Student radio to the rescue: WSUM houses Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism while cleanup from water damage continues

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Coburn Dukehart/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism's temporary home at WSUM (91.7 FM) shares space with the college radio station's news and sports departments. The office is decorated with band flyers and event posters on almost every available inch of wall space.

Thanks to the generosity of the students and management at WSUM (91.7 FM), the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism has a new temporary home.

The eight staff members, interns and assistants who work at the Center are being housed at the WSUM offices on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus while water damage from a pipe that burst Feb. 2 or 3 in Vilas Communication Hall is repaired. It is unknown when the Center can return to Vilas.

Sterling Anderson

The office of Executive Director Andy Hall and Digital and Multimedia Director Coburn Dukehart — affectionately known as WCIJ World Headquarters — sustained massive water damage in early February when a pipe burst in Vilas Communication Hall.

The independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit Center is now located on the fourth floor of the Student Activity Center across East Campus Mall from Vilas. WSUM has graciously given over part of its newsroom to house the Center’s staff. The phone number remains the same — 608-262-3642 — but the phone itself was destroyed, so callers will hear a greeting and should leave a message until full service is restored.

“We want to thank General Manager Dave Black and his entire crew for being so accommodating,” said Andy Hall, the Center’s executive director. “They really threw us a lifeline after our offices were flooded.”

WSUM Engineer Laura Gutknecht and News Director Will Kenneally have been especially helpful with the relocation.

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication on the fifth floor, where the Center has been based since it opened a decade ago, also was dislocated. The incident heavily damaged the first, fifth and sixth floors of Vilas Hall.

Not everyone has found a permanent home yet, said Lisa Aarli, graduate adviser for the journalism program.

“We are still working out where to situate people — it’s definitely a challenge. We should have more information at the end of the week,” Aarli said.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism’s editorial staff holds its first morning meeting in the new temporary office space at WSUM (91.7 FM) on Feb. 13. Pictured, from left, are Wisconsin Public Radio reporter Sarah Whites-Koditschek, reporting intern Emily Hamer, and Managing Editor Dee J. Hall.

The school’s director, Hemant Shah, said that “faculty, staff and students are finding places all around campus to work and for meetings. The College of Letters and Science has been helping us find places for our people.”

Shah, who serves on the Center’s board of directors, said while “there is no firm schedule about re-occupying our floor,” cleanup crews have made great progress.

“We do know the fifth floor is almost completely dried out, so that rebuilding plans are underway,” he said.

While the repairs proceed, assessments continue on the amount of damage to the building and its contents. The cause of the water line break, which occurred shortly after a period of severe cold, has not been announced.

Hall said that the Center has shipped a stack of waterlogged notes to a Texas facility for restoration. While the Center’s critical files and equipment are intact, it is working with its insurance carrier to determine the value of ruined electronic devices and equipment.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reporting intern Emily Hamer consults with Managing Editor Dee. J. Hall during the Center’s first official editorial staff meeting in its temporary office space at WSUM (91.7 FM) on Feb. 13. The Center staff is used to working remotely via laptop, and was able to quickly resume operations after a pipe burst causing catastrophic water damage at Vilas Communication Hall.

“It feels exhilarating,” Hall said, “to see our staff persevere throughout this challenge to continue producing strong investigative reporting and training the next generation of investigative journalists. They are unstoppable.”

The Center’s next report will be published Sunday on WisconsinWatch.org. Click here to sign up for news alerts of upcoming stories and our weekly state news roundups.

Photos and video of WCIJ offices following the burst water pipe at Vilas Communication Hall

The desk of Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism Managing Editor Dee J. Hall is seen following a burst water pipe in Vilas Communication Hall that dumped a torrent of water from the ceiling onto the offices below.

The “World Headquarters” of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism is seen a few days after the burst water pipe rained water on it from above. Wet ceiling panels disintegrated and left a muddy residue all over the office.

Office equipment owned by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism is seen soaked and splattered in Vilas Communication Hall.

The office of Managing Editor Dee J. Hall is seen during a day of cleanup following the burst pipe. Most rugs, furniture and electronics that got wet had to be thrown away.

Missing ceiling panels are seen in the office of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism after sustaining massive water damage.

Managing Editor Dee J. Hall cleans her office in Vilas Hall. All offices on the 5th floor of Vilas Hall sustained catastrophic damage and will remain vacant for the next few months while the building undergoes repairs.

The “World Headquarters” of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism are seen after most of the furniture and personal belongings have been removed. A large industrial fan sits on the floor.

Industrial dryers line the hallways of Vilas Communication Hall a few days after a water pipe burst causing heavy damage to the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Here, Associate Director Lauren Fuhrmann helps clean out the offices of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism in preparation for being relocated for the next few months.

The office sign for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism sits in a waste bin in Vilas Communication Hall.

A video shows the damaged offices in Vilas Communication Hall as industrial dryers line the hallways.

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism holds its first staff and Development Team meeting on Feb. 11, in their new temporary office space at WSUM (91.7 FM). The student radio station graciously took in the Center after its offices suffered massive water damage.

Dave Black, general manager of WSUM (91.7 FM), left, is seen with some of the staff of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism as he welcomes them to their new temporary office space at the student radio station. Also pictured, clockwise, are WPR reporter Sarah Whites-Koditschek, Executive Director Andy Hall, Managing Editor Dee J. Hall and reporting intern Emily Hamer.

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