Great student journalism

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It seems that investigative reporting is spreading like a vicious flu-virus through the Brew City. The Journal-Sentinel is always good for some scoops, especially in light of the ongoing scandal relating to state child care. In this front page article by the UW-Milwaukee Post, student reporters are giving any journalism 101 major a lesson in how to deal with stubborn public officials. The Post recently unearthed the real reason behind the dismissal of a vice chancellor in June by submitting open records requests. However, the university administration has redacted important information from the records, including the “inaccurate and inflammatory” comments that apparently got the official fired.

UWM administration wholly denied this newspaper’s public records request for investigation-related records, telling the Post that the records are protected from release because they were “created under the direction of legal counsel in anticipation of potential litigation,” and that the records are considered attorney-client privileged communications and attorney work product. Santiago would not say whether Mamarchev has threatened to sue.

The university also redacted the statements Mamarchev is accused of making from records it released, citing what is commonly referred to as the “balancing test” in the state’s public records law – an analysis that weighs the public interest in disclosing a record versus the public interest in withholding a record. The administration argues that keeping the statements secret outweighs the public interest in disclosing the statements, because, it says, disclosure “could have a detrimental effect on the privacy and reputational interests of certain individuals.” If UWM employees knew that the university would release “inaccurate and inflammatory statements” about them, the university says it might have difficulty retaining and recruiting employees.

Because the comments were inflammatory and inaccurate, it is in the best interest of the university not to release them? That doesn’t make sense. Was she not fired for them? Why not let students see how right the president’s decision was to fire her if her comments were so inappropriate?

The Post is right in taking these behind-the-scenes interactions with the administration to the front page. It’s the best way to make the comments surface.

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