Among the many remarkable things about the defeat of the proposed overhaul of the Wisconsin Public Records Law over the July 4 weekend last summer was the way the media, open government groups, advocacy organizations on the left and right, and the public coalesced to point out how ill-conceived the idea was.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nominations are being sought for the sixth annual Distinguished Wisconsin Watchdog Award, recognizing an individual’s extraordinary contributions to open government or investigative journalism in Wisconsin.
The Center for Public Integrity’s State Integrity Investigation report, which provides state-by-state data on laws and practices that deter corruption and promote accountability and transparency, will launch Nov. 9.
On July 9, the members of the Wisconsin state Assembly collectively affirmed their support for open government. They passed a resolution stating that the Assembly “remains committed to our state’s open record and open government laws and policies, and will take all necessary steps to ensure that these laws and policies are preserved without modification or degradation.” They vowed to “continue to work to uphold these principles and protections.”
Update: This report was published on Sept. 20. Due to a technical error, on Sept. 13 the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism inadvertently published headlines, a summary and photo on its website, WisconsinWatch.org. The materials, which have been removed, are part of an upcoming report about the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.