Michel: In pursuit of truth

Nothing is simple in investigative journalism
Michel: In pursuit of truth
Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Nothing is simple when it comes to investigative journalism. Thousands of statistics were sifted through, parsed, triple-checked (more than that in some cases) and cross referenced with other sources in producing this month’s cover story about the rise in reported sexual assault cases on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Writer Maggie Ginsberg spent months analyzing data, researching the issue and interviewing sources invested in addressing these devastating crimes.

This is the first time the magazine has partnered on a story with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, a nonpartisan, nonprofit, Madison-based organization that focuses on government integrity and quality of life issues. Ginsberg collaborated with center staff members Dee J. Hall and Coburn Dukehart throughout the process and gathered additional records on her own. The result is a solid story that combines Ginsberg’s distinctive narrative style with painstaking analysis of data, accented by voices of local law enforcement, advocates and a sexual assault survivor.

This collaboration is significant to me because it represents the intersection of two priorities: upholding the editorial standard of Madison Magazine and supporting the work of WCIJ. In full disclosure, I am president of the WCIJ Board of Directors and a member of the center’s Watchdog Club. The center’s values align with my own, and among them is the pursuit of truth through accurate, fair, independent, rigorous and nonpartisan reporting. This and other values guide the center as it trains high school and college students and working journalists in watchdog reporting techniques. Since it launched in 2009, WCIJ has distributed nearly 300 major reports and makes its work available to news outlets free of charge.

Equally important is that Madison Magazine, through this in-depth cover story, is carrying on a long-standing editorial tradition of examining serious issues in our region. It’s an area that few other city-regional magazines consistently tread, but is crucial for us to cover.

Investigative journalism is vital to our democracy because it reveals truths and informs the public about important issues that affect our communities. Our look into sexual assaults on the UW-Madison campus was a complicated and challenging story to publish. But then, nothing worth pursuing comes easy.

Karen Lincoln Michel is interim publisher and editor-in-chief of Madison Magazine.