The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism is under fire, and the motives are apparently political.
Legislators added a provision to the state budget last week that would oust the WCIJ from its offices at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The provision also prohibits university employees from doing any work associated with the news institute.
WCIJ, founded in 2009, technically works independently from the university and is funded through donations. The center also acts as a nonprofit organization. However, the relationship between WCIJ and UW is a close one, and the school's journalism program benefits from having the news outlet's office located right on campus.
With a living, breathing newspaper essentially at their disposal, every journalism student is given hands-on experience early on in their investigative career, something many schools can’t give their students. Outside of requiring an internship, many colleges and universities don’t provide students with real-world experience. And even then, internships only last a semester or two. WisconsinWatch.org, the site produced by the WCIJ, provides students with experience in reporting like it’s done at real publications for the entire time they are at the University of Wisconsin.
The center also hosts a summer internship program that actually pays its interns and has been known to get more than a few of them real jobs once the internship is over.
The theory that many have come to as the reasoning behind kicking the WCIJ out of its workspace is the fact that the news source has a few too many liberal ties that make many Republicans anxious.
WCIJ states that it is a non-partisan news source and lists all of its donors directly on its website’s homepage. WCIJ also subscribes to the school of thought that comes from the Society of Professional Journalists, which dictates that donors are not allowed to influence news coverage. What's the problem, then? Many of the center’s funding comes from decidedly liberal sources, which still makes some state Republicans that the center has a distinct liberal lean to it.
It is yet to be seen if the center will be shunted from its office space. As of right now the budget has been cleared by the Joint Finance Committee and will be headed to the Assembly. The Senate must also pass the budget, which must then be signed by Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who is also a Republican. Where the center — and its relationship with the university — is going will be determined when the final state budget has been fully passed.