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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

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Readers Blog

Milwaukee Media owes us an explanation...

In the expansive coverage of the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill battle in local print and broadcast media outlets over the past three weeks we've been bombarded with phrases like...in-hiding, fleeing, and runaway...to describe the 14 Democratic State Senators who fled to Illinois. Local reporters literally fell over each other chasing interviews with the Senators in our neighbor state to the south, often standing in front of the very hotels they were staying in, while proclaiming the Senators as "missing". An AP story posted on February 22nd with the headline "Protestors find missing State Senators," shows how relatively easy it has been to discover the "secret" locations of the Senators. A review of national cable network programming during the last few weeks is full of live, prime-time interviews with many of the Senators, which presumably means one or more satellite trucks would have been parked in front of these locations, another great clue in determining where the "missing" Senators were.

Despite the apparent ease in sleuthing out the Wisconsin Senators by national media and protestors, local reporters  continued to avoid-or ignore-reporting on the actual locations of the Senators, choosing to continue to use terms which perpetuate a myth of secrecy, or dare I say it, add some "spice" to the story. Failing to report the location of someone as vital to the narrative as the 14 Wisconsin Senators, suggests a less-than-journalistic approach to covering the whole story.

As part of an effort to uncover the reasons why the Senators' location wasn't being reported, I asked a writer at the largest newspaper in the state (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) if there was any specific reason why the location wasn't being reported. Because I didn't ask that reporter if I had permission to quote him, I'm not naming him here. I received this response on 2/28..."I've only covered pieces of the story - and I did write they had been seen in Woodstock Il. - I forwarded your note to the managing editor." As of today, I have not heard a word from the managing editor on what the editorial reason would be for failing to make an effort to find out where the Senators were staying, or more egregious, for not reporting on those locations. And this is from a two-time, Pulitzer-Prize winning local newspaper.

I also asked two local television reporters the same question, asking whether or not the Senators' security was the issue for the non-disclosure. Both local reporters, indicated in e-mail responses that the Senators were "moving around" quite a bit, but that their security was not the reason for failing to report on the Senators' locations. Security might actually be a valid reason for the non-reporting, but none of the reporters I asked made that claim.

With the number of print, radio, and television reporters assigned full-time to this story, it's remarkable, and perhaps enlightening, that a significant detail, where the 14 Democratic State Senators were staying in Illinois, was left out of the reporting. My question for the folks reporting and making editorial decisions in our local media...why is that?

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