How the Journal Sentinel got lucky with a relic from its past.
Who would have thought that the first big idea to come out of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s new ownership and rejiggered management would be the resurrection of a quirky section killed two decades ago by a paper that no longer exists? A JS veteran, George Stanley had barely warmed the editor’s chair when a reader urged him during an online chat to look at reviving the old Milwaukee Journal’s idiosyncratic Green Sheet. Abolished in 1994, the Green Sheet had been one of the paper’s most eclectic elements: a four-page redoubt for comics, puzzles, advice columns, humor pieces, historic notes and assorted oddities, all printed on green newsprint. “A lot of us at the [Milwaukee] Sentinel thought it was nuts for the Journal to kill it,” says Stanley, who was then business editor at the Journal’s morning rival.
Next, Stanley mentioned the Green Sheet in his Sunday column. “The response was overwhelming,” he says. “Hundreds of people called, emailed, wrote. I didn’t even try to count them. It might have run into thousands.” As internal discussions about reviving the section ran into the spring, he realized reductions at the JS “had cut too much of the lighter side of life. One lady said, ‘You know, the only place we can read about everyday people anymore is in the obituaries.’ If our job is to report our times as they are, then it has to include a place for these kinds of stories.”
Instead of green paper, the new section uses a green screen, and just for one page, not four. It mixes some old and really old archival material (including the eruditely funny columns of Gerald Kloss) with the new. Stanley acknowledges that most of the Green Sheet’s built-in audience is aging. “But it was surprising to me how many people in their 30s remembered the Green Sheet,” he says, “and loved us bringing it back.”