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As I See It

Wisconsin county wrong to threaten journalists for telling truth

Scott Robert Shaw



For decades, journalists were considered truth-seekers, and truth-tellers. The war is going well, the government told us. Journalists on the ground showed us otherwise. And we believed them. But suddenly, we hear cries of “fake news” while distrust of journalists seems to be growing. A new Gallup poll shows only 41% of Americans trust the mass media to report the news “fully, accurately, and fairly,” a drop of four percentage points from just one year ago. Perhaps it is no surprise then that one Wisconsin county worked to put a gag order on journalists. Supervisors in Lafayette County had plans to prosecute journalists for their reporting. Under that plan, members of the media who reported on a study about contaminated wells in that county could be jailed. The resolution would have allowed county board chairs to withhold future test results from board members, reporters and the public. County board members would be barred from even speaking to the media about the water study results. Apparently those results showed 91% of private wells in Lafayette, Iowa and Grant counties were contaminated with fecal matter. Its not a good look, and one that governments aren’t proud of. But trying to bury the truth is not the answer. Just think back to what happened in Flint, Michigan, where thanks to reporters we know the water there wasn’t safe, despite what the government told us. Clearly, we need more truth, not less, and it remains the job of journalists to find and tell us those truths, now more than ever.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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