In March, for the second year in a row, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker issued an executive order regarding the state’s open records law. It notes that “the American republic and the State of Wisconsin were founded on the basis of broad accountability of government to the people.” And it declares that “the free flow of information from the government to the people instills trust and confidence in our democracy and ensures that our government is accessible, accountable, and open.”
The order directs state agencies to track and post their record response times and, like last year’s order, gives procedural guidance that should make it easier for citizens to request and receive records. It instructs agencies to charge no more than 15 cents per page for provided photocopies and to charge no more than $30 per hour for government employees’ time spent locating records. It directs that agency meeting notices be posted in a centralized location on Wisconsin.gov, making these more accessible to the public. And it prescribes records training “for all employees and members of all boards, councils, and commissions.”
The governor issued his executive order just as media outlets were analyzing state agencies’ performance since the 2016 order.
News deserts are geographical areas or socioeconomic groups that are parched of fresh, important local news, whether it’s a result of the shuttering of neighborhood newspapers, downsizing and the limited resources of news outlets or a lack of coverage of particular topics. Help WCIJ identify news deserts in Wisconsin by writing to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
High school and college journalists and young professional journalists are invited to a special investigative reporting workshop being offered March 30 as part of this year’s Wisconsin Watchdog Awards event. Admission is free.
Two citizens, two journalists, one fired government worker and one small but gutsy Wisconsin newspaper are among the recipients of the 2016-17 Openness Awards, or Opees, bestowed annually by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council. The awards, announced in advance of national Sunshine Week (sunshineweek.org), March 12-18, recognize extraordinary achievement in the cause of open government.
The Wisconsin Newspaper Association board of directors has approved a $10,000 sponsorship of the seventh annual Wisconsin Watchdog Awards, double the largest previous support of the annual celebration of open government and investigative reporting.
For more than two centuries, governments in this country have paid newspapers to publish public notices about the actions of government. But now, Wisconsin state legislators are circulating a pair of bills, AB70 and SB42, that aim to take public notices out of newspapers and put them instead on government websites. It’s a bad idea that would harm transparency, democracy and public trust. Without a third-party, independent source providing the information, there is no accountability, no checks and balances to make sure that government is posting all the public notices it is required by law to post. Most Wisconsin residents continue to rely on the printed newspaper for information about their local elected governments, as they have for decades.
Wisconsin Public Radio and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism are pleased to announce Alexandra Hall has been named the 2017 Mike Simonson Memorial Investigative Reporting Fellow. During the one-year fellowship, Hall will work collaboratively with WPR and WCIJ to deepen her skills in investigative journalism, editing and on-air radio production.
Register: Online registration for the 2017 Wisconsin Watchdog Awards reception and dinner
When: Thursday, March 30, 5 p.m. reception and 6 p.m. dinner
Where: The Madison Club, 5 E. Wilson St. Ticket price: $60. Proceeds benefit the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, participation of young journalists in the event and a special investigative reporting workshop. Gilman Halsted, a retired Wisconsin Public Radio reporter who produced award-winning examinations of the state’s criminal justice system, has been named the 2017 recipient of the Distinguished Wisconsin Watchdog Award. Over the course of two decades, Halsted became a familiar voice to WPR listeners, working for six years in the Wausau bureau before moving to Madison in 2000.