Wisconsin's government has other ties to journalism orgs

The Cap Times | Wisconsin Reporter

The state budget bill that would kick the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism off the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison is on Gov. Scott Walker's desk. Legislators objected to a journalism nonprofit receiving office space in a state building.

Jack Craver asks: So how's that different from news organizations getting office space at the state Capitol?

Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, whom I encountered in the parking lot of Capital Newspapers (he was exiting an editorial board meeting with the Wisconsin State Journal), focused on the way that news organizations receive their funding when I asked him why, for instance, a number of newspapers get free workspace at the Capitol.

“They’re not funded by the Koch brothers or George Soros’ foundation,” he said, clearly referring to the grants WCIJ has received from the Open Society Institute, a Soros-financed group.

State Rep. Robin Vos, the speaker of the state assembly, earlier this month questioned "whether or not the university should be creating arrangements that some in the public might perceive to be helping one organization or another without giving the same access."

Asks Ryan Ekvall: So how's that different from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. advertising in state newspapers that cover the government?

WEDC bought half-page, bi-monthly color ads in the Wisconsin State Journal, spending early $40,000 from October 2012 to April 2013 – a time when WEDC was under intense scrutiny from the press and lawmakers for mismanagement of taxpayer-funded economic development programs. WEDC also is running an ad on Madison.com, which hosts the State Journal’s online product, for about $150 a month.

WEDC contracted to run ads on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s online site for $1,600 over three months, from May to July 2013. The agency also runs ads on Wisbusiness.com for about $165 a month.

Walker spokesperson Tom Evenson told Ekvall that "any veto provisions will be announced when he is ready to do so." Poynter's also asked the governor's office whether Walker plans to amend the budget measure; I'll update this story when I hear back.

Previously: Talk-show host: Wisconsin Watch move should ‘appall those of us in the conservative media’ | Wisconsin mess: Could student newspaper get booted next?

  • 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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