Jonathan's Editor Column

New editor Jonathan Bailey takes notes during a Ripon High School boys’ basketball game against Oostburg in 2014, with two cameras dangling from his neck.

I will never forget the day Ian Stepleton emailed me asking if I would be interested in coming “home” to take over as the sports reporter for the Commonwealth.

I was in Rhinelander at the time, where I was approaching my one-year anniversary as the sports editor of the three-times-a-week Northwoods River News.

On the particular day in 2011 that Ian emailed me, I found out my grandfather had passed way.

I went on with my day, covering a cross country meet and soccer game, before returning to the office to write the stories for the weekend edition of the paper.

When I sat down at my desk and checked my personal email account (I was late in joining the smart phone era), I saw the message from Ian about the position.

I remember being overwhelmed with emotions, from my grandfather’s passing to needing to get my work done and now contemplating an offer that came out of left field to return to Ripon.

It was one of the hardest days of my life to focus, and after staring blankly at my computer screen for some time with the wheels spinning uncontrollably in my head, I replied that I was interested in the job opening.

After covering a high school football game the following night, I made the more than two-hour drive to my parents’ place in Hortonville to be with family.

On the morning of my grandpa’s funeral, I made the trek to Ripon to interview with Ian and then-publisher Tim Lyke, being slightly overdressed for the interview with a suit and tie.

The rest is history as I took over as the sports and general assignment reporter in October 2011. It was home for me as I interned with the Commonwealth during my senior year at Ripon College and spent the summer as the reporter for the Green Laker summer newspaper.

During the past nine years, I have made many memories and learned a lot about journalism.

I have covered teams and individuals that qualified for state and the NCAA Tournament, witnessed some classic games and even captured a moment that went viral in 2014 when Ben Vander Plas drained an improbable buzzer-beating shot against Laconia in the regional championship game.

It is those memories that help me enjoy my job — being able to describe to you the reader what is going on.

I will be having a lot more opportunities to be able to do that for you moving forward as I’m taking over the editor position at the Ripon Commonwealth Press.

And no, I won’t be moving away from my passion for covering sports at Ripon High School and Ripon College.

I will continue writing sports stories each week, while overseeing the other editorial areas of the newspaper.

Now, I know it won’t be easy to fill the shoes left by Ian. He taught me so much during my nine years with the paper and showed plenty of patience as I grew up.

His contribution to helping the Commonwealth being named the “Best Weekly Newspaper” in Wisconsin six of the last 10 years cannot be emphasized enough.

Much like during Ian’s 20 years with the paper, the majority of which he spent as editor, the Commonwealth will continue to be a publication that belongs to the community.

With that being said, reader-submitted content is crucial.

Whether it is an organization or group of people doing some volunteer work, projects being done in the classroom or unusual stories, I ask you to share them with us so that we can relay that information to the rest of our readers.

Press releases of local events, submitted photos and story ideas may be emailed to

I can’t wait to begin a new chapter of the Commonwealth and to continue the rich history of the newspaper.

Looking back at that day in 2011 when my grandfather passed away and I received the email from Ian, it’s clear that it was a message from above and all that happened since was meant to be.

Jonathan Bailey has been covering sports and general news assignments for the Ripon Commonwealth Press since 2011. He is a former reporter for The Green Laker, a summer publication produced by the Ripon Commonwealth Press, and now is its editor.

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