Note: On April 30, this position was reposted, expanded to a full year, and broadened to include coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues.
Wisconsin Watch is seeking a limited-term reporter to lead its investigation of voter suppression, disinformation and voting system integrity in Wisconsin’s 2020 election.
The investigative project is called Narrow Margin, a reference to the margin in Wisconsin of less than 1 percentage point, or 23,000 votes, that elevated Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016. Wisconsin was a top target of voter suppression, misleading candidate messaging, dark money groups and hacking aimed at disrupting the 2016 election — and experts say its voters could determine the winner of the 2020 presidential election.
This position is ideal for a relentless investigative reporter wishing to join our small, hard-working and flexible staff. Start date for the position is negotiable; we expect this position to run until Dec. 31.
Wisconsin Watch is the news outlet of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit organization whose mission is “to increase the quality, quantity and understanding of investigative journalism to foster an informed citizenry and strengthen democracy.”
The Narrow Margin reporter will lead the newly launched investigation alongside a University of Wisconsin-Madison investigative reporting class taught by Wisconsin Watch Managing Editor Dee J. Hall. Narrow Margin will investigate:
- False information aimed at influencing voters’ choices or suppressing their votes.
- The security of Wisconsin’s voting systems and communities or states that have the best security.
- The impact of ongoing litigation aimed at deactivating more than 200,000 people from the state’s voter registration system.
- Access to the polls, including any difficulties in obtaining proper identification.
- Unique barriers faced by college student voters in Wisconsin.
Public engagement is a crucial component of the project as we seek voters’ help in identifying efforts aimed at dissuading or misleading them.
Wisconsin Watch is partnering with national media organizations for the Narrow Margin project, including Guardian US, APM/Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica’s Electionland Project. We will produce content in audio and online formats.
Our multimedia journalism digs into undercovered issues, documents broken and failing systems, puts findings into regional and national contexts, and explores potential solutions. The Center also trains current and future investigative journalists through workshops, internships and fellowships, mentoring, and collaborations with journalism classes and news organizations. And we share information about journalistic practices, ethics and impact with the public.
The Center’s guiding values: Protect the vulnerable. Expose wrongdoing. Explore solutions.
If you have just some of the skills listed below, or others we failed to list, please consider applying for this position, especially if you are a candidate whose experience includes working with diverse members of the public. We are a small, nimble organization that makes the best use of the skills of our staff and is dedicated to developing them.
The Narrow Margin reporter will:
- Work with the managing editor, investigations editor and multimedia editor to strategize, frame, report and write news stories involving voter suppression, disinformation and voting system integrity related to the 2020 election in Wisconsin.
- Develop sources and report in diverse communities, including urban and rural, and engage members of the public in identifying attempts to dissuade or mislead voters.
- Cultivate collegial and productive relationships with other news organizations.
- Work with student-journalists, including in a classroom setting, and early-career journalists working as interns and fellows for Wisconsin Watch.
Location: The Narrow Margin reporter will ideally be located in or near Madison or Milwaukee and should expect to travel regularly throughout Wisconsin and perhaps on occasion to other states. Some evening and weekend work is necessary.
Qualifications: At least three years of experience in reporting and writing news. The ideal candidate will be able to report and complete complex stories and visualize related multimedia elements while meeting deadlines. They will also be comfortable working with college students to help them report and write stories.
- Be able to analyze data and develop sources using our customized version of the Wisconsin voter database.
- Familiarity with Wisconsin and its politics.
- Multimedia skills including photography, audio, video and editing.
- Spanish-language proficiency.
Expected salary range: $5,000-$5,500 a month, commensurate with skills and experience.
Benefits: Paid vacation (prorated, equivalent to five weeks per year), subsidized medical and dental benefits, transportation benefits, sick days.
Deadline: The initial application window will be open until March 22, 2020. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.
The Center’s staff includes an executive director who is responsible for the news and business operations, an associate director who runs the daily business activities, a managing editor who runs the daily news activities, an investigations editor who edits, manages fellows and interns and facilitates cross-newsroom collaborations, a digital and multimedia director who is responsible for the website and our multimedia content and operations, and a membership manager who guides our efforts to engage the public. We also have investigative reporting and public engagement and marketing interns, a radio reporting fellow paid by Wisconsin Public Radio, a Report for America corps member who is managing a new criminal justice reporting project, a reporting fellow paid by the Cap Times, and skilled volunteers.
Wisconsin Watch’s reports are published at WisconsinWatch.org, and content is made available at no charge to news organizations through our own distribution system plus a nationwide partnership with the Associated Press.
A successful candidate should understand the Center’s role in the news environment and share a commitment to its mission and values.
At the Center, we are proud of, and continuing to increase, the distribution of our investigations. Since our launch in 2009, we have produced nearly 380 major news reports that have been cited, published or broadcast by more than 890 newspapers, radio and TV stations and news websites in Wisconsin and nationwide reaching an estimated audience of nearly 99 million. In 2019, we shared 46 investigative reports with more than 220 news organizations — more than half of them located in Wisconsin.
The Center has won dozens of national, regional and state awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, Associated Press Media Editors and the Society of Professional Journalists and finalist awards from Investigative Reporters and Editors, as well as a regional Edward R. Murrow Award for a short documentary.
We’re a flexible, fun workplace that still manages to do hard-core work. It’s not unusual for homemade baked goods or guacamole to show up at the “world headquarters” in UW-Madison’s Vilas Communications Hall.
To apply: Please send a cover letter, resume, five reporting/writing samples and a list of references to Managing Editor Dee J. Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to chat about the job before applying, contact Dee via email.
The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism embraces diversity and inclusiveness in our journalism, training activities, hiring practices and workplace operations. The complex issues we face as a society require respect for different viewpoints. Race, class, generation, sexual orientation, gender and geography all affect point of view. Reflecting these differences in our reporting leads to better, more-nuanced stories and a better-informed community.
We especially encourage members of traditionally underrepresented communities to apply, including women, people of color, LGBTQ people and people with disabilities.
We look forward to hearing from you!
The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (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.