the editorial board has to say, and that’s OK. Skip has heard from appreciative and angry readers alike, and he considers beneficial this clashing of ideas and perspectives. “To me, I think we’ve done our job when that’s the case,” he said.

He’s right. The Opinion Page has done its job when it provokes discussion—pro or con—about an issue. The editorial board seeks to engage readers, and if readers disagree with a Gazette editorial, that’s perfectly fine. Write us a letter. We’re happy to publish it.

In an age of timidity and tip-toeing around controversy, Skip permitted the Opinion Page to be bold. For that, the editorial board is grateful for his leadership.

Thank you, Skip Bliss, for bringing your convictions and your passion for journalism to The Gazette.

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