By Shereen Siewert, Publisher
Happy Monday, readers.
I hope you had the chance to get out and enjoy the warmer weather and sunshine over the weekend. I’m not a winter person, so for me it was like an unexpected gift that gave my spirits a much-needed boost. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who felt that way.
Looking back at the week, we published 93 stories ranging from short briefs about local businesses to breaking news about crashes and crime to longer, in-depth pieces that took some time to put together. The most-read story of the week was the news that the former D.C. Everest High School teacher accused of recording “upskirt” videos of one adult and multiple teenagers now faces federal charges. Several readers asked to learn more about this, since it seemed unusual, and in a way, I suppose it is. Some sex crimes are considered both federal and state violations. A case might begin in federal court, then be released to state court. Similarly, a case that begins at the state level might be elevated to federal court based on details of the case and seriousness of the crime. Sex crime cases can be tried in both federal and local courts at the same time. The U.S. Supreme Court has determined this doesn’t constitute double jeopardy (tried twice for the same offense.) In drug cases, we usually see charges dropped at the state level. That hasn’t happened in this case, and I rather doubt that it will, so we’ll be watching both systems to track what happens.
The story we published about Wausau’s Economic Development Director’s hours drew thousands of readers and sparked a great deal of commentary on social media. A note about this: Stories like this are written based on data and research. They are not opinion pieces and shouldn’t be construed that way. Similarly, the story a week earlier about the development deal surrounding the mall wasn’t an opinion piece, either. It revealed details that the public was largely not aware of, and at the same time gave taxpayers a better idea of the process by which a public-private partnership in economic development comes to fruition. It’s up to you, the reader, to decide whether the terms are appropriate and whether the process works for you.
One thing that surprised us last week is the amount of interest that marriage licenses drew from readers. We published them for the first time on Monday, and the story was our fourth-highest read piece of the week. (Who knew?) Marathon County Clerk Kim Trueblood was kind enough to put these together for us and will send them twice a month, so you’ll see them again. They’re all public record, things you used to read in the newspaper, and we’re happy to bring them to you.
We’ve also inquired with the Register of Deeds about publishing divorces, death notices and real estate transactions but haven’t heard back yet. We’ll follow up with him this week.
Next, let’s talk about coronavirus. We’ll be keeping a close eye on developments this week, and we joined a cohort of reporters nationwide who are collaborating on a project spearheaded by The Atlantic that will help keep tabs on emerging cases and provide accurate data for local stories. We’ll be sharing the information as we receive it.
Speaking of the coronavirus, our first of three planned trips to Austin, Tex. for our Facebook Membership Accelerator program was supposed to happen this week. Facebook is postponing the training because of the coronavirus outbreak. (In fact, Facebook is postponing or canceling all external events, not just ours.) The training will still happen, but we just don’t know quite when it will be. It all depends on the seriousness of the outbreak. We were pretty bummed. But since we already had a pet sitter booked and I have a guest host in for me on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Route 51 this week, we decided to get out of town anyway, so we’re headed to the beach for three days to get a little sun.
Don’t worry, we’ll have our laptops with us even on the beach, so we won’t miss a beat. (And we’re trying not to fret about germs.)
This week, we’re working on a follow up to our story about Penta found beneath manhole covers on the city’s west side and what it will cost to address that. We have a few more calls to make before that’s ready to go.
We’re also taking a look at campaign finance reports for both mayoral candidates (their next report is due later this month.) We do that for two reasons. One, to ensure the rules are complied with; and two, to keep an eye out for potential conflicts with donors. A few years ago I was fortunate enough to receive a fellowship for a national conference on money in politics, where we learned what to look for and what a conflict might be. Donations from people involved in real estate development and related property sales are probably the most common, since the mayor (and the council) are actively involved in zoning decisions and other matters involving financial support of real estate development. Substantial contributions of people involved in those matters creates, at least, the appearance of impropriety if not actual influence or reward.
Of course, that’s just one example. But that’s why we look.
Oh! And watch for the return of Humans of Wausau later this week.
Finally, if you have a question about our processes or about a story we’ve written and you’d like us to address it here, in this column, give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope you have a happy, healthy, satisfying week (and for pete’s sake, don’t touch your face.)
Thanks for reading!