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Wisconsin Watch stays the course

Posted: July 3, 2013 | Tags: Wisconsin Watch

When the Wisconsin legislature voted in early June to separate the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism from its home at the University of Wisconsin, Madison — and to prohibit university employees from working there — it may have done Executive Director Andy Hall a favor. Of sorts.

The action, which was part of a finance committee’s overnight marathon, spawned a national outcry, and “the voices made a big difference,” Hall said in a recent interview.

And last weekend, when the Republican governor vetoed the legislature’s shenaningans, the center, known as Wisconsin Watch, was grateful.

“We thank Gov. Scott Walker for acting in the best interests of students, the university and the state,” Hall said. “And we're delighted that our work will continue unfettered as we dig into important issues facing the state while training the next generation of investigative journalists.” 

On June 30, the center announced the creation of a new Education Fund for its paid internship program, done in collaboration with the university’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. The center hopes to raise $100,000 annually to support the program.

The 4-year-old center is nonprofit and nonpartisan. Recent articles include reports on Milwaukee leading the nation in water testing and the impact of frac sand mining on employment. 

Hall and Lauren Fuhrmann, the center’s public engagement director, have taken the center’s story a step further by developing tips for other investigative journalism organizations that may be under attack. These include developing a clear mission statement, disclosing sources of financial support on your site and charting the impact of your work — and posting all of it.

“While we hold the powerful accountable for their actions, we need to be as open as possible about our own standards and sources of financial support,” Hall said. 

“For those of us running nonprofit newsrooms, that means we name every funder and guarantee that funders have no voice in news coverage decisions, to protect the most important thing: the integrity of our journalism.”

Note: The Workshop's executive editor, Charles Lewis, is a founding board officer of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Lewis recently wrote about the legislative action to remove the Wisconsin Center from the university.

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