Author Archive for Alexander Hummel

In Wisconsin, we push ourselves toward openness… And that’s good.

Wisconsin is a great place to live and work and not just because of the bucolic landscapes and good people. The state has a tradition of keeping this transparent, and there may be no better example of it than Wisconsin Public Records law.
UW Oshkosh Director of Administrative Computing and Networking Mark Clements and I had an opportunity to, this past month, welcome in colleagues from several different campus departments to an Integrated Marketing and Communications “Champion Chat” – monthly conversations about the work we do and other topics and trends in higher education.

This time around, we zoomed in on public records – what they are, what they aren’t and how everybody can always better understand the standards and, in the process, strive to live by the letter and spirit of the law. Again, in Wisconsin, the provisions are designed to really push keepers of these records to maintain as much access as possible and to be swift in responding to people requesting that access. As Universities are places/resources of open and informed dialogue, so are public records.

The Champion Chat was a unique opportunity for me to – hopefully for the betterment of my modern-day colleagues – reflect a bit on my past career. I was a newspaper journalist for nearly a decade, and the state’s public records law was, and is, a revered tool for that profession. It gives reporters (and anybody, for that matter) the opportunity to examine things like a public institution’s deeper budget data, certain electronic records and even, to an extent, student grades and performance benchmarks (provided we keep personal information out of public view).

Mark provided great insight on an often blurry line. With digital communication and records-production increasing daily, it’s always a bit of a riddle as to what is and isn’t a public record once it washes through, say, our University servers or network. Mark – clementsm@uwosh.edu — is a great resource to help get questions answered when colleagues run into an unclear or gray area about public records. And, since I’m UW Oshkosh’s records custodian, you can also reach out to me when public records requests come in or if you encounter questions: hummela@uwosh.edu.

Bottom line: The law is a powerful tool. And it is one to heed and use with respect.

Some tips:
  • Always best to remember that your electronic communications (both emails and chats) are, in most ways, public records when generated at a public campus.
  • Strive for openness in all things. If you have a question about whether a record will or won’t be public, assume it will be. It’s the right thing to do.
  • Don’t forget to keep the openness ethic part of meetings, too. When applicable, Wisconsin law advises meeting holders within public organizations to keep the invites and doors open. So, do all you can to promote meetings by appropriately publishing notices and sharing them at multiple points around the organization. … It’s not an Open Records provision, but it is the fundamental idea within the state’s Open Meetings law.

There are undoubtedly and understandably folks who didn’t get to make our Champion Chat. So, let me encourage them (and you) to check out the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Public Records Guide, or “Compliance Outline.

Sounds daunting, but it is actually a very approachable and readable rundown of all-things public records in a state that, responsibly so, treats them like the valuable resources they are.
  • CLICK HERE  to launch over to the state DOJ’s guide.

‘Tell stories, use all media’… kinda like we do

We consider it an honor when a University of Wisconsin Oshkosh student marketing, public relations or journalism groups drop the IMC team a call, email or Tweet and asks a member to share some perspective, career tips, war stories, recipes… you name it.

Invariably, the conversations reassure me the work we do in our shop is with it. 

I had the chance this week to chat with students in the UW Oshkosh student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. It was a small gathering of about seven or eight. But was a neat opportunity to reaffirm with folks who could be future colleagues what most of us in this broader biz know to be vital these days: Make media; If you can creatively, confidently and with authenticity write, speak and tell/shout out stories in print, online, audio, video and social media formats, you’re golden. You can get hired. Your talents will be deployed. Be a storyteller and Swiss-Army-knife-of-media while remaining open to opportunities, and you will land a cool job.

One or two of the students I talked with are preparing to graduate and jump into the roiling sea that is the current job market and economy.

They seemed confident. I hope I didn’t change that.

What’s great about working in an integrated marketing and communications shop is that we truly live that multimedia, storytelling reality day to day. We are, at all times, dabbling in University news video production, juggling multiple print marketing projects that advance campus programs and events and tailoring our web presences. Our little wing of UW Oshkosh has all kinds of irons in the fire, and success requires a melding of the make-media talents of a band of former shoe leather news reporters and photographers, once-private-sector magazine marketers and (we say this affectionately) tech geeks.

The good news is our UW Oshkosh public relations, marketing and journalism programs get it.

While students are burning the midnight oil to crank out that ol’ weekly campus newspaper, they are also revamping its website, using Twitter to hook in more readers and, in their classrooms, delving into video production and social media marketing strategy, working alongside faculty members to promote the very programs propelling them.

You really know these students are primed for the modern media maelstrom, however, when, within minutes of wrapping up a career-advice chat, a guest speaker gets a thoughtful thank you in the form of a Tweet, graciously dropping his Twitter handle and a strategically placed @UWO_SPJ.

Right back atchya, @UWO_SPJ.


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