By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Feb 22, 2011 at 11:00 AM

It's the chorus from an old union song of the same name, "Which Side are You On?"

And it's not a question reporters consider when they're covering a polarizing issue like the Madison protests against Gov. Scott Walker. In fact, it's something reporters are trained to suppress when they're doing their jobs.

But reporters and news organizations are being confronted with versions of that question by some partisans on both side who are, by nature, looking for one-sided reporting to back up their points of view.

The anti-Walker protesters had MSNBC's Ed Schultz, who was airing his TV show from Madison last week. Schultz is a talk radio host with a strong point of view, and he backed the protesters.

But Schulz isn't a reporter; his show isn't news. It's opinion.

Madison's also full of reporters whose job it is to report what they see -- not what their personal opinions are.

Channel 12 has had veteran reporter Nick Bohr on the front lines in Madison since the beginning of last week. And Bohr faced abuse from some protesters Friday night because Milwaukee's ABC affiliate shares call letters with WISN-AM (1130), the conservative talk radio station.

The two WISNs haven't been located in the same building for years, and WISN-AM is owned by Clear Channel Communications, while WISN-TV is owned by Hearst -- and there's no connection between the two.

That led Bohr to tweet:

"Allow me to correct a misperception among attendees hassling us. Mark Belling's radio station was sold by WISN-TV's owners in the mid-90's."

I spoke with Bohr by phone Monday. He said that a protester was interrupting his live shot on Friday evening, trying to rile up other protesters against him. Things calmed down when orange-vested "marshals" organizing the protest showed up to quiet things down.

"They stood there during the whole rest of our live shots" Bohr told me. "We didn't ask 'em to. But we didn't mind that they were there."

There have been few such incidents for Bohr who spent all last week at the Capitol and was back there Monday. He has had protesters ask him about his views.

"People will actually ask you 'What do you think about this, and which side are you on?'"

His response: "Look, that's not our job, we don't take sides."

On the other side, WTMJ-AM (620) is home to conservative talkers Charlie Sykes and Jeff Wagner, who've pushed their pro-Walker side in the dispute. But it has other programming, and a news staff that tries to cover the news without an ideological tilt.

Conservative blogger Patrick Dorwin tweeted his displeasure with WTMJ's news.

"Why is WTMJ radio news only playing audio from the union thugs?"

I asked general manager Steve Wexler about this allegation, and he answered via e-mail:

"Both sides were represented in our online, radio and TV coverage all weekend.  In fact, we contrasted the pro-union side with a small business owner in Ozaukee County who had an opposing view. 

"Moreover, we also featured exclusive interviews with both Gov. Walker and President Obama (… talk about hearing from both sides!)," he said.

"Our news staff’s duty is to gather and report the latest developments, without weighing in on the merits of each argument. Of course, our talk hosts are not bound by that same mission.  We fully expect them to weigh in and share their observations and views with the audience."

Earlier, Dorwin had complained about a guest on a Saturday WTMJ-AM show who didn't agree with his side in the dispute.

"WTMJ radio should be ashamed of themselves! Their weekend legal show has a labor lawyer spewing lies!"

That show he's talking about, the "Previant Legal Line Show" is "brokered" time bought by a local law firm.

As Wexler told me, "The Previant Show is their hour."

One more example: Here's how some protesters, including one particularly irritating guy, treated Fox News Channel reporter Jeff Flock in Madison:

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.