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United States Project

“Cease publication of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.”
 
That sentence is stashed away near the middle of Scott Walker’s 644-page executive budget, which was unveiled by the Wisconsin governor in February. Ending the magazine’s nearly century-long run wouldn’t amount to significant savings for Wisconsin’s budget. Besides, as former editor Natasha Kassulke pointed out in an op-ed, the magazine “is entirely subscriber-funded, with a subscriber base of nearly 85,000 and a pass-along readership of about 400,000.”
 
Kassulke argues that, after a 2013 issue carried an insert on the state impacts of climate change, Walker’s administration required her to submit the text of all stories for scrutiny. She tells CJR about a story on the American marten, an endangered species in Wisconsin whose habitat overlaps with a proposed iron mine site. “So that story was killed,” says Kassulke.
 
After Walker announced his budget, Kassulke and a team of supporters requested the magazine’s mailing list and obtained 46,000 email addresses. They contacted thousands of subscribers and asked them to voice their support for the magazine, whose fate has not yet been decided.
 
“At any given time of day somebody is emailing me about the DNR magazine,” one state representative tells CJR. “That’s not true for every issue.”
 
Today at CJR, Cassandra Willyard tells the story of Wisconsin Natural Resources’ struggle for editorial independence and survival. She also looks to other states that privatized their natural resources magazines—a possibility in Wisconsin. Although privatization might afford Wisconsin Natural Resources greater editorial independence, the content would undoubtedly change.
 
Besides, the state rep tells CJR, Wisconsin subscribers don’t want a private magazine. “They not only cherish what’s offered to them in the magazine,” she says, “but they support the concept of the DNR being the one to publish it.” Read the complete story at CJR.org.
 

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“Thinking about all the lessons learned from watching, reading and collaborating with Mark Binker.” One of North Carolina’s leading politics reporters died this weekend. Just days before his death, Binker published this column about proposed legislation that would enable cities and counties to publish public notices on their sites, rather than in newspapers.
 
“It's time to take notice of this public notice bill,” Binker concluded. “It's bad for journalism and bad for democracy.”
 
Binker was a strong practitioner of the former and defender of the latter. Fellow reporters have posted a number of moving tributes online. Tyler Dukes, a WRAL colleague, wrote the line that leads this section. He also added: “Hold power to high standards. Hold yourself to high standards.” Read Dukes’ tribute here.

Be sure to read these new stories from CJR and correspondents to the United States Project:

  • Before the Flint water crisis made headlines, residents suspected something was wrong. Justin Ray examines how real-time data mining may improve public health response times and media coverage during a crisis.
     
  • Watchdog reporting in East St. Louis highlights potential in under-covered areas. “We pay attention to it when there is a scandal there. I’m ashamed to say that because my own newsroom is guilty. But it’s like that.”
Check out CJR’s new podcast The Kicker on iTunes,
and catch up with all of our coverage at CJR.org.
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