Note to readers regarding openness at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Coburn Dukehart/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism Board of Directors and staff meet in Madison on June, 3, 2016. The Board recently approved policies regarding privacy, diversity and the use of unnamed sources.

Dear Readers,

We’re opening up more information to you about how we operate.

Last week the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Center Investigative Journalism approved three policies — all of which are now posted on our website — outlining our standards for use of unnamed sources in news stories, how we approach the issue of diversity in our news coverage and operations, and how we handle personal information we receive from users of our website.

Highlights include:

— The Guidelines on Use of Unnamed Sources are based on the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, approved in 1996, and adopted in full by the Center in 2009; and guidelines publicly shared by The New York Times in July 2016. Among other things, the guidelines say that we will identify sources whenever feasible because the public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability. We will question sources’ motives before promising anonymity, and keep any promises. At least one editor must know the specific identity of any anonymous source — part of our diligence in this sensitive area.

WPR and WCIJ reporter Alexandra Hall interviews Miguel Hernandez at the Knoepke farm in Pepin County for a story about immigrant labor on dairy farms on May 30, 2017. The Center embraces diversity and inclusiveness in its journalism, training activities, hiring practices and workplace operations.

— The Diversity statement approved at the board’s May 8 meeting expands upon one adopted in 2010. The Center embraces diversity and inclusiveness in its journalism, training activities, hiring practices and workplace operations. The Center recognizes that its mission and society in general are strengthened by respecting individuals’ cultural traditions, beliefs and viewpoints. The Center further acknowledges that for its journalism, and our democracy, to attain their highest potential, a robust supply of reliable information about key issues must be accessible to all. Inclusiveness is at the heart of thinking and acting as journalists. The complex issues we face as a society require respect for different viewpoints.

— The User Agreement and Privacy Policy describe ways that we handle personal information we receive from users of our website, and specify that users agree to those terms. Like many sites, we use “cookies” — files with small amount of data, which may include an anonymous unique identifier — to collect information. You can instruct your browser to refuse all cookies or to indicate when a cookie is being sent.

As the policy explains: “We only collect personally identifiable information such as your name and email address when you sign up for a newsletter, donate to our organization, or otherwise submit it to us voluntarily. We do not share your personal data with any third parties other than some common service providers, whose products use your information to help us improve our site, deliver newsletters, or allow us to offer donation opportunities. In most cases, your data remains private and cannot be shared with anyone else.”

You may unsubscribe or opt-out of our email and mail communications at any time by hitting the “unsubscribe” button in any email you receive from the Center, or by emailing me at or calling us at 608-262-3642.

We believe that by being open about our operations, you’ll be better able to assess investigative reports produced by the Center, whose mission is “to increase the quality, quantity and understanding of investigative journalism to foster an informed citizenry and strengthen democracy.”

In our 10th year of operations, we remain guided by three principles that Dee J. Hall, the Center’s co-founder and my wife, and I spelled out at the beginning: “Protect the vulnerable. Expose wrongdoing. Explore solutions.”

Let us know how we’re doing and, if you value the stories and our training of the next generation of investigative journalists, please consider supporting the Center. We depend on people like you to sustain our work. We’re proud to name every donor, to help protect the integrity of our journalism in a model adopted by our board back in 2010 and widely emulated ever since.

Let the sun shine in!


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