Wisconsin lawmakers want investigative journalists booted from UW-Madison campus

At about 6 a.m. today, Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee lawmakers voted 12-4 — with Republicans in the majority — to add a provision to the state budget expelling the non-partisan Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism from its University of Wisconsin-Madison offices. Also, lawmakers want to prohibit UW faculty from working with the center.

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“We were blindsided by the action of JFC, the Legislature’s budget-writing committee,” executive director Andy Hall tells Romenesko readers. “Oddly, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism doesn’t receive direct state funding. Its $400,000 budget is supported by private foundations, individuals and news organizations.”

Here’s the email from Hall:

Today I’m overwhelmed by messages of support from journalists and journalism educators, here and across the nation. They’re concerned that the Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee’s action could have a ripple effect, limiting the public’s access to critical information that holds the government accountable, threatening the operations of other campus-based nonprofit journalism centers across the nation, and unreasonably restricting academic freedoms of educators to draw upon the best resources for educating students.

Andy Hall

Andy Hall

We were blindsided by the action of JFC, the Legislature’s budget-writing committee. Oddly, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism doesn’t receive direct state funding. Its $400,000 budget is supported by private foundations, individuals and news organizations. It operates in two small offices in Vilas Communication Hall — used by its four-member professional staff and four UW-Madison reporting interns — under a Facilities Use Agreement that requires the Center to provide paid internships, classroom collaborations, guest lectures and other educational services.

The Center’s award-winning journalism is making Wisconsin a better place by shining a light on key state issues to strengthen our democracy while training the next generation of investigative journalists.

Last year, APME honored the Center and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication with its inaugural Innovator of the Year for College Students award.

The Joint Finance Committee recently relied upon our investigation into the reliability of GPS tracking of offenders to curtail the governor’s requested expansion of GPS tracking until the reliability can be proven.

* Wisconsin Republicans want to kick journalism center off UW campus (citypages.com)
* Center for Investigative journalism responds to lawmakers’ attack (wisconsinwatch.org)

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