We Tried On the Table MKE and Learned a Lot from the Experience

On the Table MKE gives residents throughout greater Milwaukee a chance to gather in small groups and talk candidly about the challenges facing the community – and identify potential solutions.

We wrote about On the Table MKE in the October issue of Milwaukee Magazine. Our story explains how this organization walks the talk, and as a staff we thought we ought to too. Throughout the day we attended multiple sessions to discuss ideas for how to better the city of Milwaukee. Following are some of our accounts.

Read the Insider Story About On the Table

Take the Bus to this Meeting! 

I didn’t take the bus this meeting. I intended to meet the challenge, but when the time came I felt it would be faster to drive, like I do to work, meetings, the store and nearly everywhere else. “It’s easier,” I thought, “more convenient.” I assumed I wouldn’t be the only one who felt this way. Most people I know are drivers. But when our small group went around the table at Troop Cafe (easily accessible by several well-used transit lines) to talk about our commuting habits, I realized one-by-one that I was wrong. Some were public transit users by choice, while others did not have cars. I was the only one who drove to the cafe. But that’s the question: Why didn’t I take the bus? Why don’t most Milwaukeeans take the bus?

Despite having a nationally ranked public transit system, many cream citizens drive past bikers, scooters and pedestrians every day to park their cars in a lot no too far from a bus stop. But why? With a real-time app and accessible stops, the Milwaukee County Transit System is an approachable, environmentally-conscious and affordable alternative for many Milwaukee residents (though, admittedly, not for everyone). Some at the meeting declared carism, while others suggested more well-known isms – such as race and class – were at the center of the issue. One woman worried people feel life, with its many daily destinations, has become too complicated for the bus. Everyone agreed on one thing: Driving is part of the culture, and it’s really easy in Milwaukee. 

Changing the culture around driving was never going to be solved in one sitting, but the group had no shortage of ideas. As for me, at the end of the hour-long discussion, I downloaded the Ride MCTS app in hopes that for my next meeting, it will feel easier to take the bus. 

Allison Garcia, Digital Editor

Achieving Pay Equity for Women

As a working woman, the gender gap in pay equity is a topic near and dear to my heart. So I was excited to sign up for a discussion on the issue hosted by the Women’s Leadership Collaborative, and even more excited to see that about 80 other women (and one man!) had signed up too. When I got to the Schlitz Park conference room where the event was taking place, most of them were already there, metaphorically ready to roll up their sleeves and start brainstorming ways to combat the problem. 

My table-mates talked about the importance of making sure that young women have as many professional opportunities as young men, about finding ways to help female employees advocate for themselves, and about adopting policies to help retain working mothers (a rapidly growing segment of the overall workforce). At other tables, participants also talked about the role that HR employees play in recruiting diverse applicants, the importance of finding female mentors and and steps companies can take to be more inclusive. 

I came away from the hour-long feeling fired up, and ready to keep the conversation going. So I’d say it was a success!

Lindsey Anderson, Senior Culture Editor

Milwaukee Press Club

A group of current and former journalists, Press Club board members and a few interested citizens gathered at – where else? – the Newsroom Pub to talk about what’s on their minds. Much of the conversation focused on recruiting and developing talented journalists to work in the field, and particularly encouraging young people of color to consider it as a career. That’s tough sledding these days, a fact with which most in attendance were already familiar – some of us intimately. (I’ll be observing the second anniversary of my newspaper layoff later this month – an episode that ended well for me, here at MilMag.) 

Last year’s conversation along similar lines yielded some impressive results. Solution-oriented discussions that continued after participants left the table resulted in five paid internships awarded to high school students to work in local newsrooms this year, thanks to funding from the Milwaukee Press Club Endowment. Discussions this year aimed to build on that success. 

When you get journalists together and let them talk, though, it’s hard not to talk about audience and how to connect with them. With you. And that was another key topic today. Positioning our outlets’ stories (or, really, as much I hate the word, content) in the modern landscape of social media and declining engagement with civic and media institutions is a challenge everyone at the table shares. We certainly didn’t solve that big problem today, but I think a lot of us came away with some new ways to think about the problem and about our audience strategies in general. I know I did.   

Chris Drosner, Senior Culture Editor