Editor's Note

Diggings: Badgers persevere — and adapt

By MIKE NICHOLS | Oct. 18, 2017

We’re not the Badger State because of the animal — beloved as it is. We’re the Badger State because back in the early 19th century, impatient lead miners burrowed like badgers into the Wisconsin hillsides and slept there instead of taking time to build homes.

They wanted to get to work. They lived in the same ground they mined — a practice that today would no doubt result in visits from HUD, OSHA, the EPA, the DNR, DHS, the Department of Safety and Professional Services, the local building inspector, the Burial Sites Preservation Board and a dozen protesters singing “Solidarity Forever.”

Luckily, those “badgers” persevered.

For 30 years, the organization that publishes this magazine has dug deep in a different way. In an age of increasingly superficial tweets and posts, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute has done the time-consuming, expensive policy analysis that has helped shape the direction of the Badger State. We are recommitting ourselves to that today. But we are also forging ahead in this new age with new initiatives and (you no doubt have already noticed) new names.

“WPRI” has served us well for years — even if we sometimes are confused with a TV station offering “all the coverage you can count on” in Providence, R.I. But it no longer encompasses all that we do, and it doesn’t adequately express our deep attachment to the state. WPRI now has transformed itself into the Badger Institute — a name that reaches back to the industrious miners of long ago but also moves us forward in new directions.

This magazine is part of that reinvention. If you’re reading it now, it’s likely you used to receive Wisconsin Interest, our prior publication.

For decades, the editor of Wisconsin Interest was Charlie Sykes — the longtime conservative radio host in Milwaukee and a widely respected and prolific author. In fact, this edition includes an excerpt of Charlie’s latest book, “How the Right Lost Its Mind,” along with an opposing perspective by Hoover Institution research fellow Bruce Thornton.

Charlie has been a friend to me and WPRI for decades, and all of us here deeply appreciate his long stewardship of Wisconsin Interest. He is quite simply one of the smartest and most incisive people I know. Thank you, Charlie, for all that you did here.

This new magazine is, of course, named Diggings — and not just because that’s what badgers do. Good journalists dig as well. The difference with us here at the Badger Institute is we’re going to try our best to dig straight down instead of — like many of our brethren in the mainstream media — meandering toward the left. I will serve as editor of this new magazine. I’m incredibly lucky to be able to say that Mabel Wong will be our managing editor. Robert Helf, our graphic artist, will make us look good. We will continue to use the best freelance writers in Wisconsin, national voices and, increasingly, Badger Institute journalists and researchers.

Speaking of which, you’ll be stunned, aggravated and amused by the reporting, stories and new features you’ll find in the pages ahead. If those aren’t enough, check out our brand new website, BadgerInstitute.org, for much more reporting and research, our policy papers, as well as information about Badger Institute events.  

We hope you enjoy this inaugural edition. Please let us know where else in this great state you’d like us to dig deeper for the next time around.

Mike Nichols is president of the Badger Institute and editor of Diggings.

Read the entire issue of Diggings here.

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