Library Story is Wrong
July 17, 2010 2:40 PM
This morning's Wisconsin State Journal story on the Central Library has no journalistic basis for existing. The story headline, "Renovation of Central Library might not include new facade or third floor," and its opening paragraph claiming the same, are mere speculation. (Read the story here: http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt_and_politics/article_8234d74e-9151-11df-b5cc-001cc4c002e0.html.)
The idea that plans for the new Central Library may be radically scaled back has as much current relevance as the equally likely idea that the State Journal won't be around in two years to cover its grand opening.
Let me be as clear as I can be: we will have a cutting edge, state-of-the-art Central Library.
Not one single thing has changed since the Common Council and I pivoted to building a new library on the current site a few months ago. There was no new information that justified the State Journal's breathless headline or lead paragraph. In fact, there was no news here and no story on the topic was justified beyond the fact that we'll get started with public meetings on the library this week.
And those public meetings are a good story. This is an iterative process. Over the course of the next several months we're going to hear from library users, taxpayers, downtown neighbors, library staff and board members, library fundraisers, engineers and architects and anyone who wants to have a voice. Even editorial writers might weigh in. The community is going to help us design this building and its contents. If the community decides that it wants to trade off one amenity for another that it considers more important then that's the direction we will take. My commitment is to get a state-of-the-art library built on time and on budget. Details to be decided by the community at large. Period.
I made all of these points to reporter Dean Mosiman, but it appears that the State Journal editors had already decided on their approach to this story. No degree of reasonable discussion or intelligent nuance was going to make it into that story.
Look, I like journalists. I even like some editors sometimes. I can count on one hand the number of times I have called a reporter or editor to complain about a story. But I sure did this morning. I understand that the business side of journalism requires reporters to sometimes look for more controversy than surely exists to sell some papers. For the most part I just understand that and go with the flow. But when a newspaper misleads the public as egregiously as the State Journal did this morning they deserve to be called on it.