Feb 7, 2015

Report on Scott Walker's Attack on Wisconsin Idea Means Journalism Is Not Dead

No problem,University of Wisconsin, this is just a flesh wound
Several facts come out of the exposure of Scott Walker's scheme to rewrite the Wisconsin statute enshrining the mission of the University of Wisconsin - the Wisconsin Idea.

Most pointedly is that journalism is not dead in Wisconsin.

Two writers, Mary Bottari and Jonas Persson, reading through Walker's 2015-2017 executive budget and other documents demonstrated that crusading journalism shining light on extremist policymakers endures. (NYT)

Kudos to Bottari and Persson of the Center for Media and Democracy and their exploding story that Scott Walker tried to destroy the Wisconsin Idea, the essence of a world-class University System, eviscerating what took generations to create.

I.F. Stone would be happy today.

Scott Walker being Scott Walker backed down of course, denying destroying the Wisconsin Idea was ever his intention, claiming a "drafting issue," even as newspapers ran contemporaneous documents refuting Walker's claim.

Follow-up stories in the Wisconsin State Journal and Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) were run with emails and other documents demonstrating that Scott Walker's administration worked for months specifically to delete the Wisconsin Idea against UW System staff's stated wishes, and that Walker lied about his own administration's intentions.

"First Walker defended the change. Then he backtracked and said it was a 'drafting error.' Then, after multiple news reports showed his staff's fingerprints were all over plans to delete wording from the UW's mission in the 2016-17 budget bill, he issued a lengthy and tortured statement Thursday saying it was all just a miscommunication," notes Rob Thomas. (The Capital Times)

Bottari and Persson have a wrap-up in the Huffington Post.

One wishes both of these writers a happy weekend, as Wisconsin politicians, UW staffers, faculty and students and the nation's political world eying Scott Walker received a comprehensive report on who and what Scott Walker is.

Dropping the Bomb on the University

By Mary Bottari and Jonas Persson

... The ideological sneak attack on a great public institution is classic Walker. While campaigning for governor with his brown bag lunch in 2010, he forgot to mention to voters that his first act would be to go after public workers and collective bargaining. Instead he "dropped the bomb" in February 2011 when he introduced a "budget repair bill" that took away collective bargaining rights from nurses, teachers and snow plow drivers. But this week's sneak attack on the university system blew up in his face when the Center for Media and Democracy published a screenshot of the Walker's 2015-2017 executive budget graphically illustrating the ideological assault on the mission of the University of Wisconsin system.

By noon, our story was taken up by the state's largest paper the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Nation, argued that Walker "is launching a war on the truth. Literally." By early afternoon, the story had gone national through an AP wire and it was soon in the Washington Post. The "Wisconsin Idea" was trending on Facebook and Twitter exploded with indignation and gallows humor, while parodies cropped up of Walker going at it, editing other historical documents.

The first reactions from the professors and students at the university were disbelief and shock. President Ray Cross issued a statement suggesting that the Wisconsin Idea is "embedded in our DNA ... it is the reason the UW System exists," and history professor David McDonald called it "absolutely fundamental to our identity." Dean Underwood of the UW School of Education told CMD, "We are different than most of our research institution peers because we are dedicated to tackling the hardest issues in the state for the public good. It would be a tragedy and travesty to lose that."

Meanwhile, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were fuming. Why were they not told about the changes?

The next day the story was on the front page of every newspaper in the state with the screenshot and blaring headlines, such as "Walker Backtracks on Striking Truth and the Human Condition from the Wisconsin Idea." ...
Other fall-out, read today's Democrats should welcome a Scott Walker-led GOP ticket (Downie, Washington Post)

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