For Molly Warren, like many other people, the decision of Capital Newspapers to shrink its searchable online archive of Wisconsin State Journal and The Capital Times stories came as a shock: "We had no idea they were going to change it."
And for Warren, like others, it's meant more work. Since the archive was neutered as part of Madison.com's redesign early this month, the Madison reference librarian is getting a dozen calls a day from people seeking information they could once get online.
"They're our local papers, and people are used to being able to access them," says Warren of the change. (It's still possible to find articles through Madison.com searches, but there's no way to limit date range, and the archive only goes back to January 2005. Isthmus first began its archive in September 2006 but has not cut back on access.)
Making matters worse is that, early this summer, the state library system dropped its subscription with Proquest, a comprehensive source for Wisconsin newspaper archives. The new provider, EBSCO, doesn't include the Cap Times and has spotty coverage of the State Journal.
"We've told EBSCO we're dissatisfied with its newspaper coverage," says Carla DiIorio, the Madison library's collection development coordinator.
Madison looked into subscribing to Proquest but found it prohibitively expensive. Last week it inked a deal with another provider, NewsBank, which, DiIorio notes, "has its peculiarities."
To access the complete online archives of the Cap Times and State Journal, as well as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, visitors to madisonpubliclibrary.org can link to NewsBank off the homepage or by going to "Research," then "Databases." Then they must type in their Madison library card number and get to a screen that includes a box for "Wisconsin Newspapers." Checking this box allows archive searches to be done, all the way back to 1989. Searches can be limited by date range, a real plus when looking for stories about, say, Ald. Tim Bruer.
Unfortunately, access to NewsBank is limited to those with a Madison library card number, as city money was used to procure it. But DiIorio says searches can be done by anyone coming into any Madison library or by the research librarians (608-266-6350), who will email the results.
The library is paying $5,000 for this service through January 2011. "After that," says DiIorio, "we'll have to pay again, and who knows what it will cost?"
Interestingly, this $5,000 library expenditure may take a much larger bite out of Capital Newspapers' profits. The presumed rationale for axing the archive is so the company can begin charging for access.
The UW-Madison has responded to Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard's request for more information on allegations that it is violating state law by using sheep in sometimes fatal decompression experiments.
As Isthmus reported ("The Decompression of the Sheep," 8/28/09), state law 951.025 states, "No person may kill an animal by means of decompression." After hearing from local animal-rights activists, Blanchard asked the UW to explain. His initial review suggested a statutory exemption for scientific research "would not apply to a violation of 951.025."
But the UW's Sept. 14 reply (PDF), from senior legal counsel Ben Griffiths, argues that the experiments are in fact exempt, because the legislative intent of 951.025, enacted in 1985, was to "prohibit the use of decompression as a method of euthanizing animals, which has not occurred in the research studies at issue." It ties the Wisconsin law change to ones in Delaware and California.
Griffiths says the study protocols "do not anticipate the death of animals used in the studies other than by euthanasia," which is done by other means. And while some animals have died "from symptoms commonly associated with decompression sickness experienced by deep sea divers," these deaths are "unanticipated."
Adds Griffiths, "There certainly has been no intent by persons conducting or approving the research to evade any laws or regulations, and no reason to believe there was any debate regarding the legitimacy or legality of this research until this particular complaint was lodged."
Local attorney Leslie Hamilton, the lodger of this particular complaint, says the UW's response "obfuscates the law in Wisconsin with two pages of irrelevant history from other states, and it attempts to draw the reader's attention away from the most significant fact in this case - i.e., the UW's admission that its researchers kill animals by means of decompression."
There are other problems with the UW's response. The experiment protocol does anticipate "fatal outcomes" and notes that these are used to gather data. And the minutes of the UW Animal Care and Use Committee's April 13 meeting on these experiments refer to "rapid decompression for purposes of euthanasia" - precisely what the UW says is 1) illegal and 2) not occurring.
Blanchard says he's still reviewing the UW's response.
As quoted in Isthmus' cover story last week, author Michael Pollan resents accusations that he's blaming farmers for the nation's flawed food policies: "That's just rhetoric. I'm blaming the system. I'm blaming a set of incentives. A system in which many farmers really feel trapped."
Last Thursday the State Journal ran a letter to the editor headlined "Beware of Pollan's Attack on Farmers." In fact, the published letter never accuses Pollan of attacking farmers; it merely defends farmers while casting aspersions on Pollan's unspecified "agenda."
State Journal editorial page editor Scott Milfred says the letter was shortened from the original and given a head that fit the writer's point: "I don't think the headline was a stretch."
Pollan, now in Madison for a series of events (Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. at the Kohl Center, Sept. 25 at 3:30 p.m. at the Wisconsin Union Theater, Sept. 26 at 10 a.m. on the Capitol Square), disagrees: "The headline on that letter is really unfair, to the writer and to me. Someone's trying to stir the pot, obviously. This is the Farm Bureau line and they're parroting it."
The State Journal followed this with an attack (yep, that's the right word) on Pollan by Bill Bruins, president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, claiming, among other things, that "Pollan's plan would starve much of the world." In fact, Pollan is opposed to mass starvation. (The Cap Times also ran Bruins' column, but with a spirited editorial rebuttal.)
Interestingly, the UW changed the format of Friday's event. Originally a discussion with Pollan moderated by Steve Paulson of Wisconsin Public Radio, it's now a panel discussion with others, presumably to allow more opportunity for "the other side" to be heard.
What happened to Rick Berg
Isthmus contributor Rick Berg writes from his hospital bed, suggesting this synopsis of recent events in his life:
"Beloved local conservative Rick Berg has been hospitalized at Meriter Hospital for the past three weeks after an infection moved to his brain.Rick continues to make slow, steadyprogress on recovery, but expects it will be at least 2-3 more weeks before he may be allowed to return home.
"According to Rick, those working with him on his physical recovery say he is 'leaning to the left.'Rick says he doesn't want to go home until he is again 'leaning to the right.'"
Lean on, you crazy diamond.