Pressroom

Town Criers

Illustration by Jason Greenberg. When a morning fire roared through Racine’s Mitchell Elementary School in late February, TV news trucks and reporters from Milwaukee raced to the scene. Most of them needed GPS to find the school. But hundreds of local residents followed the story on a news source closer to home: The Racine County Eye, a feisty online startup.  Two seasoned newspaper reporters run the site. Denise Lockwood and Heather Asiyanbi live in the area, and preach a gospel that marries community news and website search-engine optimization. They learned it working for Patch, the ill-fated AOL experiment in hyperlocal…

School’s Out

illustration by Morgan Schweitzer The room was jammed and hot. More than 100 school superintendents packed the Senate chamber at the state Capitol in early March, literally rising in opposition to a Republican-backed bill that would unravel new education standards in Wisconsin. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel education reporter Erin Richards tweeted from the bizarre scene: “Never seen so many WI supts together, outside ed convntn. All support staying course on #CommonCore, oppose #SB619.” The day before, Richards had written an article headlined “Common Core 101,” separating fact from fiction about the national standards, designed to add consistency and rigor. Her readers…

Field Work

Photo by Sara Stathas Is it a shrimp? A lobster?” The voice of a fascinated 5-year-old blends with plinks of stones in water as the girl’s mother lifts a crawfish from the Menomonee River. The family is exploring the new Three Bridges Park in the Menomonee Valley. WUWM environmental reporter Susan Bence is tagging along with an audio recorder and microphone, dodging and crouching to capture the sound. The park’s opening last summer celebrated the valley’s transformation from polluted brownfield to lush public space. But Bence’s story wasn’t about the ribbon-cutting ceremony. She profiled South Side residents whose children are…

Double Byline

Illustration by Leslie Herman Chaotic newsrooms have little in common with the staid halls of academia, where deadlines arrive semester by semester, not minute by minute. But a growing cadre of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporters is trading the crazy pace of daily news for a contemplative setting – across the highway at Marquette University. Both the Marquette Law School and the Diederich College of Communication are courting journalists in bids to raise their profiles and make wonky scholarship more relevant. In 2013, the Diederich College announced the $8.3 million O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism. Pro journalists spend nine months…

TV News is a Phony Wasteland to the Digital Generation

Illustration by Chris Whetzel The college students in my journalism classes do not watch television news. Start a discussion about local-news content, and polite 20-year-olds turn into disgusted critics. They hate yellow police tape stories and stupid live shots during blizzards. “It’s snowing in Wisconsin.” Duh. “It’s the same thing on all the stations,” says junior Maria Corpus. “We’re tired of hearing it.” My students say TV news is pointless, clichéd and boring. It’s not heartfelt, fresh or real. I think the key is “real.” As part of an introductory journalism course, I teach digital-audio editing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.…

Left Turn

 This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.  * Whispered conspiracy theories nipped at the heels of January’s surprise announcement that Journal Sentinel editorial page editor O. Ricardo Pimentel was stepping down to write a column. “There is a story here and the bodies are still warm,” a confident reader assured Pressroom. Was he ditched for being too liberal? Pimentel’s prior work as an Arizona Republic columnist and his Quick Hits at the JS suggested a harder edge than the sometimes mushy centrism of the paper’s editorial page. His new column’s left hooks at Gov. Scott Walker…

Green and Gold

  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel may be struggling along with the rest of the media industry, but there’s one bright spot: sports coverage – more specifically, Green Bay Packers coverage. The impact of the Packers is huge in driving both newspaper sales and traffic online, where the sports page gets more hits than the home page. But the paper has also been successful – in a nationally notable way – at finding new ways to make money in the new media era. First, there’s Packer Plus – a weekly print tabloid sold 40 weeks a year by subscription and on…

Big-City Blues

Herb Zien, a local digital entrepreneur, is a longtime listener of WHAD, Milwaukee’s outlet for Wisconsin Public Radio. But he’s canceled his membership, miffed at how little attention Milwaukee gets from the radio network. “Why is the largest city in the state completely ignored?” he asks. Lisa Nalbandian, WPR’s Milwaukee-area regional manager, concedes that coverage of this city isn’t a high priority. “If you’re looking for specific Milwaukee information all the time, you’re not going to get it on Wisconsin Public Radio,” she says. “We’re much more of a statewide emphasis.” Zien is actually less concerned about news than WHAD’s…

Era of Good Feelings

 Four years ago, WTMJ Channel 4 planted a TV camera in the middle of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newsroom. It was supposed to begin a new era for the paper and the TV station, both units of Journal Communications. The once-fierce competitors were now going to start cooperating. Except nothing happened. “The camera sat and no one ever went on it,” says columnist Daniel Bice. Change came slowly. Years before, the JS had added columns by TMJ’s forecasters to its daily weather package. Now, the paper began sharing its daily rundown of the next day’s big stories with the TV…

Vanity Fare

  What do you do when you don’t like how you’re covered in the media? Get your own show. Perhaps no government organization gets covered more cynically by the media than Milwaukee County, ever since its pension scandal. But now county supervisors have their own media outlet: a monthly hourlong program, “Inside the County Board,” aired on WISN-AM 1130 and moderated by their public information manager, Harold Mester. Mester is former news director for Clear Channel’s six radio stations in town, including WISN. He’s also on a Clear Channel “community advisory board,” where he broached the idea of a show…