Award-winning journalist Bill Lueders is leaving the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism to return to his roots at two Madison publications. The Center will continue to investigate the influence of money on politics and policymaking through the Money and Politics Project, and soon will announce the hiring of Lueders’ successor.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigative health reporter Meg Kissinger, who has tirelessly exposed flaws in the mental health system, has been named the 2015 recipient of the Distinguished Wisconsin Watchdog Award.
Updating Wisconsin’s open records law could help clarify the obligations of public officials with respect to emails and other records that exist in electronic form. But it is critical that any updates be guided by the law’s stated and essential purpose: to provide the greatest possible oversight of the actions of government.
Journalists, students and the public are invited for an innovative workshop at the University of Wisconsin-Madison focusing on investigative reporting techniques to hold the powerful accountable. The event will be held April 8 and 9 at the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St. It is being presented by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and Investigative Reporters and Editors.
The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism received seven awards in the Milwaukee Press Club’s annual Awards for Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism, which were announced today. The Center now has won 32 awards from the press club.
“Most people in Wisconsin, including public officials, have grown to appreciate the state’s traditions of open government,” said Bill Lueders, council president. “These awards are meant to encourage this trend.”
This blanket exemption would spare the UW from needing a good reason to deny access to these records, as current law requires. Instead, universities could categorically spurn inquiries from citizens, media and even lawmakers looking into controversial research, potential threats to public safety, conflicts of interest or how tax dollars are spent.
In 2012, a federal appeals court ruled that the village of Palatine, Illinois, may have violated the act by leaving parking tickets, which included personal information, on the windshields of motorists. Some Wisconsin police departments, instructed by their insurers, began redacting personal information from police reports. No other state — not even Illinois, where the Palatine case occurred — adopted this interpretation.
It’s a pretty simple question for a public official: “What exactly do you do with your time?”
Sometimes, the best way to answer that question is to obtain the official’s calendar, through the state’s open records law. In my work as a reporter, I’ve done this for the state treasurer and his staff, who work for an office with few official duties. I’ve also used the monthly calendars of Gov. Scott Walker to plot his travel and track his day-to-day meetings. So when I wanted a better understanding of how the duties of Sheboygan Mayor Mike Vandersteen and Chief Administrative Officer Jim Amodeo overlap, I asked to see their calendars. Amodeo’s response was simply, “Oh, OK.”
HIPAA remains a “prickly” obstacle for journalists. As one health reporter puts it, “Often times, people are unsure about the law and can’t be bothered to check so it’s easier to say ‘no’ and refer to HIPAA.”