Challenges amid the Chaos: Reporters on Covering Scott Walker

MADISON –Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker can’t stop making news – in his home state and in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and elsewhere in the U.S. and across the globe. Join three of Wisconsin’s award-winning political journalists and a nationally known media and political science scholar as they discuss the challenges and chaos of covering Walker.

The discussion takes place from 7-8:30 pm on Monday, June 1, at UW-Madison’s Memorial Union. Check Today in the Union (TITU) that day for the room assignment.

It features Jessica Arp of WISC-TV in Madison, winner of the 2014 UW-Madison Nafziger Award for Achievement within 10 Years of Graduation; Matthew DeFour of the Wisconsin State Journal, 2014 co-winner of Milwaukee Press Club’s beat reporting and investigative story of the year awards; Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, co-author of “More Than They Bargained For: Scott Walker, Unions and the Fight for Wisconsin;” and Michael Wagner, UW-Madison professor of journalism and political science and co-author of “Political Behavior of the American Electorate.”

The event is free and open to the public, who will have an opportunity to hear from journalists directly about political reporting, and to ask questions. All area journalists are especially welcome to attend, and membership in SPJ is not necessary.

Based in Indianapolis, SPJ is a national membership organization that promotes high professional and ethical standards among journalists, First Amendment principles and the belief that a free and vigorous press is vital in a representative democracy. The Madison professional chapter was formed around 1990. Membership costs $75 annually, and it is open to journalists who spend at least half of their professional life writing or editing work for publication.

Contact: Mark Pitsch,; 608-252-6145

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SPJ Madison Data and Data Visualization Training Friday, May 8

MADISON – Data is transforming how we understand the world. And it is transforming how we do our jobs as journalists. Big data’s all the rage, yet more often reporters need to deal with small data — like budgets, law violations, water use or school test scores. Visualizing data in charts or maps can help you find and communicate stories, along with making you look like the newsroom genius. But it’s also crucial to know how to navigate the traps posed by dirty data — and rule number one is:  All data is dirty.

To help Madison and Wisconsin journalists improve their data skills, the Madison chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is offering a one-day training seminar on the subject Friday, May 8 at Capital Newspapers, 1901 Fish Hatchery Road, Madison.

The session features Urban Institute researcher and UW-Madison graduate Jon Schwabish and Madison-area journalists who use data. It is free for SPJ members and students; the cost is $30 for others. Lunch will be provided. To register, go to our Eventbrite page here.

The session lineup:

9-9:30 am: Registration

9:30-10:30 am: The Growing Importance of Data Visualization
We live in an era where the amount and importance of data is expanding swiftly. Changes in technology are changing the way people interact and consume that information and data. And as producers of content, we need to be visual because—simply put—people are visual. That visual content needs to pair well with our audience and their needs, striking the right balance between truth, beauty, and content. Effectively visualizing data is one means by which content producers, researchers, and storytellers can tap into this new wave of data and people’s changing ways of receiving information.

With Jon Schwabish, Urban Institute, @jschwabish

10:30-11:45 am: Teach Yourself to Be a Data Reporter
Learn how to build your data skills from scratch with the most essential tools necessary.

With Todd Milewski, data reporter, Capital Times, @ToddMilewski  and Nick Heynen, data reporter, Capital Newspapers, @NickHeynen

11:45-12:45 pm: Lunch and Networking

12:45-1:45 pm: Open Refine
Learn how to use this nifty program that helps you quickly and efficiently find and fix errors in your messy data. Find and root out data entry inconsistencies, misspellings and other mistakes with this powerful tool.  We’ll teach you how to get started, and point out where to go to learn more.

With Nick Heynen

1:45-3 pm: Tableau Public Demo
We’ll demonstrate how to use this free program for Mac or PC to make data visualizations — first to find out what the story is and what’s wrong with the data, and then to tell a story through a pretty interactive graphic. No programming skills required; mere mortals can learn this.

With Kate Golden, multimedia director and reporter, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, @wiswatchkate

To register, click here.

For more information contact Mark Pitsch, SPJ Madison president, at 608-252-6145.

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SPJ Madison announces Freedom Ring high school publication contest

Students invited to submit writing, video and cartoon pieces on the meaning of the First Amendment

MADISON, WIS — With personal freedoms being assaulted and abridged around the world, the Madison Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is sponsoring a high school publication contest, Freedom Ring, which will include editorial writing, video and editorial cartoon items.

“Receiving a journalism award is more than a certificate and a line on a resume. It’s realizing the value of hard work. It’s encouragement to maintain high standards. It’s motivation to explore an exciting, important and challenging industry,” declared Taylor Cartier, National SPJ Communication Coordinator.

The contest among Wisconsin high school newspapers is aimed at building awareness of the FirstAmendment of the U. S. Constitution during the month of March. March 16 is the birthday of James Madison, who wrote the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Wisconsin’s capital city and many of the city’s streets are named after the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Over the past several years Wisconsin students and others have exercised many of their rights at the State Capitol.

SPJ Madison would like students during the month of March to publish an editorial, essay, cartoon or video on the meaning of the First Amendment. SPJ’s Madison chapter will judge entries based on originality, expression of thought, creativity and impact of a message.

Entries should be submitted to the SPJ Madison chapter at during the first week of April. SPJ members will judge all entries and make award announcements in May for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places in all categories. Certificates of participation will also be given to all school media participants.


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SPJ Madison, Next Door Brewing discuss beermaking

GrainsMADISON — SPJ Madison members met with Next Door Brewing Company head brewer Bryan Kreiter on Feb. 24 to discuss beermaking as the groups prepare to launch Sunshine Wheat.

The American wheat beer will debut March 16 at a celebration of Sunshine Week, the annual event honoring open government and the First Amendment. The celebration takes place from 6-9 p.m. at Next Door, 2439 Atwood Ave., Madison.

Sunshine Wheat features brewers malt, flaked wheat and crystal wheat from Wisconsin-based Briess Malt and Ingredients Company and Brewer’s Gold hops from Gorst Valley Hops of Mazomanie. It will feature an exotic dry hop. Sunshine Wheat will hold 4.8 percent alcohol-by-volume, 22 IBUs and a 5.6 SRM.

The Wisconsin Newspaper Association is the lead sponsor of the SPJ Madison-Next Door Brewing event. Other sponsors include WKOW, Wisconsin State Journal, With Gusto, Isthmus, and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.


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Sunshine Wheat for Sunshine Week

SPJ Glass (3)SPJ Madison, Next Door Brewing collaborate on American wheat beer to honor the First Amendment, open government and Wisconsin journalism

MADISON – The Madison chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and Next Door Brewing invite journalists and advocates of open government to celebrate Sunshine Week with the tapping of Sunshine Wheat, an American wheat beer featuring local hops and malts, on Monday, March 16.

The celebration takes place from 6-9 p.m. at Next Door Brewing, 2439 Atwood Avenue, Madison. The first 50 attendees will receive a souvenir beer glass thanks to the generous lead sponsorship of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. WKOW-TV, the Wisconsin State Journal, Schott, Bublitz and Engel, and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism are supporting sponsors. Two tickets to upcoming Isthmus events – Isthmus Food Cart Fest, Paddle & Portage, Beer & Cheese Fest — will be awarded in a drawing, courtesy of Isthmus. With Gusto is making a poster for the event, prints of which will be available for $15 each.

Next Door head brewer Bryan Kreiter will speak about creating the beer and his use of local ingredients at 7 p.m. He will be followed with remarks by WNA executive director Beth Bennett about Sunshine Week.

Invited special guests include Wisconsin food and beer writers Chris “Beer Baron” Drosner, Robin Shepard, Laurel White, Linda Falkenstein, Barry Adams, Kathy Flanigan and George Zens.

March 16 is the 264th anniversary of the birth of James Madison, father of the First Amendment and the man for whom the City of Madison is named. Sunshine Week, a national event in support of open government, runs March 15-21.

The event is free, and all area journalists are welcome to attend. There will be a cash bar; appetizers will be provided. RSVPs are appreciated to

Sunshine_Wheat_Final-revisedBased in Indianapolis, SPJ is a national membership organization that promotes high professional and ethical standards among journalists, First Amendment principles and the belief that a free and vigorous press is vital in a representative democracy. The Madison professional chapter was formed around 1990. Membership costs $75 annually, and it is open to journalists who spend at least half of their professional life writing or editing work for publication.

Contact: Mark Pitsch,; 608-252-6145

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SPJ holiday party/raffle Dec. 18; raise money for Mulhern Scholarship

MADISON — Two tickets to the see the Green Bay Packers play the Detroit Lions on Sunday, Dec. 28. A $100 gift certificate to Food Fight Restaurant Group. Two tickets to the Isthmus Beer and Cheese Fest on Saturday, Jan. 17.

Those are among the items you can win at the annual Holiday Mixer and Raffle hosted by the Madison pro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in conjunction with the Capitol press corps. All proceeds from the event will be donated to the Tom Mulhern Scholarship for Sports Journalism at UW-Madison. The first scholarship will be awarded in April.

The mixer and raffle will be held on Thursday, Dec. 18, from 6-10 p.m. at the Argus Bar, 123 E. Main St., just a block off the Capitol Square. The party will take place in the downstairs bar. All area journalists and journalism supporters are invited, and the event is free.

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

The raffle will take place at approximately 8 p.m. The Packers-Lions tickets will be raffled off separately.

Pre-sale of raffle chances for the Packers-Lions tickets only, at a cost of $15 for one chance and $25 for two chances, will begin Thursday, Dec. 11. Chances will be available in Madison from Mark Pitsch at Capital Newspapers, 1901 Fish Hatchery Road; Joe Radske at Channel 3 studios, 7025 Raymond Road; Lauren Fuhrmann at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism offices at the UW-Madison School of Journalism, 5006 Vilas Hall, 821 University Ave.; and Rebecca Wasieleski at UW School of Medicine and Public Health, K4/761, 600 Highland Ave.

The raffle features more than $750 in prizes, including:

* Two 35-yard-line tickets to the Packers-Lions game on Dec. 28, courtesy Aaron Popkey and the Green Bay Packers ($200 value)

* Aerial photograph of Lambeau Field, courtesy Andy Manis ($150 value)

* Two tickets to Isthmus Beer & Cheese Fest, courtesy Isthmus ($100 value)

* Food Fight gift certificate, courtesy Wisconsin State Journal ($100 value)

* Two 6-bottle wine packages, courtesy Wisconsin Radio Network ($60 value, each)

* Gift certificate, Next Door Brewing, courtesy Madison SPJ ($50 value)

* Up to 90-minute “behind the scenes” tour of Camp Randall and the Kohl Center for four to eight people, courtesy Justin Doherty and UW Athletics. NOTE: High-school athletes are not eligible to participate in the tour.

* Three, $10 gift certificates to Madison breweries, courtesy Rebecca Wasieleski

* UW Health gift package, courtesy UW Health

* Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism beer stein, courtesy WCIJ

* WISC-TV coffee cup four-pack, courtesy WISC-TV

* 6-pack Beer Baron sampler, courtesy Chris Drosner, “aka” Beer Baron

* Numerous books by Wisconsin journalists and authors, courtesy Wisconsin State Journal

New raffle items may be added prior to the event.

SPJ members and journalists who renew their memberships or join the organization on the night of the party will receive a free drink. Journalists or news organizations that would like to donate raffle items should contact Mark Pitsch,

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Digital and Social Media Training

Going Digital First

Joel Christopher – Gannett Wisconsin Media

An SPJ digital news gathering workshop, was held on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus on Friday, October 17, 2014, our fall journalism training event. The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, Wisconsin Public Television, Wisconsin Public Radio and the Wisconsin State Journal co-sponsored the training workshop.

Session One: Going Digital First in the Newsroom Continue reading

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