It’s no secret that journalism is in crisis, especially at the local level. As noted by Tim Franklin, senior associate dean at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications:
“I think there’s a growing consensus that the crisis in local news is the biggest crisis in American journalism today . . . And I think it’s not just a crisis for the journalism industry. It’s also a growing problem for a self-governed democracy, because without local news, citizens don’t have access to the information they need to hold government officials accountable, to hold other institutions accountable, and to be active, engaged, voting citizens.”
I’ve called mainstream political journalism in Wisconsin lazy. Lazy journalism compounds the crisis because in a disturbing way it can actually make those who engage it less informed. A badly informed public is not much better than an uninformed one, and might even be worse.
But there’s finally some reason to be optimistic about journalism in Wisconsin. The good news is that we northeast Wisconsin residents can engage two online sources that are the opposite of lazy: The Oshkosh Examiner and the Wisconsin Examiner.
The Oshkosh Examiner is produced by UW Oshkosh Professor of Journalism and Oshkosh Independent contributor Miles Maguire. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Dr. Maguire, operating on his own, produces more worthwhile local journalism than pretty much every corporate, mainstream source in our region combined. His coverage of the financial crisis at the Menominee Nation Arena, the sad saga of Winnebago County Coroner Barry Busby, and how the “dark store loophole” hurts Oshkosh are just three examples of the high quality journalism found on his site.
At the state level, The Wisconsin Examiner is the biggest breath of fresh air to hit Wisconsin journalism since LaFollette’s Weekly in 1909. The philosophy of the Wisconsin Examiner contributors is very much in line with what Fighting Bob said in 1909:
“In the course of every attempt to establish or develop free government, a struggle between Special Privilege and Equal Rights is inevitable. Our great industrial organizations [are]in control of politics, government, and natural resources. They manage conventions, make platforms, dictate legislation. They rule through the very men elected to represent them. The battle is just on. It is young yet. It will be the longest and hardest ever fought for Democracy. In other lands, the people have lost. Here we shall win. It is a glorious privilege to live in this time, and have a free hand in this fight for government by the people.”
Standing strongly against lazy corporate journalism, the Wisconsin Examiner aims to be a resource for The People:
“In Wisconsin’s great progressive tradition, we aim to hold the powerful accountable to the people, follow the money, and dig out the truth. Although we give you the inside scoop, we are not a publication for ‘insiders.’ Instead, we cover stories and voices that too often go unheard.”
The Wisconsin Examiner’s only been around a short time, yet already has produced some great stories on frac sand mining, the NRA’s impact on state government, the political corruption behind the legislature’s inability to close the dark store loophole, and many others. The WI Examiner says it is “digging up truth in the Badger state,” a saying which ought to be the rallying cry for ALL news sources in the state.
If you do not already, start following the Oshkosh Examiner and the Wisconsin Examiner TODAY. Both sources will equip you with the information and insight necessary to be a citizen of impact at the local and state levels.
Tony Palmeri is a Professor of Communication Studies at UW Oshkosh. He teaches courses in rhetoric and public advocacy, freedom of speech, the rhetoric of rock and roll, and the communication career capstone. He maintains a blog called "Tony Palmeri's Media Rants." Tony served two terms on the Oshkosh Common Council and ran for state legislature in 1996 and 2004. You can find more information about him at www.tonypalmeri.com