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Wisconsin Watch criminal justice reporting project manager Phoebe Petrovic interviews Steven Drizin, Brendan Dasseys attorney, from the Center on Wrongful Convictions, after a press conference at The Park Hotel in Madison, Wis. Credit: Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch

I joined the Wisconsin Watch team in June as a Report for America corps member, and since then, I have spent nearly every day reporting on a story that began 20 years ago. I’m investigating a murder committed in the Fox Valley in the summer of 2000 and the potentially wrongful conviction that resulted from it. The police investigation of the crime, and the state’s prosecution of the accused criminal, tell us much about how justice functions in Wisconsin — not just then, but to this day. 

This summer, we’ll share our findings with Wisconsin and the world in a narrative podcast called Open and Shut

It’s an experiment for us. The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism has never before produced a podcast series. 

But it’s exactly the sort of project that embodies Wisconsin Watch’s guiding principles: protect the vulnerable, expose wrongdoing, explore solutions. Our co-founder and managing editor, Dee J. Hall, first caught wind of the misconduct at the heart of this story in 2002. Like any good watchdog reporter, Dee refused to let the story go, and now, neither will I.

Though I’m crafting a podcast, I spend much of my time with documents. My work involves reconstruction and comparison, pulling details and accounts from faded copies of police reports and witness statements, stacks of court transcripts and handwritten letters, staticky 911 calls and radio traffic to determine what happened — what really happened — one summer decades ago.

As time passes, memories fade and people move on; the records that help fill the gaps may get emptied from a filing cabinet or deleted off a hard-drive. The gulf between then and now magnifies the standard rigors of investigative reporting: chase all leads, unearth documents, scrutinize details, evaluate evidence, seek accounts from a variety of voices, provide context, verify every fact. And as the challenges increase, so do the stakes. 

It is unglamorous, painstaking, and vital work. It is also resource intensive. Investigative reporting requires tens of thousands of hours and dollars. Its societal benefit may be incalculable, but the cost of getting it done is not.

That’s where you come in. Wisconsin Watch’s rigorous investigative reporting is made possible by readers, viewers and listeners like you. If you believe in tireless reporting and fearless truth-telling, if you seek accountability for those in power — or if you just like podcasts — please support our work with a donation. From now until December 31, NewsMatch will match your new monthly donation 12x or double your one-time gift, up to $1,000.

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.

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

Phoebe Petrovic / Wisconsin Watch and WPR

Phoebe Petrovic joined Wisconsin Watch in 2019 as a Report for America corps member. She is leading creation of an investigative podcast examining police and prosecutorial misconduct in Wisconsin. She formerly served as a general assignment reporter at Wisconsin Public Radio through the Lee Ester News Fellowship and, prior to that, was an editorial radio intern at “Reveal” from the Center for Investigative Reporting. She also worked as a producer for NPR’s “Here & Now” and a reporter for WCPN ideastream, Northeast Ohio’s NPR member station. Petrovic earned a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Yale University, where she founded and led audio projects including Herald Audio, the first-ever audio section of an undergraduate publication, and “Small-Great Objects,” the first-ever podcast series installed at Yale University Art Gallery.