Wisconsin mess: Could student newspaper get booted next?

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | WKOW-TV

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Rep. John Nygren tell the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Patrick Marley they will not remove language from a budget measure that would expel the nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism from the grounds of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"The two leaders said newsgathering operations should be separate from government agencies," Marley writes. "But they did not extend that view to Wisconsin Public Television and Wisconsin Public Radio, which they called unique entities."

Giving news organizations the boot "would appear to threaten one of our student newspapers," Katy Culver, an assistant professor at Wisconsin's School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said via email.

That newspaper, The Daily Cardinal, "negotiated space in a campus building in return for giving up land for the university to do construction," writes Culver, who's written for and taught at Poynter.

Culver also points to a series of tweets by WKOW reporter Greg Neumann, who reported on the reverberations from this move by the legislature's Joint Committee on Finance. Neumann interviewed Wisc. Sen. Alberta Darling, who serves on the committee.



Here is Neumann's story:

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Any prohibition on University of Wisconsin employees working for WCIS would probably lead to a "constitutional challenge," Culver wrote in an email to Poynter:

This is a blatant infringement on academic freedom, as well as our rights to free speech, press and association. My duties include working with news media on questions of education, digital practices and ethics. If the state can bar me from doing that with WCIJ, it could similarly bar my work with Poynter, PBS and any number of other organizations.

By the way, this also extends to Wisconsin Public Television and Wisconsin Public Radio, which are partners with us in this collaborative enterprise. Those staff members are university employees as well and would thus be prohibited from working with the center in any capacity. Imagine for a moment that the legislature said WPT staff could not do any work related to the Associated Press or the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel or FOX News.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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