Current and former WCIJ staff members and interns at the Milwaukee Press Club awards ceremony on May 13. Pictured, from left, are Jacob Berchem, Sean Kirkby, Lauren Fuhrmann, Mara Jezior, Madeleine Behr, Bridgit Bowden, Haley Henschel, Dee J. Hall, Coburn Dukehart and Bill Lueders.
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The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism was named in eight awards in the Milwaukee Press Club’s annual celebration Friday.

The Center was honored with six gold awards and two bronze in the Club’s annual Awards for Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism contest, the state’s premiere all-media journalism competition. The Center has won 40 awards from the Milwaukee Press Club since 2011.

WPR’s Bridgit Bowden, who is embedded in the WCIJ newsroom, won a gold award for her investigative audio story “Nitrates Polluting 1 in 5 Private Wells in Wisconsin.”

Friday’s ceremony included honors for reporting, editing and multimedia work by current or former staff members Kate Golden, Dee J. Hall, Bill Lueders and Ron Seely, and current or former interns Abigail Becker, Madeleine Behr, Taylor Chase, Tara Golshan, Haley Henschel and Sean Kirkby. Eleven University of Wisconsin-Madison students participating in an investigative reporting class and two faculty members contributed, along with former UW-Madison art student Jacob Berchem and former UW-Madison cartography student Katie Kowalsky.

Bridgit Bowden, Wisconsin Public Radio’s Mike Simonson Memorial Investigative Reporting fellow, who is embedded in the Center’s newsroom during her one-year fellowship, was among the gold award winners for a report she produced on nitrate pollution of drinking water in cooperation with the Center.

Andy Hall, the Center’s executive director, noted that two of the awards recognized the ongoing Failure at the Faucet series, which has exposed problems with the quality of Wisconsin’s drinking water. The project includes collaboration by WPR, Wisconsin Public Television, the Center’s entire staff and crew of interns, as well as the reporting, data analysis, map-making and innovative multimedia features produced by students.

“Thanks to this remarkable teamwork, Wisconsin residents now have a much clearer understanding of contamination of their drinking water,” Hall said. “We hope this investigation helps residents learn not only about problems, but also potential solutions.”

The other award-winning work focused on critical issues such as the changing use of solitary confinement in prisons, the causes behind gun violence, the struggles of Gov. Scott Walker’s job-creation agency and the impacts of frac sand mining on the environment, economy and communities.

Two gold awards went to Precious Lives, a collaborative project examining gun violence — its causes, impacts upon children and potential solutions — in Milwaukee and statewide. Partners in the project are 371 Productions, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, WUWM (Milwaukee Public Radio), WNOV and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

“These stories, and their statewide impact, truly represent the Wisconsin Idea in action,” said Hall, referring to the century-old principle that education should influence people’s lives beyond the boundaries of the classroom, to the borders of the state and beyond.


Frank Michna stands with the water bottles he buys to replace his tainted well water in Caledonia. WCIJ’s series “Failure at the Faucet” won a gold award for “Best Investigative Story or Series.” Cole Monka / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Best Investigative Story or Series

Ron Seely, Kate Golden, Bridgit Bowden, Haley Henschel and Dee J. Hall; UW-Madison J475 students Rachael Lallensack, Gabrielle Menard, Tierney King, Silke Schmidt, Kathi Matthews-Risley, Jane Roberts, Mary Kate McCoy, Elise Bayer and Fern Schultz; Assistant Professor Katy Culver and Professor Deborah Blum; and UW-Madison cartography student Katie Kowalsky.

Failure at the Faucet: Wisconsin’s drinking water in peril

Best Investigative Report (audio)

WCIJ won “Best Use of Multimedia” for its coverage of Wisconsin’s frac sand rush. Center reporters Kate Golden and Taylor Chase and artist Jacob Berchem used animation to help tell the story in a creative way.

Bridgit Bowden, Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

“Nitrates Polluting 1 in 5 Private Wells in Wisconsin.”

Best Use of Multimedia (Online)

Jacob Berchem, Taylor Chase and Kate Golden

Wisconsin’s frac sand rush, told in GIFs, audio and video

Best Business Story or Series

Madeleine Behr, Dee J. Hall, Tara Golshan and Kate Golden

Wisconsin Economic Development Corp: What went wrong?

Ashley Furniture, fined for workplace safety violations, gets state tax credits

Most northern counties left behind by Gov. Scott Walker’s jobs agency

Two companies fail after getting $1.4 million for Gov. Scott Walker’s jobs agency

Scott Walker’s untold story: Jobs lacking after big state subsidy of Kohl’s stores

Best Public Service Story or Series

Precious Lives Team — Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, WUWM, WNOV and 371 Productions. The Center’s contributors included Sean Kirkby, Kate Golden, Dee J. Hall and Bill Lueders.

Precious Lives: Kids, guns and how we can stop the violence

Best series reporting (audio)

371 Productions, WUWM, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. The Center’s contributors included Kate Golden and Sean Kirkby.

Precious Lives project


WCIJ’s coverage of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker stealth government won a bronze award for “Best Public Service Story or Series.” Alison Dirr / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Best Public Service Story or Series

Dee J. Hall, Tara Golshan Abigail Becker

Gov. Walker’s stealth government

Drafting notes silent on author of open records rewrite

Gov. Scott Walker vows changes to open records rewrite but is mum on his role

Former cabinet members: Scott Walker top aide told them to avoid state email, phones

Best Coverage of a Single News Topic or Event Including Breaking News

Dee J. Hall and Bill Lueders

Peeking Behind the Bars: Solitary confinement in Wisconsin

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism ( collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

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