June 30: News reports confirm that Gov. Scott Walker vetoes a provision in the state budget that would have evicted the Center from its UW-Madison offices and forbidden UW employees from working with it. Center responds by thanking Walker and launching the WCIJ Education Fund drive to support the training of investigative journalists.
June 21: Decision on Center now up to Walker. Both houses of the state Legislature have declined to ax a state budget provision that would evict the Center from the University of Wisconsin and bar UW employees from working with it as part of their duties. Democrats and Republicans briefly debated an amendment to remove this language on the floor of the Senate. The amendment was defeated on a 17-16 vote. Read the full story here.
On June 5, the Wisconsin Legislature’s budget-writing committee, with no public warning, approved a measure evicting the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism from its campus offices and forbidding university employees from working with the Center. The full Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker have the power to remove the measure before approving the budget, but only days remain. Many journalists, journalism educators and members of the public across the nation say the Center’s collaboration with the school must be saved because it’s an important experiment in a future model for investigative reporting and journalism education — one that already is producing high-impact stories that strengthen democracy, while training young journalists at no direct cost to taxpayers.
Wednesday, June 5
Joint Finance Committee lawmakers voted at about 6 a.m. to add a provision to the state budget expelling the “Center for Investigative Journalism” from University of Wisconsin offices. The vote was 12-4 on party lines, with Republicans in the majority.
The relevant text from Motion 999 (Download the full motion PDF here):
Center for Investigative Journalism. Prohibit the Board of Regents from permitting the Center for Investigative Journalism to occupy any facilities owned or leased by the Board of Regents. In addition, prohibit UW employees from doing any work related to the Center for Investigative Journalism as part of their duties as a UW employee.
Watch: The WisconsinEye video from this morning. The provision is discussed briefly at the 2:15 mark.
Thursday, June 6
At an afternoon press conference, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette declined to answer questions from reporters about whose idea it was to evict the Center. They said they planned to keep the measure in the budget.
Press conference at the Capitol. Video from watchdog.org, posted on Wisconsin Reporter (see story: Journalist squares off with lawmakers at Wisconsin Capitol
Thursday evening, Gov. Scott Walker told conservative radio host Mark Belling that he wouldn’t comment on the measure.
“I haven’t made any commitment one way or another about vetoing or not vetoing,” Walker said.
What’s not happening:
Lawmakers are not defunding the Center. The Center receives no funding from the University of Wisconsin.
Its $400,000 budget is supported by private foundations, individuals and news organizations. It operates in two small offices in Vilas Communication Hall — used by its four-member professional staff and four UW-Madison reporting interns — under a Facilities Use Agreement (see Documents) that requires the Center to provide paid internships, classroom collaborations, guest lectures and other educational services.
What happens next?
The budget, including the provision to evict the Center, passed both houses of the state Legislature and will become law unless Walker vetoes it. He may veto the entire measure, or use line-item veto powers to veto a portion of it.
The Center’s response
Media: Contact Center executive director Andy Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Center is an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan organization based in Madison, Wis., that collaborates with other media outlets. The Center works with its partners and mainstream and ethnic news media to improve the quality and quantity of investigative journalism in Wisconsin. Our focus is on government integrity and quality of life issues.
The Center doesn’t take sides or play favorites. Its articles have provided in-depth coverage of government institutions, including the University of Wisconsin System, which houses it.
“Today I’m overwhelmed by messages of support from journalists and journalism educators, here and across the nation,” said Andy Hall, the Center’s executive director. “They’re concerned that the Joint Finance Committee’s action could have a ripple effect, limiting the public’s access to critical information that holds the government accountable, threatening the operations of other campus-based nonprofit journalism centers across the nation, and unreasonably restricting academic freedoms of educators to draw upon the best resources for educating students.”
Hall said the Center was “blindsided” by the JFC’s action.
The Center operates in two small offices in Vilas Communication Hall — used by its four-member professional staff and four UW-Madison reporting interns — under a Facilities Use Agreement that requires the Center to provide paid internships, classroom collaborations, guest lectures and other educational services.
Last year, Associated Press Media Editors honored the Center and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication with its inaugural Innovator of the Year for College Students award.
The Joint Finance Committee recently relied upon our investigation into the reliability of GPS tracking of offenders to curtail the governor’s requested expansion of GPS tracking until the reliability can be proven.
“The Center’s award-winning journalism is making Wisconsin a better place by shining a light on key state issues to strengthen our democracy while training the next generation of investigative journalists,” Hall said.
How you can help
• Contact legislative leaders. Let them know you support the Center’s nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau: 608-266-5660, Sen.Fitzgerald@legis.wisconsin.gov
Assembly speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, 608-266-9171, Rep.Vos@legis.wisconsin.gov
Gov. Scott Walker, http://www.wisgov.state.wi.us/Contact-Us
• Support the Center. Send us your story tips, to email@example.com or any of our staff. Consider making a donation — we need your support more than ever.
• A petition drive headed by Lea Thompson, UW-Madison SJMC Distinguishd Service Award recipient and member of WCIJ’s Journalism Advisory Board, expressing support for the WCIJ-SJMC collaboration: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/999/807/696/support-for-the-wisconsin-center-for-investigative-journalism/ (Reached 400 signatures in the first 24 hours; student journalists should of course check with their employers regarding conflict of interest policies before signing this, or any, petition.)
• Consider writing a letter to the editor, especially if your local paper is one of those which have used or cited the Center’s work at least 10 times:
La Crosse Tribune
Wausau Daily Herald
Green Bay Press-Gazette
Stevens Point Journal
Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter
Wisconsin State Journal
Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune
Portage Daily Register
Fond Du Lac Reporter
Ontario County Line
Augusta Area Times
The Sun Prairie Star
Eau Claire Leader-Telegram
Juneau County Star-Times
The Daily Reporter
The Oshkosh Northwestern
Beaver Dam Daily Citizen
Milwaukee News Buzz
Wisconsin Rapids Tribune
Beloit Daily News
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
More about the Center
The Center’s mission statement: Protect the vulnerable. Expose wrongdoing. Seek solutions to problems.
About us: What we do, who we are and how we’re funded, among other links.
Where our stories appear. The Center’s work is published by more than 230 news outlets across Wisconsin and the nation. See maps of where our stories end up. As of May 2013, it has published 107 major reports and nearly 100 columns, reaching more than 25 million people.
Tracking impact: Here are ways our work is having real impact.
Awards: The Center won gold, silver and bronze Milwaukee Press Club awards, eight total, for its work in 2012. The Center also won a national award — the Associated Press Media Editors’ first Innovator of the Year for College Students — for its work with UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication students.
Support from the UW-Madison, the director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and others
Updated Monday, July 1.
Investigative Reporters and Editors. “Beyond the impact of the stories it tells, the Center stands as a unique training ground for a new generation of young reporters learning the skills of investigative journalism under the guidance of executive director and former IRE Board member, Andy Hall. Targeting such work is indefensible.”
UW-Madison. University reaffirms support for investigative journalism. “Arbitrarily prohibiting UW-Madison employees from doing any work related to the Center for Investigative Journalism is a direct assault on our academic freedom; simply, it is legislative micromanagement and overreach at its worst,” says Gary Sandefur, dean of the College of Letters & Science, which oversees the journalism school.
UW-Madison Interim Chancellor David Ward. “The best and brightest researchers – and entrepreneurs, and families, and investors in Wisconsin’s economy – cannot function when a government body holds more sway over their decisions than years of careful experience. The famed ‘sifting and winnowing’ quote, immortalized in a plaque on the front of Bascom Hall, is a thoroughly Wisconsin statement, referencing the hard work of our heritage at the same time it deftly defends the values of academic freedom:
‘Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe that the great state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.’ –Taken from a report of the Board of Regents in 1894″
Charlie Sykes, conservative radio host at Milwaukee’s WTMJ. Republished by the Center: Petty, vindictive, dumb
“At a time when conservatives should be embracing government restraint, the motion combines some of the worst aspects of the IRS and DOJ scandals – using government to punish those perceived as political enemies combined with a clear assault on the free press. Who thought this was a good idea?”
PROFS President William F. Tracy. “As a faculty member active in shared governance, I can tell you that the collaboration between WCIJ and the School of Journalism & Mass Communication is just the kind of creative initiative that has given UW-Madison its stellar worldwide reputation. It carries on the Wisconsin Idea, the historic commitment by the university to enhance our quality of life.
Regarding the use of space at the university, UW-Madison has a formal, signed agreement with WCIJ where space in two small offices is exchanged for the guarantee of regular paid internships for students. All necessary levels of UW-Madison administration, including faculty and staff governance, approved the agreement. It is a contract, not a subsidy. Similarly, my department hosts the Wisconsin Crop Improvement Association, an organization of Wisconsin farmers dedicated to certifying seed quality. I can assure you, sharing space with WCIA has increased the level and quality of service agronomy faculty members provide to Wisconsin farmers.”
School of Journalism and Mass Communication faculty and staff. “The Wisconsin Center also helps train journalists for the future, not only nationally, but here in Wisconsin. The Center provides not just formal internships but guest lectures, case studies, story ideas, and technical expertise that faculty and students rely on both in and out of the classroom. This assistance is only possible because of the Center’s location in the School. The value of the training and paid internships provided by the Center far exceeds the minimal space and electricity provided, not only monetarily, but in its contribution to both good jobs for Wisconsin students and, perhaps more important, good reporters for Wisconsin newspapers. Virtually all Center interns have begun promising careers in journalism, many here in Wisconsin.”
School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “As written it would seem to broadly and recklessly infringe on our academic freedom in terms of research, teaching, and service. Our faculty and staff regularly collaborate with outside organizations on media-related projects in terms of research, teaching, and service.”
Greg Downey, director of UW School of Journalism & Mass Communication. “Today I breathed a long sigh of relief. For nearly a month I have been engaged in an all-out defense of a collaboration between my School of Journalism & Mass Communication(where I currently serve as Director) and the nonprofit, nonpartisan Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (which occupies two offices in our building in exchange for regular and close collaboration with their professional reporters in our classrooms, plus guaranteed paid reporting internships for our students). That collaboration came under acute legislative attack in early June, but today we found out that the crisis is finally over;the Wisconsin Governor himself ended the attack (for now) with a line-item veto. In short, we won.”
Greg Downey, director of UW School of Journalism & Mass Communication. “Over the past few years this innovative collaboration between our School and the Center has won national acclaim as a model for public-interest journalism and the “teaching hospital” strategy for professional education. This strategy, which puts professionals in close contact with students and academics, is heavily promoted (and, in fact, expected) by all the major foundations that fund work in our field. Our collaboration has turned a liability of underutilized space into an asset of professional expertise. It has provided nearly two dozen students with paid internships and a gateway to professional employment. And it has helped to bring increased status and visibility in terms of donations, research grants, and foundation attention to our campus (crucially important during the recent economic crisis). We think it’s been a great deal, for both UW students and Wisconsin taxpayers. And from the outcry we’ve heard over the past two weeks, it’s clear that our students, our alumni, and our professional colleagues think it’s been an asset to our School as well.”
Stephen J. A. Ward, director of George S. Turnbull Center for Journalism, in letter to WCIJ Executive Director Andy Hall. “I recently stepped down as director of the UW Center of Journalism Ethics. Over four years as director, I had the privilege of working with you, your center, and your news staff on issues of journalism ethics. I can vouch for the quality and non-partisan nature of your journalism. I know personally of the center’s high-minded and intense commitment to practicing journalism in the public interest. The center has broken many important stories for the information of all citizens – conservative or liberal. Wisconsin needs robust and outstanding non-profit journalism, as provided by your center. I also add that your center is well known across this country not only as a leader in new models for journalism, but also as a leader in articulating a ground-breaking ethics policy that promotes responsible, accurate and fair journalism.”
UW-Madison Teaching Assistants’ Association. “The Center fits into the history of journalistic innovation at UW, which led to the early radio broadcasting here, aiming to provide an essential service for the people of Wisconsin. The Center produces cutting-edge, award-winning stories that it gives away to publications around the state — publications that often don’t have the resources to do this kind of journalism. In this way, it is a manifestation of the Wisconsin Idea. The attack on the Center is fundamentally an attack on the Wisconsin Idea and the University of Wisconsin community.”
The University Committee and the Academic Staff Executive Committee. “We strongly urge you — in the name of academic freedom and the State of Wisconsin’s grand tradition of free inquiry — to remove the restrictions placed in the budget on the capacity of faculty members and students of our School of Journalism and Mass Communication to engage with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. These restrictions are a direct challenge to academic freedom. They hamper intellectual discovery, reduce opportunities for students to get hands-on experience putting what they’ve learned into practice, and run counter to the Wisconsin Idea by curtailing the university’s ability to serve the public good.”
The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC). “Particularly egregious is the Wisconsin legislative committee’s further attempt to prohibit journalism faculty members at UW-Madison from working with the WCIJ, which illustrates an exemplary case of academic-professional collaboration, and which should be a model for other journalism programs nationally and internationally. Such an ill-considered attempt is a clear violation of academic freedom, which is required to safeguard open inquiry and the creation of knowledge. We need more investigative reporting than ever in an age of ever-shrinking independent journalism due to financial constraints facing the news media as a whole.”
The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism. “As a fellow nonprofit organization that serves the public interest of our own home state through investigative journalism, IowaWatch stands firmly in solidarity with the Wisconsin Center.”
Vermont Journalism Trust board of trustees. “The board of the Vermont Journalism Trust supports the Investigative News Network’s statement of ‘disappointment and concern’ at the Wisconsin State Legislature’s maneuvers, which appear to be designed to thwart an independent and highly respected news organization. We strongly urge the legislature and governor’s office to reject this ill conceived and harmful proposal.”
Society of Professional Journalists, Madison Pro chapter. SPJ supports investigative journalism center. “Journalists across the country are increasingly subject to scrutiny and retaliation by political leaders of both parties. We don’t understand why the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee is requiring the center to leave UW-Madison, and we wish lawmakers had subjected this proposal to public debate. We believe the center will thrive, with or without a physical presence in the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communications.”
Deborah Blum, Helen Firstbrook Franklin Professor of Journalism at UW-Madison.
“I regard the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism as an exceptional educational resource for our journalism students. They are trained in analytical thinking, in in-depth research and, equally important, in rigorous fact-checking through working with the center in our classes. It’s not surprising that many of their reports have won not only state-wide awards but received national recognition. It not only helps make our students more skilled, it helps make them some of the most employable young journalists in the country. The collaboration with WCIJ is a one of remarkable value to our institution and one that should not be lost.”
Amy Karon, former reporting intern and owner of Karon Medical Writing. “I interned for 12 months with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism during 2011-2012. The internship was the highlight of my UW journalism master’s program. Center staff taught me advanced writing, analytical, and leadership skills that I continue to use daily in my profession as a technical medical writer.
“Twelve months after finishing my Center internship and master’s degree, I am a full-time female business owner who also supervises several college interns, teaching them the same database, communication, research, and project management skills that the Center taught me. Clearly, the Center opens doors for young people that extend far beyond the realm of investigative journalism. Interns at the Center learn advanced technical skills that increase their chances of employment and also learn to be responsible, level-headed and compassionate members of society.
“During hundreds of hours working with the Center during the political tempests of 2011-2012, I never once heard staff or interns express political views. The Center provided a rare respite from partisanship, a place totally committed to teaching and practicing short form, narrative and multimedia journalism. I laud the Center’s contributions to its interns and to the School of Journalism, the University of Wisconsin, and the people of Wisconsin.”
Center board member Herman Baumann. “I am a less-government, lower taxes, Second Amendment-loving, business-owning conservative. I also proudly serve on the Board of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (WCIJ). That’s why I was surprised to hear WCIJ incorrectly characterized as a ‘liberal organization’ by some members of the State Legislature.”
Letter from former student interns. “As students and graduates of the University of Wisconsin-Madison who have previously interned, worked at or collaborated with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, we can attest that the award-winning Center’s presence on campus has been fundamental to helping us begin our careers as journalists.”
Letter from graduate Holly Hartung, published in the Appleton Post-Crescent. “Through Professor Deborah Blum’s investigative reporting class in spring 2012, I met Executive Director Andy Hall and Money and Politics Project Director Bill Lueders of the center. They mentored us throughout our semester-long investigation and trained us young journalist pups to be watchdogs.
Their journalistic standards are unparalleled and their guidance transforms student pieces from B+ work that never leave the professor’s desk to award-winning stories that get published throughout the state.”
Lyle Muller, executive director-editor at the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism. “The real threat brewing in Wisconsin stems from whether or not a state legislature should be able to tell universities exactly how to teach, and with whom they can cavort when teaching.
Prohibiting UW employees from doing any work related to the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism as part of being a UW employee is indefensible. Such a prohibition cuts off educators from doing public service and staying in touch with a topic they teach and from furthering good work so that the profession can improve over time.”
Letter from leaders in the journalism field. “Finding ways to support fact-based, hard-hitting journalism remains a problem. The Wisconsin legislature should reject the proposal to weaken journalism and to harm an institution that has made significant contributions to University of Wisconsin students seeking serious education in journalism that holds powerful institutions to account. We think that’s what the First Amendment is about and we hope that a large majority of Wisconsin’s legislators agree.”
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), letter No. 1. “Indeed, the Joint Finance Committee’s proposed prohibition is extreme in its breadth, preventing faculty from performing any number of academic functions. For example, under the ban, faculty would be unable to read or discuss articles published by the WCIJ, to comment to WCIJ reporters on issues related to their scholarship or on matters of public concern, to assign WCIJ articles to students, or to cite WCIJ work in their research. The ban’s vagueness is similarly problematic, as it forces faculty to guess at the precise boundaries of the ban on “any work related to the Center,” no matter how seemingly remote. Laboring under the chilling effect engendered by such uncertainty, many faculty will rationally choose to self-censor—a deeply depressing outcome that contradicts the necessary function of our nation’s public universities. For these reasons, the ban is flatly unconstitutional and must be rescinded.”
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), letter No. 2. “We urge you to take decisive, immediate action to protect the academic freedom of UW faculty. In order to preserve the marketplace of ideas at Wisconsin’s public campuses, renowned nationwide for their tradition of inquiry and debate, the Committee’s modification must be rejected and removed immediately.”
The Center collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.
The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (www.WisconsinWatch.org) collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.