Invisible No More

Photos by Adam Ryan Morris Aug. 24 was a picture-perfect Milwaukee Friday. The sun was out, temps were in the mid-80s, and the rain stayed away. But for Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a shadow would soon be cast. Across the concrete plaza that stretches from the County Safety Building housing Chisholm’s office to the Milwaukee County Courthouse, a Circuit Court jury of 12 men and women were hearing the political corruption case against former Milwaukee County Board member Johnny Thomas. After deliberating for less than 90 minutes, they returned their verdict. Not guilty. An hour later, Chisholm was…

A New Day For Gun Control?

In 2011, the same year they stripped public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights and passed Wisconsin’s most austere budget in at least a generation, Republicans in the state Legislature checked a couple points off the pro-gun wish list. Concealed carry permits? Check. Expansive castle doctrine law protecting gun-toting homeowners? Also check. They couldn’t know what was coming in 2012. News broke of one gun-related tragedy after another. A med-school dropout in Colorado opened fire in a crowded theater. A white supremacist residing in South Milwaukee stormed Oak Creek’s Sikh temple, killing six. And a Connecticut gunman murdered…

“A Surreal Thing”

Jennifer Livingston never meant to go viral. The La Crosse TV anchor got national attention last fall for her on-air lecture to a viewer who had sent an email message criticizing her weight. A video of the speech posted at Jim Romenesko’s website spread with dizzying speed, leading to stories at The Huffington Post, appearances on TV talk shows, and a debate over her decision to set aside her journalistic robes to grapple directly with the viewer’s criticism.   In an interview last week with Steve Schuster, president of the Milwaukee chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists, Livingston made…

Bye Bye Byline

Walk through any newsroom – print or broadcast – and you’re likely to come across three types of people. For some, the job’s just the lightly-trod bottom rung on the ladder to the ranks of media management: editor, publisher, broadcast executive. For others it’s a stepping stone of another kind, leading out to careers in marketing, advertising and public relations.   Then there are the lifers who want nothing more than to spend their careers digging up stories and delivering them to readers and viewers – or working on a copy desk or at a producer’s telephone, helping to shape…

The Science of Editing

Two years ago, Waukesha-based Kalmbach Publishing announced a major gamble. It was buying popular science magazine Discover, a major addition to the Kalmbach portfolio. The glossy was joining the ranks of hobby-related titles such as Classic Toy Trains and Bead and Button. Its staff, however, would remain in New York City, nerve center of the English-speaking publishing world.   But late this summer, Kalmbach announced another gamble – a plan to move Discover’s office to the quieter environs of Waukesha County. This gamble, as it played out, didn’t appear as successful. Editorial staffers declined to relocate, necessitating a hiring boom…

Tracks to the Future

Thanks to the digital revolution, the boundary between print and what we might have once called television – but now more properly call video – has grown ever more porous.   I can’t help but wonder if a TV station’s print work posted on the web will someday qualify for the Pulitzer Prize (which four years ago finally admitted web-only work but still excludes broadcasters). Already an online news site has won a Peabody Award for its video work – shouldering aside the broadcasters for whom that trophy originally was created.   The latest crossover comes from Kalmbach Publishing, the…

Case Dismissed

The “gotcha” moment: Rob Koebel and Melissa Dumas A former Milwaukee Public Schools bus driver who sued WTMJ-TV and its former reporter, Rob Koebel, for publicizing an old misdemeanor prostitution conviction – leading her employer to fire her – was blocked this week from pursuing her claim.   In his summary judgment ruling throwing out Melissa Dumas’s lawsuit, Judge Timothy M. Witkowiak concluded the TV station’s First Amendment freedom of speech and of the press largely overrode what happened to her as a consequence of the story.   Her lawyer, Richard Schulz, had sought to blunt those protections with a…

Zappled?

To anyone who listened to the city’s two biggest talk radio outlets last spring – or even knows them by reputation – it would be no surprise to learn that in the month before the election to recall Gov. Scott Walker, both WTMJ AM-620 and WISN AM-1130 repeatedly promoted Walker’s reelection.   What might surprise some is the claim that by doing so, the two stations potentially violated a federal law.   How’s that again? Isn’t the Fairness Doctrine dead?   It is, but a group challenging the broadcast media as dominated by corporate interests and conservative voices is looking…

Pew Politics

Rev. Scott Anderson  Five weeks ago, The Rev. Scott Anderson made a very accurate prediction about this day: Regardless of the outcome, roughly half the voters in the state – indeed, half of us across the country – would wake up unhappy. Anderson made his observation in a sermon he delivered Sept. 30 as a guest preacher at Immanuel Presbyterian Church on Milwaukee’s East Side. Of course, he didn’t need a crystal ball to come up with that insight. It’s one election forecast that’s been pretty safe for a long time. Wisconsin may be the poster child for just how…

Trails’ End?

The other hiking boot is dropping at Wisconsin Trails. Pressroom Buzz has learned that the bimonthly magazine will soon stop publishing, 52 years after its launch. Asked about the development, Betsy Brenner, publisher of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which maintains the magazine under its special media division, said Wednesday via email: “We haven’t announced any ‘decision’ affecting any of our publications, so I’m afraid we have no comment.” But barring an eleventh-hour rescue – and none is known to be in the offing – word is out both inside and outside the JS newsroom that the magazine’s January issue will reportedly be its last.  It’s a…