Year in review: Tone Madison’s political coverage

The stories from “Tone Madison” staff, freelancers, and guest contributors that we’re remembering as we head into 2022.

The stories from “Tone Madison” staff, freelancers, and guest contributors that we’re remembering as we head into 2022.

Header photo: A white flag with the words “Land Back” flipped off City officials that arrived the morning of May 10 to enforce an eviction order at the Reindahl Park homeless encampment. Photo by Oona Mackesey-Green.

Are you tired? Maybe it’s because you’ve been fighting the same battles over, and over, and over again, all year, amid a global pandemic.

Looking back at our 2021 politics coverage made this obvious. It was easy to spot the issues that folks have been facing, and reporting on, repeatedly. But a closer look at these stories also allowed something else to surface.

Tone Madison intentionally tries not to get sucked into the spinning hamster wheel of the news cycle, flipping from one story to the next. Up-to-the-minute coverage and breaking news headlines are critical for local news. But so is slowing down taking the time to dig into stories—an approach that our reader-supported, independent, nonprofit model makes possible.

Our 2021 news coverage highlights not only the onslaught, but the many ways that people are resisting. These stories are a space to honor creativity and demand accountability. The journalists, writers, editors, illustrators, and artists who make up Tone Madison care deeply about the stories they tell.

Our political headlines from 2021 reflect the big issues Madison is facing (or failing to face). Here’s a look back at some of our biggest political stories of the year.

How does Madison support people who are unhoused? A story spotlighting long-term failures in housing and social services gives a short history of “Tent City” in McPike Park last winter, before the City of Madison evicted people and shut down the encampment. The City attempted to evict some of the same people from an encampment at Reindahl Park just months later, but were temporarily stymied because people living there and folks showing up in support pushed back. At the same time, a handful of Alders hid behind procedural concerns and technicalities while blocking a new men’s shelter just down the street from Reindahl.

Olivia R. Williams, executive director of Madison Community Land Trust, wrote several pieces examining the flaws and opportunities of local policies to increase affordable housing, including how housing policy intersects with the threats of extreme noise from F-35s. This fall, Tone Madison republished Madison Minutes stories with information for people facing eviction, and ways to support those renters, when the federal eviction moratorium ended.

Illustration by Andrew Mulhearn. An F-35 fighter jet flying overhead is reflected in a yellow coffee mug, which sits on a pale purple table against a deep purple background.

Our political stories—reported pieces, commentaries, and often pieces that combine elements of both—reflect conversations bound up with our collective visions for Madison’s future.

We tracked the stop-and-go policy plans for public transportation and public spaces, from the half-baked pleas for a pedestrian mall and business bluster opposing Bus Rapid Transit, to a reminder that despite the shiny new developments springing up along the Cap East corridor, safety issues will remain as long as East Wash is still a highway.

How Madison handles policing and prisons, and addresses systemic racism—these are conversations that we can’t allow to stagnate. Tone Madison staff, freelancers, and guest contributors brought a wealth of perspectives to these intertwined issues. Meager moves following the summer 2020 uprisings did not fundamentally challenge the power of policing. Instead of real change, MPD recycled tired—and harmful—tropes of progressive cops, while contributing to Dane County’s racist carceral cycle. Amid a city littered with the symbols of inaction, obscured history, and toothless reform, poet Sasha Debevec-McKenney’s reflections reminded: the work is all around us.

We’ve also made Tone Madison a place for clearer reflections on the dysfunction of state-level politics. Remembering the fight over Act 10, as labor issues again surged to the forefront. Writers came here to critique UW-Madison’s approach to Indigenous communities and the exhausting failures of the university’s response to COVID.

Illustration by Maggie Denman. A pattern of abstract dots and virus molecules over a textured background.

As we head into 2022 and COVID surges yet again, the issues covered in Tone Madison earlier this year are still relevant: Policy responses to the pandemic spotlighted long standing inequities in the education system and considerations of whose voices influence decision making. Contributor Rodlyn-mae Banting wrote about the politics and precarities of being Asian in a maskless Madison and the threat of Anti-Asian violence.

Tone Madison is also prepping to report on another round of local elections and local budget processes that will shape priorities for years to come.

As bleak as things can seem, we also stayed attuned to the creativity of resistance. Activists in Madison kept organizing against F-35s and pushed back against our city’s alarmingly loud chorus of transphobes. We also documented all sorts of other constructive responses to the political and social challenges Madisonians face, in the form of art, skateboarding, and speculative fiction.

Tone Madison is reader-supported. It is thanks to you and your contributions that we can continue publishing these stories. As we push toward the end of our fall fundraising campaign—with a matching fund that will essentially triple what readers donate—I’m asking you to help us keep doing this vital, unpredictable, and deeply rewarding work.

With you for the work ahead —


Tone Madison‘s independent, in-depth coverage of culture in Madison depends on reader donations. And through December 31, 2021, your donations will go up to three times as far. Donate today and help us meet our $20,000 match goal!

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