I could not have asked for a more invigorating first week on the job as Wisconsin Watch’s investigations editor. The highlight: meeting one of the nation’s most dogged editors — a celebrity and role model for news nerds like me.
That is Rebecca Corbett. She co-leads The New York Times’ investigative team, shaping groundbreaking projects to hold power to account and protect the vulnerable.
Speaking at a Wisconsin Watch event on Nov. 21 in Milwaukee, Corbett offered behind-the-scenes details of the Times’ 2017 investigation into movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s decades of sexual misconduct and manipulation of employees. The Pulitzer Prize-winning probe set off waves of cultural impact across the U.S., helping to transform conversations about gender and power.
The Weinstein story is as fascinating as it is important. So I was not surprised to see the Milwaukee crowd so rapt as Corbett spoke. She described the thorny ethical questions her team navigated — amid months of meticulous fact-finding and verification — before publishing the blockbuster series. It’s the type of work Wisconsin Watch has pursued for more than a decade.
But during a Q&A portion of the program, I was struck by a few comments. Several attendees — including prominent members of Milwaukee’s community — acknowledged they had not known about how investigative journalists carefully uncover the truth.
If the public doesn’t understand how journalists work, that’s an existential problem — not just for the news industry, but for a democracy that requires trusted watchdogs to properly function. Any confusion about journalism’s role in that balance signals a failure within our industry to explain ourselves.
That is why I so eagerly joined the Wisconsin Watch team this month, following a career in nonprofit newsrooms in Iowa, Michigan, Texas and Washington, D.C. Wisconsin Watch has written journalistic transparency straight into its mission.
We go beyond publishing and distributing investigative journalism. We also train the next generation of ethical investigative journalists — all the while explaining how and why we pursue such work.
Please reach out if you have questions about our reporting or any other service we offer. We are happy to explain more; that is our mission. You can email me at email@example.com or call me at 515-227-8620.
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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.