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Your Right to Know: Concerns linger over ‘transitory’ records

The last six months have been a roller coaster for Wisconsin’s open records law. After the Legislature’s failed attack on the law over the Independence Day holiday, August brought a new threat. A little-known state board expanded the definition of “transitory records,” which can be immediately destroyed. Once this action was revealed, there was an impressive outcry from the public and that change was dialed back last month. But there is still cause for concern.

Crystal Wozniak, left, shows Green Bay homeowner Jackie Grant how to test her home for lead hazards. After she learned her own son was lead poisoned in 2013, Wozniak made it her mission to spread awareness about the presences of lead in households. "Most moms or families do want to protect their kids and there's just so many people that don't know about this hidden hazard and how badly it affects young children," she said.

Lead in drinking water poses danger for children, pregnant women

Nearly 4,000 children in Wisconsin were diagnosed with elevated levels of lead in their blood in 2014, though the number has fallen over the years thanks in part to bans on lead in paint and gasoline. Unlike in Flint, Michigan, however, no one knows how much lead in the drinking water contributes to elevated blood lead levels in Wisconsin. There are no requirements to test the drinking water when a child is lead poisoned.

Reducing the risk of lead poisoning from drinking water

According to water quality experts, there are several steps consumers can take to reduce exposure to lead in drinking water. These actions are particularly important for pregnant women, formula-fed infants and children under the age of 6. Use only cold water for cooking and drinking. Water from the hot water tap can dissolve lead more easily than cold water. Boiling water can concentrate lead.

A novel idea: Beloit author donates proceeds to support investigative reporting

Sometimes, when author Tom Warren researches issues for his books, he feels the pull to become an advocate. And that helps explain why, for the past two years, Warren has mailed a check to the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. His book, “Discovering Beloit: Stories Too Good to be True?,” deals with dwindling investigative journalism in small communities, such as his current home of Beloit. He donates a portion of the proceeds from the book to WCIJ, which he says is doing work that is “critical” for Wisconsin communities. “The Center is on the cutting edge of a good cause, and that’s teaching and learning and helping people see things that might be influencing them,” he said.

Your Right to Know: A tough year for transparency

In 2015, Wisconsin advocates for open government faced a disquieting truth: If we want to preserve our state’s tradition of transparency and accountability, we must fight for it, against powerful players who will be fighting back.

Professor supports investigative journalism training for students

The types of news stories Sharon Dunwoody finds most compelling — and most crucial in 2015 — dig deeper than “he-said-she-said” truth claims; they use data to analyze and corroborate or refute sources’ claims on important issues. The University of Wisconsin-Madison journalism professor emeritus supports the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism’s Education Fund because she hopes to see more students produce in-depth, science-backed journalism that digs deep into issues. “The Center takes a sort of evidence-based approach to analyzing the issues they tackle,” Dunwoody said. “They don’t just take truth claims and run them, but they say, ‘Where’s the data?’ ”

Dunwoody, an internationally acclaimed scholar, has taught science writing and communication for over 30 years in the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She served as director of the school from 1998 to 2003.