The Legislature’s petty attempt to evict the Center for Investigative Journalism from the UW-Madison campus has quickly backfired.
Less than a day after the Republican-run Legislature’s budget committee slipped a mean-spirited eviction notice into the state budget, the center was enjoying lots of public attention to its mission and work.
The full Legislature and citizens across Wisconsin now are learning more about the center’s strong role in training the investigative reporters of the future, including many paid student interns.
The full Legislature should reject the budget committee’s micro-managing of university office space. And if it doesn’t, Gov. Scott Walker should veto the clumsy measure.
Apparently, some state lawmakers don’t appreciate all of the reporting the center’s four professional journalists and many student reporters produce on subjects as varied as sand mining, unemployed veterans and political contributions.
The government doesn’t get to dictate what information a free press provides to the public.
Moreover, the center isn’t getting any money from the state. All it gets is free use of two small offices in exchange for providing several paid internships for students every semester and during the summer.
In fact, it’s the students who occupy most of roughly 400 square feet of office space. And the center’s professional journalists, led by former Wisconsin State Journal investigative reporter Andy Hall, often talk to and work with journalism classes on reporting projects and training exercises.
It’s a collaboration the Associated Press Media Editors last year honored for its innovative approach to boosting student journalism.
The State Journal has published some of the center’s work. So have other media outlets across the state.
The center discloses all of its donors on its website. More than 90 percent of its $400,000 annual budget comes from five national foundations.
The budget committee’s provision would boot the center from campus and forbid faculty collaboration.
That would mostly hurt students — something cooler heads at the Capitol should reject.