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Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Helpful Advice for Whitewater, Wisconsin

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton is rightly celebrated as a masterpiece. It also offers useful political advice, even for small town officials. From that musical’s Washington on Your Side, consider this sage observation on the limits of intra-institutional reform: If there’s a fire you’re trying to douse, You can’t put it out from inside the house. There’s…

After a News Desert

A news desert is a community without coverage from a daily newspaper. If coverage means timely newspaper reporting on a city’s principal public meetings and events, then Whitewater has been a news desert since the nearby Daily Jefferson County Union stopped reporting on Whitewater’s common council & school board meetings. If coverage means timely, insightful,…

Aggregation, Curation, and Commentary

Here’s a quick post based on an email and reply from last night about the differences between aggregation, curation, and commentary (from my viewpoint). An aggregation site receives stories or news releases to post, and publishes them based on an intentionally loose set of criteria to maximize the number of posts. Ideally – and it’s…

Five Months

In a local newspaper’s story about a former chancellor’s leave of absence, one learns that information about her leave came five months after a public records request: Tuesday marked five months since The Gazette filed an open records request with UW-W for information on Kopper’s leave during the fall semester, when she previously had plans…

But We Never Went Away…

Writing at NiemanLab, Joanne McNeil offers a prediction for 2020 in A return to blogs (finally? sort of?): One reason we might see a resurgence of blogs is the novelty. Tell someone you’re starting a new newsletter and they might complain about how many newsletters (or podcasts) they already subscribe to. But tell them you’re…

Sullivan on Public Officials as Reporters

Editors of small-town newspapers sometimes lack the judgment (and self-respect) to remain independent of government.  During these lapses of decision-making, one finds that elected or appointed officials become, themselves, reporters on their own stories.  (For a case like this in Whitewater involving a school board member, see Public Officials Should Not Be Reporters.) Margaret Sullivan, of the…

Into the Void

Across Wisconsin, newspapers have not distinguished themselves since the Great Recession. Most have descended into a cautious, center-right boosterism. They acted on their publishers’ own politics, and on the politics their elderly (but dwindling) readership. Doing so has only exacerbated their problems. The time to break from this was before – or even during –…

One Paywall to Rule Them All?

Two days ago, I wrote about another local newspaper becoming part of the APG chain. See Another Newspaper in the Shredder. It’s possible that these acquisitions will lead to an area-wide paywall, and perhaps even a strong paywall (hard to get around even with advances in incognito browsing). The theory, one supposes, is that the…

Public Records Requests as Pre-Litigation Actions

Wisconsinites submitting public records requests under the law (Wis. Stat. §§ 19.31 et seq.) may do so for any number of reasons (and need not declare a motivation of any sort). Not everyone will have the same aims in mind. For someone who’s a publisher (newspaper, magazine, blogger), however, a sensible way to look at…

Assorted Items on a Big Day

A few assorted items on a big day:  Elections. I’ve no firm idea how any of the major contests nationally, statewide, or locally will go. It does seem clear that many contests have, in fact, been nationalized. How this will affect the final vote in our area (both in the city and townships immediately nearby)…

Print’s Continuing Decline (and the Message for Digital)

One can be a critic of newspapers (for their low quality and high boosterism), and yet feel a sadness at their decline. There’s a notice in the Janesville Gazette about downsizing of the daily print edition. See Objective: Preserve local journalism in the face of rising costs. Editor Sid Schwartz tells readers that the Gazette…