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Veteran journalist Chuck Nowlen to lead Star-Observer’s business reporting

New Star-Observer business, township and general-assignment reporter Chuck Nowlen

Veteran journalist Chuck Nowlen has joined the Star-Observer staff after three decades as a newspaper and magazine reporter, editor and newsroom-management/business-planning consultant.

Nowlen will cover business news and features, along with the towns of Hudson and St. Joseph. He will also handle general assignments.

He started his new job in late-April after covering Hudson and St. Joseph townships as a freelancer since January.

“I’ve always kept a special place for community journalism, either on the side or as my full-time job,” said Nowlen, a Madison native who has also worked for Wisconsin weeklies in DeForest, Poynette, Edgerton, Cottage Grove, Deerfield and Cambridge.

“Covering business, government and feature stories in smaller communities has always appealed to me. There’s just something about it that seems more genuine and closer to day-to-day real life.”

Nowlen moved to Hudson about a year ago after six years in St. Paul as a media consultant for magazines, newspapers and websites in several states, including Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

During that time, he also took MBA business classes at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and Metropolitan State University, while studying digital media at St. Paul College.

Time to plant roots

Nowlen’s consulting work focused on reviving lethargic and/or dysfunctional newsrooms; identifying and correcting production bottlenecks; integrating new-media techniques and processes; and start-up planning.

“Consulting was a great, extremely rewarding experience, and I can’t think of a better way to stay at the leading edge of a very fast-evolving profession,” he said.

“But, after a while, I found myself missing what I really love most about journalism: meeting new people every day and getting to know their stories and the communities they live in, and reflecting their energy and lifestyles through my writing in the best way I possibly can.

“I’d also be lying if I said that I’ll miss all the traveling that was part of my consulting years. Months at a time away from home, living out of a suitcase and driving rental cars can be a lot of fun. But, eventually, I felt like it was time to settle in one place again and do what I truly love.”

Nowlen published his first magazine article -- on the isolation unit at Marion Federal Penitentiary, then the nation’s most secure prison – in The Progessive magazine in 1980 while still an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He began his career as a Madison-bureau general assignment reporter for the Milwaukee Sentinel (now the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel), covering everything from crime and state government to agriculture local labor strikes.

He also has been a crime reporter and assistant city editor at Madison's venerable daily, the Capital Times, where he set the paper's all-time, one-year byline record and became the only unanimous choice for its reporter-of-the-year “Allegretti Award.”

Northwestern, UW-Madison experience

Nowlen went to Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, leaving while at the head of his class to become UW-Madison's go-to public information specialist under the media-intensive chancellorship of former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala, who now leads the University of Miami in Florida.

He later snagged the managing editor spot at Madison Magazine, where he won State Bar of Wisconsin “Gavel” awards for two investigative pieces – one on federal drug-seizure policies and another on racial inequities in Dane County jury pools.

In late 2000, Nowlen moved to the top editor's chair at Las Vegas Weekly, leading the alternative weekly to its only Western Publishing Association “Maggie” Award for Best Consumer Tabloid and 15 Nevada Press Association first-place awards, including Best Large Weekly Newspaper and an individual honor for Best Editorial.

A veteran of UW-Milwaukee’s graduate creative writing program, Nowlen has taught writing at Madison Area Technical College (now Madison College) and is exploring teaching in the Hudson School District’s Community Education program.

Nowlen has practiced and taught tae kwon do karate for the last 25 years, winning Wisconsin championships in sparring and breaking along the way, as well as a second-place finish in a regional sparring competition in Chicago.

He was part of the Ring’s Martial Arts team –- led by Nowlen’s master instructors, Bill and Janet Ring -- that taught the UW-Madison football team karate in 1994.

He also enjoys basketball, running, biking and P90X, and is a bit of a TV junkie.