Resources to help journalists navigate legal and ethical hurdles that come up during the newsgathering process.
Legal Hotline – (800) 362-2664
Editors and reporters are encouraged to call this toll-free WNA phone number and ask an attorney for immediate help when they are denied access to government meetings or records, have concerns about a story that could involve libel or privacy questions, or face similar challenges to Freedom of Information (FOI) principles.
Journalists in Wisconsin have a qualified privilege against testifying in both civil and criminal proceedings. This court-recognized privilege, based on both the state and federal constitutions, applies regardless of whether the journalist obtained the information from a confidential or non-confidential source.
Privacy Laws in Wisconsin
WNA member newsrooms will benefit from using this Legislative Reference Bureau’s publication on privacy laws as a staff training and development tool.
Wisconsin Photographers Bill of Rights
The one-page document outlines the rights and responsibilities of news photographers under Wisconsin law. It offers special advice and outlines rights in particular circumstances often encountered by news photographers, including locations such as public and private properties, schools, court proceedings, medical facilities and more.
Wisconsin Public Records Law
Full text of Wisconsin Statute 19.31-19.39.
Wisconsin Open Meetings Law
Full text of Wisconsin Statute 19.81-19.98.
Public Records Request Templates
There are several great templates and letter-generators available to help you file a public records request:
- Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council Template & Video Guide
- National Freedom of Information Council Template
- Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press’ iFOIA Project
Public Records and Open Meetings Law Pocket Guide
Wallet-size summaries of the Wisconsin Public Records and Open Meetings laws are available free to newsroom staff, courtesy of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council. WNA is a founding member of the council.
Open Meetings Law Compliance Guide and Public Records Law Compliance Guide
In 2015, the Department of Justice created new resources to help Wisconsinites understand their rights to access government meetings and documents. Download the Open Meetings Law Compliance Guide and Public Records Law Compliance Guide.
Attorney General Opinions and Letters
The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council has compiled a list of formal and informal opinions by the Attorney General that provide advice regarding the state’s open meetings and public records laws.
Search Public Notices
The WNA hosts WisconsinPublicNotices.org, an important tool to enhance the presence of public notices in newspapers. This free service gives the public access to all legal notices that have been published in newspapers around the state.
The Three Rs of Public Notice
Public notices are more than advertising. They’re really news. Here are some tips to incorporate public notices into your reporting.
Wisconsin VendorNet System
VendorNet provides easy access to a wide variety of information of interest to vendors who wish to provide goods and services to the state as well as state agencies and municipalities. Bidding and the time required to identify new vendors is minimized while vendors are automatically notified of opportunities in their area of interest.