Moving On

I paid for the pizza. I had to, after all, the only reason my boss Dave Eliot and I were still at the office at 9 pm on a Friday night in April was because of my mistake.

Once we polished off the pie from the Wild Tomato, Dave and I went back to folding and stickering a one-page sheet of Liberty Grove Town Board candidate profiles.

The election preview issue is my least favorite of the year. Collecting information and editing responses from 40 – 50 candidates (some of whom don’t feel the need to tell their voters who they are, get an email address, or even put a message on their answering machine) is tedious. By the time it gets to layout my eyes are glassy.

This time, they were so glassy that I didn’t catch the fact that two of the Liberty Grove profiles had been left out.

I was sitting in the county board meeting room at the hearing for Administrator Michael Serpe the Friday morning when the issue came out. That’s when my phone blew up with texts, emails, and phone messages about the omissions.

My bosses were disappointed and embarrassed, as I was, but their solution was not to lambast me or the staff. They set about fixing the problem. We would send a special mailing to every Liberty Grove mailbox before the election the following Tuesday.

By the time I returned to the office that afternoon Dave had already printed the hundreds of flyers with all the Liberty Grove candidate profiles. Now we just had to fold and sticker each one of them to get them to the post office Saturday morning.

That’s how Dave and I came to spend our Friday night folding and stickering flyers in the office. And as I took a swig of a can of Pabst, I realized that it was moments like this that made the Peninsula Pulse such a special place to work, and my decision to leave one of the hardest I’ve ever had to make.

After eight and a half years at the Pulse, I have decided to move on. For the last couple months I have split time between Chicago and Door County, easing the transition for my replacements. Now that our talented new writers Matt Ledger and Carol Thompson have their feet firmly planted on Door County soil, my byline will appear on fewer and fewer articles.

I will continue to contribute stories and columns from afar as long as this office will take my words, but I will no longer cover the day-to-day pulse of the peninsula.

Those of us who get to call themselves reporters are a fortunate lot, even today. Bob Woodward, the great Washington Post reporter who broke the Watergate story and is perhaps the greatest investigative reporter alive, summed it up well in a recent appearance.

“You get to step into people’s lives,” he said, “at a time when they are most interesting, and when that’s over, you get to get the hell out of there.”

I have been given enormous license by this community to do just that. Maybe it’s because I was a hometown boy, but you’ve let me in your doors, you’ve shared with me in times of celebration and in times of mourning. You’ve been incredibly kind, and perhaps most generously, you’ve forgiven my mistakes.

I am incredibly proud of this paper you hold in your hands (or the electronic version you hunch before). I remember finding the first issue of the Peninsula Pulse when I was 17 and the fledgling owner of a small pizza shop in Egg Harbor.

“This is the Door County I know,” I thought right away. Funny, edgy, challenging. The paper has evolved tremendously through the years, always for the better (though I’d be all for a little more edge once in a while). Always becoming a more complete reflection of the community it serves.

Last winter I spent an afternoon paging through old issues, paying particular attention to the contributors list on the inside cover. This paper was built not by the names of people in far-flung corporate offices. Not on shareholder value. Not by slick salespeople.

There are names of high school artists. Of summer workers who thought they could write a regular column, but never got through a second idea. There are business owners who wrote on the side, retirees who rekindled a hobby. They are the names of local poets and local crackpots.

There’s Roy Lukes, who lent us a newfound local credibility when he asked to put his column on our pages. There’s Gary Jones, my high school English and journalism teacher on whom I’ve had the opportunity to turn the tables, and there’s Patty Williamson, who brings un-matched enthusiasm to researching our local history.

Most of the names left on great terms, some did not, but I’m proud to have worked with them all.

Finally, there are the people I’ve worked most closely with at the Pulse. For eight years I learned how to produce a paper alongside my editor, Allison Vroman, who has pushed and prodded me into becoming a better writer.

Then there are my bosses, Dave Eliot and Madeline Johnson, of whom I will say only, in the spirit of journalistic brevity, that they are the best bosses I will ever work for.

Everyone should be so lucky to work alongside such great people, and to do so in service of such a great community, one I’ll remain a part of from afar. My roots are strong in Door County, and I’m too attached to be a stranger.

So why am I leaving such a great job for the unknown? It actually hit me when I was coaching basketball. Every day I told my players to push themselves, to step outside their comfort zone, to risk making mistakes to find out what you’ve got.

Eventually, I realized I had to practice what I preached. It’s time to find new challenges, new stories, and new mistakes to make.

Thank you, readers, for letting me make a few here in Door County.

Myles Dannhausen will continue to write occasional features and columns for the Peninsula Pulse and continue his work with the Door County Half Marathon and Door County Beer Festival. He blogs about discovering Chicago on Tumblr at and about other things at Follow him on Twitter @mylespulse.