Skip to content

Baraboo Newspaper Wins In Search For Truth

May 2, 2019

There were no klieg lights or television cameras, and no top-of-the-fold coverage from the state press.  But what happened this week, due to tenacious reporters from one small-town newspaper, allows us to have another reason to feel proud of the Fourth Estate.

The Sauk County Board voted 15-14 Monday to settle a lawsuit with the Baraboo News Republic over the release of documents.

After a series of motions and votes related to the 2017 suit, supervisors narrowly voted to hand over documents to the newspaper and pay $35,000 to reimburse a portion of its legal fees.

The whole episode can be condensed into one sentence which was at the center of this controversy.  Should documents, and portions of a redacted government email involving a Spring Green man found dead on property that officials deemed a health hazard, be made public?

From that issue percolates the role news reporters must be able to undertake so to ferret out information relating to how elected government officials conduct the people’s business.  And to what extent those in power can try to impede the public’s right to know?

The Baraboo News Republic filed the lawsuit against two Sauk County government offices.  An out-of-county judge sided with the newspaper on nearly all contested matters and ordered the county to turn over records.

One can surmise that the person who died, Christopher Mueller, a 64-year-old Spring Green man, may not have had his life ended in his cluttered trailer if local officials had acted differently.  And that is where the role of reporters come into this story.  Had it not been for the local newspaper, and their reporters, who would have unearthed this matter so the public could be aware of what happened?

It comes as no surprise that government always needs to be prodded to allow for more sunshine and transparency so to allow those governed to have a better understanding of what is happening in their name.  Citizens have a right to see and hear how local government functions, and how elected and appointed members of government bodies arrive at decisions.

That is why I am mighty proud of the Baraboo News Republic’s quest for the truth.  By pushing to make sure the information pertinent to the full understanding of this case has now been made  available to the people, there is not only transparency, but also the chance for accountability.

Like you, I often hear and read that the role of newspapers in our society is fading. They are relics of the past, it is often argued, given the social media world we live in.  We hear that the relevancy of papers is fading.  Really?  I ask again who would have pursued this story had it not been for the Baraboo newspaper?

If there were a group of reporters at the end of this week gathered for a beer, and chatting alongside the regulars at the local pub, all could be in agreement on one thing  The work of elected or appointed officials need not be at odds with reporters.  But when they are at odds the needs of the citizens to be aware of how their government operates must always prevail.

Hats off to the reporters, editor, and publisher at the Baraboo News Republic!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: