Miguel Hernandez cleans a barn on his last day of work on a Pepin County dairy farm on May 31. He was leaving for Mexico with four other dairy workers the following day. Hernandez is featured in the documentary "Los Lecheros" produced by Twelve Letter Films and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism
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The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and Twelve Letter Films have won a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award for their short documentary, “Los Lecheros” (Dairy Farmers), the Radio Television Digital News Association announced Wednesday. The contest recognizes outstanding achievements in broadcast and digital journalism.

As the winner of best news documentary in Region Four — which covers Wisconsin, North and South Dakota and Minnesota — “Los Lecheros” will be considered for a national Edward R. Murrow Award.

This is the first film produced by the Center, and the first documentary film directed by Twelve Letter Film’s Jim Cricchi, who has been an editor for 20 years working on documentaries, feature films, television and short films for outlets including Vice on HBO and The New York Times.

The film is based largely on reporting by Alexandra Hall, a former Wisconsin Public Radio Mike Simonson Memorial Investigative Reporting fellow who was embedded in the Center’s newsroom in 2017. Hall and the Center’s digital and multimedia director, Coburn Dukehart, interviewed immigrant workers, dairy farmers and policy makers as they navigated President Donald Trump’s vow to deport all undocumented immigrants. Dairy farmers said such a move would decimate Wisconsin’s signature $43 billion-a-year dairy industry.

“Los Lecheros” features the family of Miguel Hernandez, a Mexican immigrant who had worked on a western Wisconsin dairy farm for 16 years. Hernandez and his family left Wisconsin in June amid rising racial tensions and fears that Hernandez or his wife, Luisa Tepole, could be detained and separated from their two young sons, who are U.S. citizens.

The 21-minute documentary also features Wisconsin farmer John Rosenow, who began employing immigrants 17 years ago after failing to find locals to manage his growing dairy herd.

The documentary has been screened at over a dozen film festivals across the country, including DOC NYC, Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Meet the Press Film Festival in Washington, D.C., Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival and the Wisconsin Film Festival.

The next showing will be Friday at 3 p.m. at the Orpheum in Dubuque, Iowa, as part of the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival. Other showings will be at 12:30 p.m. Saturday and 9:15 a.m. Sunday, both at the Dubuque Museum of Art.

“Los Lecheros” will have its broadcast premiere on Milwaukee PBS’s “10thirtysix” program with host Portia Young at 9 p.m. on May 17. It will be followed at 9:30 p.m. by a half-hour panel discussion on immigration and its implications for Wisconsin, which is the No. 1 producer of cheese and No. 2 producer of milk in the United States.

Alexandra Hall and Jim Cricchi document Miguel Hernandez and Pedro Tepole as they build a structure in the back of a pickup truck to help carry their belongings from a Wisconsin dairy farm back to Mexico. Hernandez is featured in the documentary “Los Lecheros.” Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

In addition to Cricchi, Dukehart and Alexandra Hall, the film was produced by Andy Hall, executive director of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, and Twelve Letter Films’ Susan Peters, who also is a member of a family foundation that has made contributions to the Center.

The Murrow Awards are the embodiment of the values, principles and standards set forth by Edward R. Murrow, a journalism pioneer who set the standards for the highest quality of broadcast journalism.

“All of us at the Center are grateful to the dairy workers and farmers and others who shared their stories to inform the public about the impacts of immigration policies on people and Wisconsin’s signature industry,” Andy Hall said.

“We appreciate the skillful work of Jim Cricchi and Susan Peters at Twelve Letter Films, and the recognition provided by the Radio Television Digital News Association.”

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (www.WisconsinWatch.org) 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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