SPJ holiday party, raffle Thursday, Dec. 17

MADISON — The Madison chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, in conjunction with the state Capitol press corps, will hold its annual Holiday Mixer and Raffle on Thursday, Dec. 17.

The event will be held from 6-9 p.m. at the Argus Bar, 123 E. Main St., just a block off the Capitol Square in Madison. All area journalists and journalism supporters are invited, and the event is free.

The party will feature a pot-luck meal, so please bring an appetizer, side dish, main dish or dessert to share.

Proceeds from the raffle will benefit the Simpson Street Free Press. SSFP is a Madison-based nonprofit that teaches reading, writing and critical thinking skills. Middle and high school students publish news articles on a variety of platforms.

SPJ Madison is seeking raffle items. Individuals and news organizations that wish to donate items for the raffle should contact SPJ Madison president Mark Pitsch at mpitsch@madison.com

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SPJ Madison- Pro offers Safety Training for Journalists

The Dane County Sheriff’s Office is partnering with the Madison chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists to help journalists stay safe on the job.

The personal safety presentation comes after the shooting of an anchor and photographer during a live broadcast in Virginia in August.

“The Dane County Sheriff’s Department is partnering with SPJ Madison Pro Chapter to ensure that journalists in south-central Wisconsin have the tools to both do their jobs as reporters and photographers while remaining safe on the job,” said SPJ Region 6 Director Joe Radske.

A seminar this weekend with Deputy Kelly Rehwoldt will offer personal safety tips journalists can use in their daily lives. Rehwoldt is a 22-year veteran and a full-time trainer with the Sheriff’s Office.

If you’re interested, contact Joe Radske at: jradske@wisctv.com

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Madison Pro Chapter Mourns the Death of Virginia Journalists

SPJ Madison-Pro Chapter joins journalists from across the country in remembering the lives of Alison Parker and Adam Ward.

Keep them in your thoughts along with the WDBJ-7 family. SPJ National released the following statement.

“The Society of Professional Journalists is deeply saddened and shocked by the news today regarding the fatal shootings of WDBJ-7 journalists Alison Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27.

Parker, a reporter, and Ward, a videographer, were on assignment for a feature story in Moneta, Va., for the CBS affiliate in Roanoke, Va. Reports say the gunman knew the victims and was a disgruntled former co-worker.

While journalists know the inherent risks of reporting in war zones or in areas of unrest abroad, I am sure these two young journalists never imagined doing an early morning live shot at a local recreational plaza would have been so dangerous or deadly. The senseless loss of these lives is tragic.

Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with their families, friends and WDBJ-7 team. We also wish the third victim, Vicki Gardner, of the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce, a full recovery.”

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SPJ letter to Gov. Walker and legislative leaders


July 5, 2015

Gov. Scott Walker

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos

Dear Gov. Walker, Sen. Fitzgerald and Rep. Vos:

The Madison professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists applauds your decision to remove in its entirety language from the 2015-17 budget that would alter the state’s open records law. We are pleased that you listened to us and to the broad spectrum of opponents – liberal and conservative interest groups, Republican and Democratic lawmakers, open government advocates and journalists, and others — to the changes proposed by the Joint Finance Committee.

Your decision is a victory for open government and government transparency. In that spirit, we encourage all elected officials and others involved in preparing this language to acknowledge their roles in the process.

In the future, any consideration of changes to the open records law should take place in public and with the public, and should focus on increasing openness and transparency rather than the opposite.

Mark Pitsch, president, SPJ Madison;  Joe Radske, director, SPJ Region 6

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Open Records Law in Peril in Wisconsin

News coverage, July 3, 3015:

The MacIver Institute, a conservative think tank, published this video report.

Wisconsin State Journal: Republicans vote to dramatically scale back oversight of lawmakers, other public officials

 UPDATE, July 4, 2015:

Wisconsin State Journal: Scott Walker, legislative leaders drop open records changes

The Wisconsin Newspaper Association has collections of the news coverage of the issue:

Collection #1

Collection #2

Collection #3

Collection #4

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SPJ letter to legislative leaders

SPJ Madison and SPJ Region 6 sent this letter today:


July 3, 2015

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos

Dear Sen. Fitzgerald and Rep. Vos:

James Madison, Father of the Bill of Rights, Federalist Papers author, and the man for whom our capital city is named, was perhaps the nation’s first public records advocate. He argued that citizens must gain access to information to be full participants in its government:

“A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

Indeed. Perhaps this is why so many — conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, journalists and open government advocates, and others – have expressed outrage in the last 24 hours at the language inserted into the 2015-17 budget gutting our public records law.

The Madison professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists urges you and your chamber to please take heed of Founding Father Madison’s advice: Remove this language from the budget bill and arm the public with the knowledge that will help it be full partners in our democratic republic.

For decades, Wisconsin has had a proud tradition of open government, and the language inserted Thursday by the Joint Finance Committee through a 999 Motion would nearly eliminate any opportunity for the public to discover how its taxpayer-funded elected officials work.

Further, the language would wipe out nearly a century of drafting-file history.  Founded in 1901, the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau has maintained records that help the public understand how and why legislation is drafted. These records provide a crucial historical purpose but are also a valuable contemporary resource for the public, scholars and journalists.

The press has a responsibility to serve as a watchdog on the work of government officials. We are the eyes and the ears of the public. As a result, public officials may have, at times, an uneasy relationship with us. Public officials may not always appreciate the work we do, or like the stories we write and produce.  Under this proposal, you may avoid an unflattering news story now and again, but you will have done lasting damage to the democratic process in Wisconsin.

It is also disappointing that the Joint Finance Committee included this language in the 999 Motion on the final day of its work with little opportunity for public debate, and on the day before a long July 4th holiday weekend during which our country celebrates its freedom and independence – including the First Amendment. James Madison, lover of liberty and guardian against tyranny, would be appalled.


Mark Pitsch, president, SPJ Madison;  Joe Radske, director, SPJ Region 6


Gov. Scott Walker

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca

Senator John Nygren

Senator Alberta Darling

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Challenges amid the Chaos: Covering Scott Walker – the Reporters

SPJ Forum Crowd

SPJ Forum Audience

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker makes news in his home state and in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and elsewhere in the U.S. and across the globe. Three of Wisconsin’s award-winning political journalists and a nationally known media and political science scholar discussed the challenges and chaos of covering Walker on Monday, June 1, 2015.

An audience of about 100 turned out to hear Jessica Arp of WISC-TV, Matthew DeFour of the Wisconsin State Journal, Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and Michael Wagner, UW-Madison professor of journalism and political science and co-author of “Political Behavior of the American Electorate.”

Coverage was provided by Bill Lueders, writing for Progressive magazine and WisconsinEye.

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