Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigative health reporter Meg Kissinger, who has tirelessly exposed flaws in the mental health system, has been named the 2015 recipient of the Distinguished Wisconsin Watchdog Award.
The award is a highlight of the fifth annual Wisconsin Watchdog Awards reception and dinner, presented jointly by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council and the Madison Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
The April 8 event, a celebration of open government and investigative journalism, is open to the public, with proceeds supporting the nonprofit and nonpartisan Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.
The event begins with a reception at 5 p.m., followed by dinner at 6 at the Pyle Center at 702 Langdon St. on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
The signup deadline is 5 p.m. today, April 2. Registrations are available here.
The evening event is part of the Midwest Watchdog Workshop, being held on April 8 and 9 at the Pyle Center. The workshop is open to professional journalists, student journalists (high school and collegiate) and the public — an innovative design to spread knowledge of investigative reporting techniques that hold the powerful accountable and foster an informed citizenry. Workshop registrations are available online and also will be accepted from walk-ins at the Pyle Center.
“Meg Kissinger is a Wisconsin treasure,” said Andy Hall, executive director of the investigative center.
“For more than three decades, Meg has shined light into dark corners of our society, protecting the interests of vulnerable residents in the highest traditions of public service journalism.”
Past winners of the Distinguished Wisconsin Watchdog Award are Dave Zweifel, editor emeritus of The Capital Times and a founder of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council; the late Dick Wheeler, founder of the Wheeler Report newsletter; U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman, chief author of the state’s open records law; and Dave Umhoefer, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Kissinger was a 2009 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting for “powerful revelations that the government was failing to protect the public from dangerous chemicals in everyday products, such as some ‘microwave-safe’ containers, stirring action by Congress and federal agencies.”
She is a 1979 graduate of DePauw University. In March, her alma mater announced she will return for the 2015-16 academic year as Eugene S. Pulliam Distinguished Visiting Professor of Journalism.
Kissinger has won more than a dozen national reporting awards, twice has been honored with the George Polk Award in Journalism and received the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.
“This nomination is about more than that, though,” Greg Borowski, the Journal Sentinel’s assistant managing editor for projects and investigations, wrote in nominating Kissinger for the Distinguished Wisconsin Watchdog Award.
He noted that Kissinger is best known for her reporting about problems with Milwaukee County’s mental health system.
“Her work, which last year brought fundamental reform to the system (and near unanimity in our bitterly divided Legislature), has been distinguished by the depth of the reporting and the clarity of the writing,” Borowski wrote. “But perhaps most important it has been characterized by a profound and uncommon compassion for the people she is writing about.”
The Wisconsin Watchdog Awards event also will honor winners of the Freedom of Information Council’s annual Opee Awards for their work promoting open government. The Madison SPJ chapter will review the year in journalism. And the tensions between investigative reporting and government secrecy will be explored in a panel featuring top journalists — New York Times reporter Walt Bogdanich, independent broadcast journalists Lea Thompson and Kathleen Johnston, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Editor George Stanley and Knight Chair in Investigative and Enterprise Reporting Brant Houston.
Tickets are available for $55. Register online here for the workshop and Wisconsin Watchdog Awards.
Sponsors of the events are Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, Wisconsin Newspaper Association, Evjue Foundation, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, Gannett Wisconsin Media, Wisconsin State Journal, Schott Bublitz & Engel law firm, MacIver Institute, McGillivray Westerberg & Bender law firm, UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, Madison Pro Chapter of Society of Professional Journalists, WORT 89.9 FM, Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting and Simpson Street Free Press. Information about becoming a sponsor is available from Andy Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org.