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Isthmus is a free alternative weekly newspaper based in Madison, Wisconsin (US). Founded by Vince O'Hern and Fred Milverstedt in 1976, the paper is published on Thursdays, and has a weekly circulation of 50,000.[1][2] The newspaper offers local news, opinion, sports and the arts, dining and music scenes.

Isthmus January 1 2010.jpg
TypeAlternative weekly
Owner(s)Isthmus Publishing Company, Inc.
PublisherJeff Haupt
EditorJudith Davidoff
FoundedApril 9, 1976
Headquarters100 State Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53703, United States

Isthmus takes its name from the land mass that forms the heart of Madison’s downtown and houses the twin engines of the city’s economy, the University of Wisconsin—Madison and the Wisconsin State Capitol. The paper was founded by Vincent P. O'Hern and Fred Milverstedt, the latter a Madison area journalist and the former a Madison transplant originally from Detroit. It was O'Hern and Milverstedt who came up with the paper's somewhat ominous original motto, "To the Death," a mantra that, according to O'Hern, "expressed our determination to succeed," though he noted that "no life has been lost in [the paper's] production."[3] Milverstedt served as original editor of Isthmus until leaving the paper in 1980. O'Hern would remain as the paper's publisher, and write a weekly "Making the Paper" column; his wife, Linda Baldwin, also served as associate publisher.

On July 10, 2014, O'Hern announced that he and Baldwin would retire from Isthmus, and that its parent company would be sold to Red Card Media, a Madison-based company known for the Red Card prepaid dining service for UW—Madison students. Red Card's principal ownership includes the trio of Jeff Haupt, Craig Bartlett, and Mark Tauscher. Haupt and Bartlett, who now respectively serve as Isthmus' publisher and associate publisher, are former operations staffers for Madison-founded satirical newspaper The Onion; Tauscher, like Haupt a UW-Madison alum, is a radio analyst for Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers football and played on both teams during his playing career.[4][5]

Isthmus, through both its print edition and its website (, carries investigative and in-depth articles, offers opinions and commentaries on current events, provides incisive coverage of the arts, and features stories on trends and culture in the Madison area. It has won numerous awards for journalistic excellence over the years, including more than three dozen first-place awards from the Milwaukee Press Club and two Golden Quills,[6] the top honor from the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors.[7] Isthmus is a member of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, a North American trade association of alternative newsweeklies.[8]

Isthmus employs more than three dozen full-time staff members. Notable former staffers include arts writer Kent Williams; editor and TV critic Dean Robbbins; news editor Bill Lueders, who joined the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism in June 2011 after 25 years at Isthmus;[9] and former interns Anthony Shadid and Abigail Goldman,[10] who have gone on to win Pulitzer Prizes.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Madison, WI: Isthmus". Alternative Weekly Network. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  2. ^ "Isthmus |". Retrieved 2013-10-27.
  3. ^ "Making the Paper: To the Death," from Isthmus, 7/10/2014
  4. ^ "Madison's Isthmus Sold By Longtime Publisher Vince O'Hern," press release posted by Association of Alternative Media, 7/10/2014
  5. ^ "Madison's Isthmus sold to Red Card founders, former Packer Mark Tauscher," from The Capital Times, 7/10/2014
  6. ^ Archived from the original on September 9, 2006. Retrieved March 20, 2008. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ Archived from the original on February 8, 2008. Retrieved March 20, 2008. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ "". Retrieved 2013-10-27.
  9. ^ Archived from the original on June 23, 2011. Retrieved August 10, 2011. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ "Abigail Goldman Biography". Retrieved 2013-10-27.

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