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Times celebrates 125 years of publication
Monroe Times logo 2023

The Monroe Times (formerly The Monroe Evening Times) has informed the citizens of southern Wisconsin of newsworthy events for 125 years. From local breaking news to state elections, national tragedies and world wars, the Times has consistently been there to keep its readers up to date.

We here at the Times take pride in that responsibility. We take pride in being a staple in this community, and in turn, we take pride in the fact that this community has supported us all of these years.

Friday, Oct. 13, was the official celebratory day — exactly 125 years to the day the first issue of the Times was published by Emery Odell, the founder and original publisher of the paper.

Every 25 years, this paper has celebrated the occasion, and this year is no different. Here’s a fun fact, there is no human walking the Earth today that was born when the first publication of the Times was printed. 

We have done several things throughout 2023 to celebrate our 125th anniversary. We have run 125 days of trivia questions on Facebook (all the questions and answers can be found on page A6). We have posted old stories, ads, and entire pages from years past. We have changed the masthead up above as well, and made a few tweaks to the layout of the paper, including shrinking the bulky page headers on the inside, which has saved space for more content and given the interior pages a sleeker look.

Here’s a new celebratory piece: We commissioned Monroe graduate, freelance writer and award-winning documentarian Sarah Sabatke to create a documentary on the Monroe Times. The 15-minute piece gives a background of the paper, as well as where we are today and how we are looking ahead into the future. The piece features interviews with both current and former employees and historians.

Joining Sarah in the endeavor was her father, Doug, who filmed most of the interviews and B-roll.

“It was a privilege to tell the story of the Times’ 125 years of publication and an even better experience to get to tell that story with my dad,” Sarah said. “This is the second film we’ve worked on together and, though it can be a challenge producing and filming from different sides of the country, I’m very proud of the final outcome.”

Doug said he enjoyed working on the documentary. Among those he interviewed was Marianne (Elmer) Lederman, an employee for the Times in 1948. 

“I was expecting a one-hour interview and ended up chatting with her for over two hours. I really enjoyed our visit,” Doug said.

1898 October First Edition.jpg

Doug and Sarah spent hours digging into the Times’ past, a venture Doug reflected back on fondly.

“I spent approximately six hours going through Monroe Times historical documents at the Green County Historical Society,” he said. “The photos that I shot of Times historical documents gave me a view into the early days of the paper. It was fascinating to go back in time and watch life unfold through the pages.”

Perhaps his most interesting find was the story of a bronze bust of Times founder Emery Odell at the historical society.

“After positioning the bust in several different locations to take advantage of the light coming into the building and shooting many shots, I found out that the bust had been donated to the historical society from a man in Illinois. He had found it in a barn and decided to return Emory back to Monroe.”

Another day, Doug was shooting B-roll on the square when he was approached by someone interested in what he was doing. It was Art Sullivan, a Times display advertising employee from 1967-68.

“I told him that I was shooting footage for a documentary about the Monroe Times and he said ‘I used to work for the Times,’” Doug said. “I asked if he would be open to an interview and he agreed. I looked around, found a good spot and did the interview. It turned out great. It was one of many times that I had talked with people and found out that they had also worked at the Times at some point during their career.”

Monroe Times 125th Anniversary Documentary

The Monroe Times celebrates its 125th year of publication on October 13, 2023. To commemorate this milestone, Sarah Sabatke "pulls back the curtain" to give readers an inside look of the paper - from its staff and production to historical editions.

Over the years, many people have worked for the Times in some capacity, either in the newsroom, advertising, graphics, press room, delivery, or other office work. Many of those employees either were born and raised in or around Monroe, or they moved here and stayed for many years.

That list of locals finding their place in life at the Times includes myself, editor Adam Krebs, as well as sports editor Natalie Dillon, and advertising manager Laura Hughes, who is in her 42nd year with at the paper. 

Sarah Sabatke, also a Monroe High School graduate, thought fondly of the newspaper growing up and has been a freelance writer for the Times for three years.

“I’ll always have a soft spot for The Monroe Times as my hometown paper. I remember the first time my photo was in the paper — I was in elementary school and my Beanie Baby collection was one of the featured collections in the display case at the Monroe Public Library,” Sarah said. “As Natalie mentions in the doc, it was always exciting to find a photo of yourself in the latest edition or a story about your sports game, etc. Many of my school years and my Monroe memories were documented in the paper and I’m grateful to have that.”

Similar to Sarah, I formed not only a soft spot, but a cherished love for my hometown paper as an elementary school student. In the early 1990s, I would read the comics and sports pages every day after school. Eventually, I would read the entire thing, cover to cover — even though as a 12-year-old I had no idea what a school budget meant, nor agricultural yields or why municipal ordinances mattered.

Today is a different story, and it has been a personal challenge to me to expand my journalism beyond its sports-central focus.

But it is a challenge I am ready for and have tried to embrace. The responsibility of being the local newspaper is real. People’s lives are touched in every issue — some positively, and some negatively. We highlight local students, athletes, businesses and citizens that go above and beyond, whether it’s to win a big game, save a life, raise money for a family in need or whatever. 

On the flip side, we still report hard crime news, even though some of our readers don’t feel the need to publicize heinous acts. We feel it’s our responsibility to point out nefarious actors in our neighborhoods — ne’er-do-wells that blemish the community with their leftover skid-marks of lawbreaking.

The negatives continue to those personally affected by the miscreants, either directly affected or secondarily. 

Sometimes the news can be heartbreaking and sad, like a fatal accident. Obituaries are a constant as well, and can be taken either negatively (sad that someone has died) or positively (celebrating someone’s life).

125 Days of Monroe Times Trivia

On October 13, 2023, The Monroe Times celebrated its 125th anniversary. To celebrate the occasion, we invited you to play trivia with us for the 125 days leading up to our anniversary. Every day, we posted a question related to the history of the Monroe Times. Thank you for following along with us in this journey.

All of these things are parts of the newspaper. Space is available for advertisements, community briefs and local calendar of events and meetings, and space for the electorate to voice their opinions.

We try to be fully engaged with our community and add context to our stories. My favorite pieces are ones I can go more in-depth with and explain a topic, adding context that would otherwise be left out at regional or national publications.

Newspapers are always evolving, whether to stay ahead of the competition or preparing for technological or society changes. Around here, it is the hyper-focus to our local news that we have turned to in recent years since dropping from publishing six days a week to just two in 2018. Just four years later, our 96-year relationship with the Associated Press came to an end, taking away our ability to continue easily providing national and international news, a sacrifice that cemented our hyper-local strategy. It has taken time, but I think a lot of our fringe readers, or local citizens that haven’t always been subscribing, have seen that pivot.

The world of journalism in itself is not an easy place. Routinely former journalists lament the lack of a strong wage to produce a continual passion project — because a lot of times, that’s what it is. If you aren’t passionate for this job, if you don’t have ink in your blood or the need to dig for the full story, then this isn’t your line of work, paycheck be damned.

There was a time I stepped away from the industry, seemingly just for a year — but it ended up six. 

The “bug” to report the news never left me, and most of us in this career understand that. To get local journalists from a small, rural community to want to stay and produce publication after publication (with tough deadlines and a readership that never comes to a consensus if you are good or terrible at your job), is such a blessing.

“Journalism is a tough business and one you really have to love in order to stick with it,” Sarah said. “I hope this short doc can give readers a peak behind the curtain to see the hard work and dedication that goes into telling the community’s stories.”

— Adam Krebs is the editor of the Times and can be reached at