Wisconsin Watch managing editor Dee J. Hall and reporting intern Erica Jones fact-check the stories about abuse in the Catholic Church in Wisconsin on Sept. 27. The entire fact-check for the story took about 20 hours over a three-day time frame. Credit: Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch
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Training the next generation of investigative journalists is core to our mission at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. 

We work closely with students in classroom settings, internships, fellowships and freelance assignments to produce stories of importance to residents of Wisconsin. 

Our series, The Cannabis Question, was produced by students in the University of Wisconsin-Madison investigative reporting class I taught this spring for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The students’ stories helped inform the statewide debate over legalization, including the health benefits, known dangers, public attitudes, the disparate impact on immigrants, the business of cannabis, the long-term consequences of marijuana-related convictions and the range of people in Wisconsin who use cannabis legally — and illegally. These stories were picked up 433 times by news outlets from Washington, D.C., to Bellingham, Washington, reaching an estimated audience of 5.3 million people.

Students produced other important Wisconsin Watch stories in 2019. Erica Jones, an Ann Devroy Fellow from UW-Eau Claire, produced our powerful examination of the Catholic Church’s handling of clergy sexual abuse in Wisconsin. She told the wrenching stories of victims and the disparities in how the five Catholic dioceses and numerous religious orders report abuse within their ranks. 

Another intern, recent UW-Madison graduate Parker Schorr, explored the crisis in rural health care in Wisconsin. He featured a hospital in Neillsville, Wisconsin, that merged with a larger health system to stay alive. Parker, who is now embedded in our newsroom as a Cap Times public affairs reporting fellow, also wrote a story alerting the public to the quietly growing problem of methamphetamine abuse in Wisconsin.

Izabela Zaluska, another recent graduate of the UW-Madison journalism school, focused her internship on important criminal justice issues. Izabela detailed the challenges facing Gov. Tony Evers in reducing the state’s prison population, so-called pay-to-stay fees in 23 counties that can keep former inmates in debt for years, and a harsh disparity — the fact that African-Americans in Wisconsin are four times as likely to be charged with marijuana possession as whites.

UW-Madison graduate student Natalie Yahr produced a freelance story illustrating how immigrants without lawyers face nearly impossible odds of remaining in the United States when facing deportation.

Fulbright scholar Alisa Ivanitskaya, a Russian journalist studying at the University of Arizona, produced photos, videos, audio and graphics for us during her summer fellowship. Alisa said her time at Wisconsin Watch  “helped revive my hope in journalism.”

Wisconsin Watch also works closely with early career journalists as part of the Wisconsin Public Radio Mike Simonson Memorial Investigative Reporting Fellowship. Fellows embed in Wisconsin Watch’s newsroom for a year, reporting for both news outlets while learning investigative techniques. Our current fellow, Bram Sable-Smith, produced an audio story about the Catholic Church’s response to the abuse crisis that dovetailed with Erica’s story.

Nearly 50 young journalists have interned or served fellowships at Wisconsin Watch. They include Nick Penzenstadler, who works on USA Today’s investigative team; Cara Lombardo, who covers mergers and acquisitions for The Wall Street Journal; Mario Koran, a West Coast reporter for Guardian US; and Alec Luhn, who reports from Moscow for The Telegraph. Wisconsin Watch alums also produce probing stories closer to home, including at news outlets in Appleton, Madison and Milwaukee. 

Between now and Dec. 31, NewsMatch will match your donation to the Center to support this important work. NewsMatch is a national campaign to encourage grassroots support of the nonprofit news sector. Because the Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, all donations are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law. Please make a gift today and have it matched!

Your contribution may be mailed to WCIJ, Fifth Floor, Vilas Hall, 821 University Ave., Madison WI 53706, or made securely via credit card by clicking here.

Thanks for helping Wisconsin Watch train investigative reporters to serve the public today — and in the future! 

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (www.WisconsinWatch.org) collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, PBS Wisconsin, 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.

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Dee J. Hall / Wisconsin Watch

Dee J. Hall, a co-founder of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, joined the staff as managing editor in June 2015. She is responsible for the Center’s daily news operations. She worked at the Wisconsin State Journal for 24 years as an editor and reporter focusing on projects and investigations.

A 1982 graduate of Indiana University’s journalism school, Hall served reporting internships at the weekly Lake County Star in Crown Point, Ind., The Gary (Ind.) Post-Tribune, The Louisville (Ky.) Times and The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times. Prior to returning to her hometown of Madison in 1990, she was a reporter for eight years at The Arizona Republic newspaper in Phoenix, where she covered city government, schools and the environment. During her 35-year journalism career, Hall has won more than three dozen local, state and national awards for her work, including the 2001 State Journal investigation that uncovered a $4 million-a-year secret campaign machine operated by Wisconsin’s top legislative leaders.