We urge the state Legislature to remove the budget proposal that would close the Center’s offices in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and forbid university employees from working with the Center.
Begun in 2009, the Center is an award-winning initiative that has produced more than 100 major investigative stories examining key state issues while training 16 paid interns and dozens of additional students through classroom collaborations.
The university itself has issued a statement in strong support of the work that the Center has done with faculty and students. Many students have offered statements on how the Center has benefited their education and job prospects.
Under an agreement with the University of Wisconsin, the university offers two small offices in Vilas Communication Hall for a four-member staff and interns paid by the Center. In return, the Center provides not only the paid internships, but free editorial work with students, guest lectures and individual tutorials.
Through this innovative arrangement, students are learning the highest standards of journalism and producing some of the finest investigative journalism in Wisconsin. Their stories have led to reforms in state policies, educated the public and policymakers about important issues facing the state and resulted in legislative actions that made Wisconsin a better place.
(The stories can be found at our Web site, http://www.WisconsinWatch.org, where they are published and archived and distributed for free to dozens of newsrooms around Wisconsin.)
The Center also has been a leader in creating the ethical and professional standards for the new wave of nonprofit, university-based newsrooms in the United States. The Center leads by example, too. It is transparent about its funding and accepts no outside control or influence on its reporting. In addition, it has worked to achieve a diversity of funding to prevent reliance on a single funder and its supporters include six foundations and more than 60 additional donors.
We believe the Center can contribute much more in the future to Wisconsin citizens, faculty and students through its present location at the university. Thus, we respectfully request removal of language that would curtail what has been a productive and rewarding collaboration for all, providing students with pay, real-world experience and expanded opportunities for employment while helping residents understand major issues facing their communities.