Thanks to the generosity of the students and management at WSUM (91.7 FM), the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism has a new temporary home.
The eight staff members, interns and assistants who work at the Center are being housed at the WSUM offices on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus while water damage from a pipe that burst Feb. 2 or 3 in Vilas Communication Hall is repaired. It is unknown when the Center can return to Vilas.
The independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit Center is now located on the fourth floor of the Student Activity Center across East Campus Mall from Vilas. WSUM has graciously given over part of its newsroom to house the Center’s staff. The phone number remains the same — 608-262-3642 — but the phone itself was destroyed, so callers will hear a greeting and should leave a message until full service is restored.
“We want to thank General Manager Dave Black and his entire crew for being so accommodating,” said Andy Hall, the Center’s executive director. “They really threw us a lifeline after our offices were flooded.”
WSUM Engineer Laura Gutknecht and News Director Will Kenneally have been especially helpful with the relocation.
The School of Journalism and Mass Communication on the fifth floor, where the Center has been based since it opened a decade ago, also was dislocated. The incident heavily damaged the first, fifth and sixth floors of Vilas Hall.
Not everyone has found a permanent home yet, said Lisa Aarli, graduate adviser for the journalism program.
“We are still working out where to situate people — it’s definitely a challenge. We should have more information at the end of the week,” Aarli said.
The school’s director, Hemant Shah, said that “faculty, staff and students are finding places all around campus to work and for meetings. The College of Letters and Science has been helping us find places for our people.”
Shah, who serves on the Center’s board of directors, said while “there is no firm schedule about re-occupying our floor,” cleanup crews have made great progress.
“We do know the fifth floor is almost completely dried out, so that rebuilding plans are underway,” he said.
While the repairs proceed, assessments continue on the amount of damage to the building and its contents. The cause of the water line break, which occurred shortly after a period of severe cold, has not been announced.
Hall said that the Center has shipped a stack of waterlogged notes to a Texas facility for restoration. While the Center’s critical files and equipment are intact, it is working with its insurance carrier to determine the value of ruined electronic devices and equipment.
“It feels exhilarating,” Hall said, “to see our staff persevere throughout this challenge to continue producing strong investigative reporting and training the next generation of investigative journalists. They are unstoppable.”
Photos and video of WCIJ offices following the burst water pipe at Vilas Communication Hall
A video shows the damaged offices in Vilas Communication Hall as industrial dryers line the hallways.
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Student radio to the rescue: WSUM houses Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism while cleanup from water damage continues
by Wisconsin Watch, Wisconsin Watch February 14, 2019