Advocates of open government in Wisconsin are planning a three-day, eight-city informational tour to highlight the importance of the state's open records law, in the wake of unprecedented attacks from state lawmakers and others.
"An open society depends on open government. Wisconsin residents understand that," says Mark Pitsch, president of the Madison chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and an assistant city editor at the Wisconsin State Journal. "Last summer's attempt to gut the records law is just one of several recent examples of official disregard for the public's right to know. It's time for education and vigilance."
The "Open Government Traveling Show" will take place from Tuesday, March 15, through Thursday, March 17, as part of national Sunshine Week, the annual "celebration of access to public information."
The events—free and open to the public—are aimed at helping Wisconsin residents understand the open records law and how to use it. Each 90-minute presentation will feature a tutorial on the records law and examples of its use by journalists and advocates.
Participants will include representatives of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, the Madison chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, the Center for Media and Democracy, the MacIver Institute for Public Policy and Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
The tour is also supported by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Each stop has its own local sponsor.
The traveling show will take place in the following locations:
La Crosse: March 15, 2 p.m. La Crosse Public Library. Local sponsor: La Crosse Tribune.
Eau Claire: March 15, 7 p.m. Centennial Hall, Room 1614, UW-Eau Claire. Local sponsor: Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, UW-Eau Claire chapter, Society of Professional Journalists
Wausau: March 16, 10 a.m. Marathon County Public Library. Local sponsor: Wausau Daily Herald-USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
Green Bay: March 16, 2 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 515 Pine St., Green Bay. Local Sponsor: Green Bay Press-Gazette-USA TODAY NETWORK-WISCONSIN
Appleton: March 16, 7:30 p.m. Appleton Public Library. Local sponsor: Appleton Post-Crescent-USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
Sheboygan: March 17, 10 a.m. Sheboygan Public Library. Local sponsor: Sheboygan Press-USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
Waukesha: March 17, 2 p.m, Waukesha Public Library. Local sponsor: Schott, Bublitz and Engel S.C.
Janesville: March 17, 7 p.m. Blackhawk Technical College, Room 1400B. Local sponsor: Janesville Gazette