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Whitewater’s Local Politics 2021: Marketing

This is the ninth in a series on Whitewater’s local politics of 2021. Through all the difficult events of the last two decades (a Great Recession, an opioid epidemic, economic stagnation, creeping nativism, a pandemic, a pandemic recession), Old Whitewater has responded with the same question: how can we market the town to others? If…

Whitewater’s Local Politics 2021 — COVID-19: Skepticism and Rhetoric

This is the eighth in a series on Whitewater’s local politics of 2021. Why would a local politician publish statistics on a pandemic? Why would he write now and again with reports of the reach of the pandemic into his city? He’d write this way out of concern for his community. If that’s not plain,…

The Power of Refutation

Laura Hazard Owen writes When’s the best time to correct fake news? After someone’s already read it, apparently: Debunking > prebunking. If you want someone to not believe that false or misleading headline they just read, when’s the best time to correct it? We hear a lot about inoculating people against fake news or “prebunking”…

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…

Sunshine Week 2019

It’s Sunshine Week in America: a seven-day focus from the American Society of News Editors and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press on “access to public information and what it means for you and your community.” One doesn’t have to be a reporter (and bloggers, for example, are not reporters) to understand the importance…