NEWS BLOG (WSAU) It sounds like a scandal. A multi-billion dollar public works project misspent federal dollars. People who live near the project may have been ripped off, perhaps by tens of thousands of dollars. Public outrage. Heads will roll. Elections may turn. Resignations may follow.
Instead, none of that will happen.
The Wausau Daily Herald did some investigative reporting on the widening ofThomas StreetinWausau. The city misspent a federal block grant. People whose property was bought up for the project weren’t told that they had a right to appeal the value of their land. They also had the right to ask for additional money to cover relocation costs.
The city might argue that the rules for spending federal dollars are complex. Who can possibly keep track of them all? Fair enough, but… The city followed these rules for other projects. That reasoning doesn’t wash.Thomas Streetwas handled differently.
This fall-out from this story is on someone’s radar screen at City Hall. Mayor Jim Tipple held a news conference about it last week. The city’s response: the reporting is wrong.
But, no, the reporting is correct. The city didn’t follow the federal rules. The city takes issue with the aftermath, saying the consequences aren’t as severe and are more manageable than the Wausau Daily Herald claims. And there’s no way to know about that. The consequences are still playing out. In the end the city may indeed say a mea culpa and get back in the good graces of the Federal overlords. That’s usually the way these things play out, and is certainly what the city is hoping for.
But there’s another part to this. Our local newspaper has uncovered a legitimate investigative story. The public response? Mostly indifference. There’s no apparent outrage. It doesn’t appear that anyone will step down or resign. This will be a non-story by the time the next election comes around. Why?
This is newspaper story. It’s not the type of reporting that translates easily to TV or radio. You could read it on-line --- but when you go to a news-based web site, theirs, ours, anyone’s --- you get a menu of stories where you pick and choose what you’re interested it. This is not an often-picked story. But when you pick up the newspaper, actually hold the newsprint in your hands, they tell you what’s important. Bold headlines that dominate the front page tell you, ‘hey, look at this. But very few people actually read the newspaper that way anymore. The messenger is diminished, to the point that an important message is met with a shrug of the shoulders.