Conduit: Dan Shafer on recombobulating Midwestern media

The Milwaukee-based journalist talks with us about covering Wisconsin politics through his newsletter, The Recombobulation Area.

The Milwaukee-based journalist talks with us about covering Wisconsin politics through his newsletter, The Recombobulation Area.

Dan Shafer’s newsletter The Recombobulation Area has been providing an essential voice in Wisconsin politics over the past year, putting the state’s problems into a regional context and publishing informative but fiercely opinionated pieces about stories including Wisconsin’s April 7 election. In between his longer weekly posts, Shafer offers frequent analysis and commentary on Twitter. His work is reader-supported and it’s well worth signing up as a subscriber.

Shafer’s latest piece finds cause for optimism in the sacrifices people across Wisconsin are making to keep each other safe. He’s still been a bit shocked by the way Wisconsin’s Republicans have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a cynicism that puts people in harm’s way. “What has probably surprised me the most is that their attitude has not shifted to a crisis mentality… so many people have changed so much about the way they operate, but they really haven’t in a lot of ways,” Shafer says. “It’s still the same kind of Wisconsin politics that we’ve seen from the Wisconsin Republican Party over the past decade.”


Shafer  spoke with us on the April 23 edition of Conduit, a livestream collaboration between Tone Madison, Communication, and UnderBelly. For each episode of Conduit, people make a small donation to join us on the call, and the money goes toward either the guest or an organization of the guest’s choosing. This time Shafer asked us to send the money to The Tandem, a restaurant in Milwaukee that’s been offering free community meals during the pandemic. You can sign up to join us on future episodes by filling out this Google Form.

A longtime Milwaukee journalist, Shafer reflected on his decision to start an independent publication of his own, his recent Twitter exchange with Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, and how he’d like to see journalism change in Wisconsin and around the Midwest.

The next Conduit session is on Thursday, April 30, and we’ll be talking with Carlee Latimer of the Madison Public Library’s Bubbler program. On May 14, our guest will be artist Nibiiwakamigkwe.

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