Exactly a year ago, the Wisconsin Legislature caught us sleeping. In a secret predawn move on June 5, 2013, legislators anonymously inserted a measure into the state budget. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Jason Stein broke the news in a tweet at 5:19 a.m. — the moment we’re posting this update, as we reflect on the first anniversary. The entire Legislature soon approved the two-sentence provision, titled “Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.” It would have evicted WCIJ from offices we share with our student interns on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, and would have made it illegal for UW employees to collaborate with WCIJ. With your help, our darkest hour became our finest hour.
We thank Gov. Scott Walker for deleting this ill-conceived measure from the budget. The effort by an unnamed lawmaker or lawmakers to end the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism’s award-winning relationship with the University of Wisconsin, however, tells us that our reporting is making a difference.
The Center’s eviction is now in Walker’s court. 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.
“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.”
ByBy Aarushi Agni and Stephanie Sykes (Editors and teachers at Simpson Street Free Press) |
“In an age where print media is on a steady decline, funds to support the watchdog function of journalism are virtually non-existent. That’s why attacks by some in state government on the Center for Investigative Journalism are so deplorable.
And they hurt Wisconsin’s young people.”
“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.”
Motion 999 was approved 12-4 down party lines, with Republicans in the majority, around 6 a.m. The controversy and coverage began shortly afterward, from news organizations and groups across the nation and the political spectrum.