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Janesville Gazette’s Reprehensible Story About an Alleged Sexual Assault

At the nearby Janesville Gazette, there’s a story about an alleged sexual assault that’s simply reprehensible reporting: Excessive drinking was prelude to sex assault, court document alleges. (The reporter, Frank Schultz; editor, Sid Schwartz.) Here’s how Schultz’s story begins – a single-sentence first paragraph: An 18-year-old Janesville man is accused of second-degree sexual assault after…

What the New Dealers Got Right – What Whitewater’s Local Notables Got Wrong

There’s sound reason to doubt that the New Dealers’ economic solutions to the Great Depression were effective, but there’s no doubt that Roosevelt’s Brain Trust was hard-working, smart, and candid in its description of America’s economic problems. For a critical assessment of the New Deal, written accessibly, see The Forgotten Man: A New History of…

Why Feature Stories on Major Topics are Now Often a Waste of Time

Feature stories on major topics, in which the author begins a multi-paragraph description of a person or scene before offering a substantive consideration of the topic, have today little use in newspapers.  These stories are meant to set a scene, and perhaps evoke emotions in readers who are, the author presumes, indifferent or ignorant of…

The Janesville Gazette‘s Sketchy Reporting on Major Topics

The nearby Janesville Gazette, a newspaper that insists ‘local matters,’ too often reports on Whitewater’s local matters in a careless way, ignoring key information.  Whether that paper’s omissions are through negligence or by design, reporting like this ill-serves Whitewater. (In fairness, the Gazette long ago ran itself into the ground, and sold out this summer…

Gazette Story on Whitewater’s District Administrator: Omission & Innuendo

Yesterday morning, I posted on Whitewater School District administrator Dr. Mark Elworthy’s decision to take a position with the St. Francis School District.  See On Changes at the Whitewater Unified School District.  Last night, the Janesville Gazette published a story on the topic. See Whitewater’s Elworthy named interim superintendent for St. Francis School District. The Gazette’s story…

Does Anyone at the Janesville Gazette Have a Dictionary?

Recently,  the Janesville Gazette‘s editorialist tried to defend remarks from Trump’s secretary of agriculture, Sonny Perdue, about the demise of family farmers. See Our Views: Ag secretary’s reality check wasn’t callous. In that defense, one finds that the Gazette‘s editorialist neither understands the meaning of simple English words nor basic economics. The secretary of agriculture said…

Truth-Telling and Tale-Weaving

In conditions of real injury, in which truth-telling is important, tale-weaving about irrelevant matters is worse than wasteful: it’s a misdirection from the significant to the insignificant. Three recent stories illustrate the critical difference between these approaches. As a truth-telling story, Hope Kirwan of Wisconsin Public Radio reports ‘Students Deserve To Be Heard’: UW-La Crosse…

School Board, 9.16.19: Applicant Interviews and Reporting

On Monday night, the Whitewater Unified School District’s board met to interview four applicants for a vacancy on the board (following the resignation of board member Jean Linos). The agenda for the meeting, although posted online, listed none of the applicants: not by total number, let alone by name or with their accompanying letters of…

The Whitewater, WI Conflict of Interest Gallery™

Ours is an era of conflicts of interest and self-dealing. Conflicts of interest sometimes begin with ignorance but they persist through arrogance. Simple principles of separation between roles that were once understood and respected (in the main) are now commonly rationalized away. If one bemoans degraded national ethics, one should be clear that local officials…

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…

Public Officials Should Not Be Reporters

It is a simple principle that public officials should not be newspaper reporters on their own meetings and actions. For readers, reporters, editors, publishers, and public officials this should be obvious. Worse: public officials should not be newspaper reporters when their roles as public officials are not expressly identified.  A Whitewater-area newspaper and a Whitewater school…

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…

Another Newspaper in the Shredder

One reads that APG has purchased another Wisconsin newspaper, the Beloit Daily News.   A few reminders: 1. Advertising revenue won’t sustain most locals newspapers, in print or online. 2. Only desperate advertisers will pay for ads in local newspapers running mostly press releases. There aren’t enough of desperate advertisers. 3. Subscriptions (for newspapers or…