WEDC Shows Importance Of Newspapers


Newspapers impact my life twice every day.

First, more often than not, I hear the thud of the papers as they are tossed in the early morning, bouncing off the door and landing on the front stoop.  The second impact they make is once the plastic bags are removed and the front pages are spread out on the kitchen table.

This past week for readers of the Wisconsin State Journal the impact of the headlines above the fold were ones that reverberated around the state, through the corridors of power at the statehouse, and in almost every political discussion regardless of party affiliation.

Governor Scott Walker’s troubled job-creation agency, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., was front and center as the newspaper unveiled the results from their months-long investigation which showed political party coziness, lack of sound economic stewardship of funds, and a flawed process for job creation in the state.   There were many ways to view the content of the reports that made headlines over the past week, and as most readers understand there are many more questions to be answered from those within the Walker Administration.

But almost from the start when the first bombshell made for the headline everyone was talking about I mused to myself something I often ponder when big investigative stories break.  Would this story have broke without a newspaper in business to continue the daily hard labor of investigating and reporting?

While Madison has some very skilled and professional television reporters they generally are not the ones who work over a long period of time to unearth large investigative type stories.  Lets also be honest that the WEDC story is not one that makes for great television, even though it is very important for people to know about.   The story is about documents and political deals, and that is hard to film for top-of-the news coverage.   In addition, even if a station had the story there is no way all the details could be told with the time limitations on local news.  After all, there is a high pressure system over Arizona that may impact our weather in five days, and we need to be told about that for several minutes so to be prepared for the sunshine.

Which leads me back to the front pages of this past week’s Wisconsin State Journal.  There we found solid reporting about WEDC from Dee Hall and Matthew DeFour.  If you want to know what intrepid reporters look like I suggest you look at them as they research and work to piece together the convoluted parts of this story about state governmentIf you want to understand the necessity of newspapers in our country look no further than this story and ask yourself would we know about this without a newspaper doing the work?

Some people think blogs are in some way a journalistic tool.  But when it comes to getting serious questions answered from a government official it takes someone with a lot of ink behind their name to call up and demand a response.   I think most people in government gulp hard when they hear Dee Hall is on the line and wants to ask a few questions.  Blogs are not the professional objective news reporting source that best serves a democracy.  The morning newspaper that ferrets out corruption and investigates issues untouchable to the average blogger is an essential component for how we are made aware of our state government.  Bloggers can add icing to the cake of those reported stories, but are not able to find and report them on their own.

I come from the perspective that there is a real need to monitor government and policies that are enacted into law.  That work can not be done on the cheap, or by amateurs.    While many like to grouse about the press let us not forget reporters are professionals and the work they do makes us more knowledgeable about the ones we elect, and the way our tax dollars are spent.  As newspapers dwindle in number I wonder if the country can be as strong and educated without the work that is done by newspaper reporters who provide the first read of history.

I think we know the answer to that question after this past week, and we have Hall and DeFour to say thanks to for the answer.

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