About Erik Gunn

I became a journalist because I am curious about the world; believe that information is essential to advancing social justice; find people infinitely fascinating, troubling, and uplifting; and because I was never any good at making things up.

Photo by Jerry Cross

As a middle schooler I read books about Clarence Darrow and the Scopes Monkey Trial and set my sights on law school. A film-making class in a summer program for high school students turned me from the courtroom to the camera, and at Beloit College I studied writing and theater arts in preparation to be the next Spielberg or Kubrick. But inventing plots and characters never came naturally to me. Then I discovered the college newspaper, and suddenly things fell into place. I found I could still shed light on the world by telling stories, but instead of having to invent things, all I needed to do was to talk to people and find out what happened.

In the years since, I’ve learned that finding the truth can be as challenging as creating fiction — but that is still the work for which I am far more equipped.

Since graduating from college as an English major in 1978 I have written for newspapers, magazines, and other outlets; along the way I acquired a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. After working at newspapers in Rockford, Illinois, Rochester, New York, and the former Milwaukee Journal in Wisconsin, I left the security and the constraint of full-time employment to pursue my work as a freelancer in 1995.

My writing can be found in The Progressive magazine; in Milwaukee Magazine, where I was a contributing editor for nearly a decade and have won a half-dozen awards since 1995; and in Isthmus, Madison’s weekly newspaper. My work also has appeared over the years in The American LawyerThe Washington MonthlyThe Chicago Tribune, and a number of other publications.

I have written about labor and the workplace, the economy, education, government and public policy, the legal system and criminal justice, the media, science and health, religion and faith, and assorted other subjects.  I also teach feature and magazine writing in the Department of Journalism, Advertising, and Media Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

From November 2006 through August 2011 I wrote Milwaukee Magazine‘s monthly column Pressroom, and I continued to cover media-related topics at the magazine’s website for several years thereafter. Until June 30, 2015, I served as the managing editor for publications put out by the National Education Policy Center, based at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Some years ago I ran across myself in Henry Garfield’s novel Moondog, in which I am described as the editor of a weekly paper in Southern California and, incidentally, a werewolf. I can assure you that none of that is true. Henry and I knew each other briefly back in college, and he, clearly, has always been much better than I at making things up.

Some of my work linked here may be behind a publication paywall. Despite the slight inconvenience, I hope that if you are interested in it you will support the cost of quality journalism by purchasing the necessary access. Publications pay me for my work, and it seems only fair for them to earn back some of that expense. Editors interested in reviewing my portfolio can contact me directly for PDF copies of particular stories.