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- Editorial Standards Page
- Ethics Policy
- Diversity Statement
- Diversity Staffing Report
- Corrections Policy
- Ownership Structure, Funding
- Founding Date
- Mission Statement with Coverage Priorities
- Fact-checking Standards
- Unnamed Sources Policy
Editorial Standards Page
The nonpartisan, nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism is increasing the quality and quantity of investigative reporting in Wisconsin, while training current and future investigative journalists. Its work fosters an informed citizenry and strengthens democracy.
The Center is a member of the Trust Project, a global network of news organizations that has developed transparency standards to help news readers assess the quality and credibility of journalism.
The Center is also a member The Global Investigative Journalism Network, an international network of nonprofit organizations founded to support, promote and produce investigative journalism.
The Center is also a founding member of the Institute for Nonprofit News, a group of nonprofit journalism organizations that conduct investigative reporting in the public interest.
Standards and practices
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The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism is an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan news organization that strives to uphold high standards of fairness and accuracy.
The Center’s ethics standards include the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, adopted in 1996 and endorsed by thousands of journalists around the world. That code is reprinted below, with permission. WCIJ’s Board of Directors have also adopted a conflict of interest policy and a diversity statement, which appear after the SPJ Code of Ethics.
Additional standards guiding the Center’s operations include:
- The Center’s Policy on Financial Support, which requires that the Center’s news coverage be independent of donors and that all providers of revenue will be publicly identified.
- Membership standards of the Institute for Nonprofit News (originally Investigative News Network), the nation’s first consortium of nonprofit investigative news organizations. The Center is a founding member of INN and the standards, developed with assistance of the Center’s leaders, require members to disclose information about donors and financial practices, produce nonpartisan investigative journalism, and apply high journalistic standards for accuracy and fairness.
Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics
Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility. Members of the Society share a dedication to ethical behavior and adopt this code to declare the Society’s principles and standards of practice.
Seek Truth and Report It
Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
- Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
- Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.
- Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability.
- Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.
- Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
- Never distort the content of news photos or video. Image enhancement for technical clarity is always permissible. Label montages and photo illustrations.
- Avoid misleading re-enactments or staged news events. If re-enactment is necessary to tell a story, label it.
- Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public. Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story.
- Never plagiarize.
- Tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so.
- Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.
- Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.
- Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
- Give voice to the voiceless; official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid.
- Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.
- Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.
- Recognize a special obligation to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in the open and that government records are open to inspection.
Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.
- Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
- Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
- Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.
- Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.
- Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
- Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects or victims of sex crimes.
- Be judicious about naming criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.
- Balance a criminal suspect’s fair trial rights with the public’s right to be informed.
Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know.
- Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
- Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
- Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
- Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
- Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
- Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
- Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news.
Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.
- Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.
- Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.
- Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
- Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.
- Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.
More information about SPJ and its Code of Ethics is available at www.spj.org.
Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism Conflict of Interest Policy
The following Financial Conflict of Interest Policy (“Conflict of Interest Policy”) is an effort (i) to ensure that the deliberations and decisions of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (“WCIJ”) are made solely in the interest of promoting the quality of journalism in the state of Wisconsin, and (ii) to protect the interests of WCIJ when it considers any transaction, contract, or arrangement that might benefit or be perceived to benefit the private interest of a person affiliated with WCIJ (each, a “WCIJ Representative”). As used in this Conflict of Interest Policy, a WCIJ Representative includes any director, advisory board member, financial advisor, legal counsel or employee.
- Duty to WCIJ. Each WCIJ Representative owes a duty to WCIJ to advance WCIJ’s legitimate interests when the opportunity to do so arises. Each WCIJ Representative must give undivided allegiance when making decisions affecting the organization. Similarly, WCIJ Representatives must be faithful to WCIJ’s non-profit mission and are not permitted to act in a way that is inconsistent with the central goals of the organization and its non-profit status.
- Gifts. No WCIJ Representative shall personally accept gifts or favors that could compromise his or her loyalty to WCIJ. Any gifts or benefits personally accepted from a party having a material interest in the outcome of WCIJ or its employees by a WCIJ Representative individually should be merely incidental to his or her role as a WCIJ Representative and should not be of substantial value. Any gift with a value of $250 or more, or any gifts with a cumulative value in excess of $250 received by a WCIJ Representative in any twelve-month period from a single source, shall be considered substantial. Cash payments may not be accepted, and no gifts should be accepted if there are strings attached. For example, no WCIJ Representative may accept gifts if he or she knows that such gifts are being given to solicit his or her support of or opposition to the outcome or content of any WCIJ publication.
- Personal Loans. WCIJ may not loan to, or guarantee the personal obligations of any WCIJ Representative.
- Conflicts of Interest. The following are examples of conflicts of interest which must be promptly disclosed to the WCIJ Board of Directors pursuant to Section 4 below by any WCIJ Representative with knowledge of such conflict of interest:
- (a) any real or apparent conflict of interest between a donor or the subject of a WCIJ publication or report and a WCIJ Representative;
- (b) a WCIJ Representative’s ownership of an equity interest in a person or entity that is or will be the subject of a WCIJ publication or report; and
- (c) failure to disclose to WCIJ all relationships between the subject of any WCIJ publication or report and any WCIJ Representative or close relatives of the WCIJ Representative.
- Conflict Procedure:
(a) If a WCIJ Representative or party related to a WCIJ Representative has an interest in any contract, action or transaction to be entered into with WCIJ, a conflict of interest or potential conflict of interest exists. Any WCIJ Representative having knowledge that such a conflict of interest exists or may exist (an “Interested WCIJ Representative”) will so advise the Board of Directors promptly. An Interested WCIJ Representative will include in the notice the material facts as to the relationship or interest of the Interested WCIJ Representative in the entity proposing to enter into a contract, action or transaction with WCIJ.
(b) Notwithstanding anything herein to the contrary, the Board of Directors may authorize any committee appointed pursuant to the WCIJ by-laws (a “Committee”) to act in lieu of the Board of Directors in determining whether an action, contract or transaction is fair to WCIJ as of the time it is authorized or approved by the Committee.
(c) At any time that a conflict of interest or potential conflict of interest is identified, the Chair of the Board or a Chair of the applicable Committee will ensure that such conflict of interest is placed on the agenda for the next meeting of the Board of Directors or the Committee, as applicable. The notice of such meeting of the Board of Directors or the Committee, as applicable, will include, to the extent available when the notice is sent, a description of the conflict of interest matter to be discussed. By notice before the meeting or at the meeting, the directors on the board or the Committee, as applicable, will be advised that a vote will be taken at the meeting and that, in order to authorize the relevant contract, action or transaction, an affirmative vote of a majority of disinterested directors present at the meeting at which a quorum is present will be required and will be sufficient, even though the disinterested directors constitute less than a quorum of the Board of Directors or the Committee.
(d) Reasonable effort will be made to cause the material facts concerning the relationships between the individuals and WCIJ which create the conflict to be delivered to and shared with the members of the Board of Directors or the Committee, as applicable, prior to the meeting to enable the directors to arrive at the meeting prepared to discuss the issue. In the event it is not practicable to deliver the information prior to the meeting, it will be delivered to the directors at the meeting, and the directors can act upon the matter with the same authority as if notice had been given prior to the meeting.
(e) The Board of Directors or the Committee, as applicable, will invite all parties to the conflict of interest to attend the meeting, to make presentations and to be prepared to answer questions, if necessary. The Board or Directors or the Committee, as applicable, will also invite outside experts if necessary.
(f) At the meeting, providing a quorum is present, the conflict will be discussed to ensure that the directors present are aware of the issues and the factors involved. The interested directors may be counted for purposes of a quorum, even though they may not take part in any vote on the issues.
(g) The Board of Directors or the Committee, as applicable, must decide, in good faith, reasonably justified by the material facts, whether the action, contract or transaction would be in the best interest of WCIJ and fair to WCIJ as of the time it is authorized or approved.
(h) All interested directors must abstain from voting and, if necessary, leave the room when the vote is taken.
(i) The Board of Directors or the Committee, as applicable, will maintain a written account of all that transpires at the meeting and incorporate such account into the minutes of the meeting and disseminate it to the full Board of Directors. Such minutes will be presented for approval at the next meeting of the Board of Directors and maintained in the corporate record book.
(j) To the extent that the conflict of interest is continuing and the contract, action or transaction goes beyond one (1) year, the foregoing notice and discussion and vote will be repeated on an annual basis.
The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism embraces diversity and inclusiveness in its journalism, training activities, hiring practices and workplace operations. The Center recognizes that its mission and society in general are strengthened by respecting individuals’ cultural traditions, beliefs and viewpoints. The Center further acknowledges that for its journalism, and our democracy, to attain their highest potential, a robust supply of reliable information about key issues must be accessible to all.
Inclusiveness is at the heart of thinking and acting as journalists. Our guiding principles: Protect the vulnerable. Expose wrongdoing. Explore solutions. The complex issues we face as a society require respect for different viewpoints. Race, class, generation, 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.
Part of our commitment to diversity means being transparent about our own staff. Our latest demographic survey data may be found here. Information about the composition of the Center’s workforce in past years may be found in its responses to the American Society of News Editors Newsroom Employment Diversity Survey from 2017 and 2018. ASNE, now the News Leaders Association, paused data collection in 2020 to redesign the survey.
The Center recognizes that Wisconsin law bars employers from discrimination on the basis of:
Age, Ancestry, Arrest Record, Color, Conviction Record, Creed, Disability, Genetic Testing, Honesty Testing, Marital Status, Military Service, National Origin, Pregnancy or Childbirth, Race, Sex, Sexual Orientation, Use or nonuse of lawful products off the employer’s premises during nonworking hours. Employees may not be harassed in the workplace based on their protected status nor retaliated against for filing a complaint, for assisting with a complaint, or for opposing discrimination in the workplace.
Approved Sept. 8, 2010, updated May 8, 2018, by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism Board of Directors
Our anti-racism stand and a pledge of action
On August 5, 2020, we published a statement representing the views of the entire Wisconsin Watch staff, including a pledge of action developed through weeks of discussion, research and reflection. The statement includes the following commitment.
We pledge to:
— Investigate and expose the histories and disparate impacts of systems on the lives of people of color.
— Explore solutions to problems not just through the perspectives of experts traditionally sought out by journalists, but also through the lived experiences of people who are finding ways to navigate existing societal systems.
— Embrace anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusiveness in all of our journalism, and in our own newsroom, including collaborative efforts, the framing of news coverage and selection of news sources, plus in our training activities, hiring and retention practices, and workplace operations.
Read the full statement and pledge of action here.
Diversity Staffing Report
Demographic breakdown by gender and race
Jan. 13, 2021
We’ve developed fact-checking protocols here at the Center. But when an error slips by us, the best thing we can do to keep our readers’ trust is own up to it.
Our policy is to correct stories promptly and openly. If we find an error, we will fix the story and note on the page what has been corrected.
As most news outlets do, we distinguish between corrections (for mistakes) and clarifications (for vague or misleading content).
If you think we’ve made a mistake in a story, tell us!
Ownership Structure, Funding
The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism is an independent nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization that is primarily funded through grants from foundations and donations from individuals and corporations. Additional revenue is obtained through sponsorships of its events and activities, and from earned income — payments for providing services such as fact-checking, collaborating with students or producing investigative journalism projects.
More than 850 individuals, foundations, news organizations and other groups have contributed financially to the Center since its launch in 2009.
As a matter of policy, funders exercise no control over the Center’s editorial decisions, and all funders are publicly identified.
The Center’s first major grant, a gift of $100,000 in general support, was awarded by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation in 2009.
The Oklahoma-based foundation continued to support the Center with grants of $100,000 in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015; $75,000 in 2016; $50,000 in 2017 and 2018.
In 2010, the Center received a two-year $75,000 matching grant from Challenge Fund for Journalism VI, a joint program of the Ford Foundation in New York, the McCormick Foundation in Illinois and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. The Center successfully completed a campaign to raise those matching funds in 2011.
The Foundation to Promote Open Society, which works in cooperation with the Open Society Foundations in New York City, awarded the Center general support totaling $50,000 in 2009, $100,000 in 2010 (to be spread over two years), $35,000 in 2011, $350,000 in 2012 (to be spread over two years), $350,000 in 2014 (over two years) and $200,000 in 2016.
In 2011, the Center announced a partnership with MAPLight.org to investigate the influence of money in Wisconsin state politics and policymaking. The project was supported by the Open Society Institute. The Center received about $25,000 for this project in 2011 and a similar amount in the first half of 2012.
In 2013, The Joyce Foundation became a major supporter of the Center. The Chicago-based foundation awarded a $100,000 grant that was split by the Center and MinnPost, a nonprofit news organization, to support in-depth coverage of key issues in Wisconsin and Minnesota. The grant funded coverage of political reform, environmental protection and gun violence issues in Wisconsin, as well as political reform in Minnesota. In 2014, Joyce awarded the Center $50,000 to support coverage of democracy, the environment and gun violence prevention. That was followed by a two-year grant in 2016, awarding $50,000 annually to support coverage of democracy, the environment and gun violence prevention. In 2018, The Joyce Foundation awarded the Center a two-year grant of $100,000 a year. In 2020, the foundation awarded the Center a two-year general support grant of $150,000 a year.
The Evjue Foundation, the charitable arm of The Capital Times in Madison, is a major supporter of the Center. The foundation made contributions to WCIJ in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, and in 2013, significantly increased its support to $20,000 — the largest single contribution received from a Wisconsin donor. Evjue repeated its $20,000 support in 2014 and 2015, and increased its giving to $30,000 in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. It contributed $10,000 in 2020.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, based in Miami, became a major donor in 2014 with a $75,000 general operating grant (spread over two years). In December 2016, the foundation designated the Center as one of 57 nonprofit news organizations eligible for up to $25,000 in matching funds through its NewsMatch program. As 2017 began, the Center successfully completed the match, thanks to 168 donors.
At the end of 2017, the Center was awarded $28,000 from NewsMatch, now funded by an expanded number of donors, for meeting the program’s fundraising goals, and in 2018, the Center was awarded $27,000 from NewsMatch. The Center successfully attained its 2019 NewsMatch goal and also was selected to receive an additional $10,000 from REI Co-op.
In 2014, the Center and UW-Madison journalism school obtained a $35,000 grant that was among the inaugural awards at 12 universities under the Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education, created to encourage experimentation in ways to provide news and information. The competitive program was managed by the Online News Association and funded by the Excellence and Ethics in Journalism Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund and the Rita Allen Foundation.
In 2015, the Vital Projects Fund, based in New York City, became a major supporter, contributing $25,000 to support the Center’s coverage of criminal justice issues. It provided $20,000 in 2016, $15,000 in 2017 and $20,000 in 2019.
The Reva & David Logan Foundation, based in Chicago, became a major supporter of the Center in 2017 with a general support grant of $100,000. The foundation awarded the Center $125,000 grants in 2018 and 2019. In 2020, the foundation awarded the Center a three-year grant of $150,000 a year.
The Center also is grateful for support it received from the Peters Family Foundation in Utah in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019; the Wisconsin State Journal in 2009, 2012, 2013 and 2014; and the Wisconsin Newspaper Association and its related foundation, which provided $10,000 in 2014 and 2015, $14,000 in 2016, $20,000 in 2017, and $5,000 in 2019 and 2020.
In 2016, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication received a grant from the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment to establish a class in fact-checking and to create The Observatory website to publish fact-checked reports and information about fact-checking. The Center, in turn, received a contract of $15,000 in the first year and $10,000 in the second to develop and launch the website and assist in fact-checking, editing and distribution of content. The Center is training students and raising the supply of high-quality verified journalism.
In 2017, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication received a three-year grant totaling $120,000 from the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment to collaborate with the Center on production of investigative reports by students that are published on the Center’s website and distributed to media partners across the state and nation. The Center was paid through a contract.
In 2019, Houston philanthropists Laura and John Arnold, founders of Arnold Ventures, became major supporters of the Center, with a $100,000 gift of general operating support. They also provided a gift of $100,000 in 2020.
In 2019, the Lau and Bea Christensen Charitable Foundation donated $10,000 to support the Center.
In 2019, Mary and Ken Rouse donated $50,000 to the Center from the estate of their friend, Roger “Whitey” Bruesewitz.
In 2019, Susan Troller Cosgrove and her husband, Howard Cosgrove, established a fund in memory of her mother, Dorothy Mae Johnson Troller, a 1949 UW-Madison journalism graduate, to support the work of journalism students at the Center. They are contributing $10,000 a year in the first phase of the fund.
In 2019, the Wm. Collins Kohler Foundation awarded the Center a gift of $35,000 a year for three years to support fact-checking and other efforts to strengthen the integrity of journalism.
LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman became a major supporter of the Center in 2019 with a $100,000 gift of general operating support.
Members of the Center’s Board of Directors, who serve as volunteers, are financial supporters of the organization.
The Center has received revenue for producing reports and conducting interviews through arrangements with the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.; WBEZ Public Media in Chicago; American University’s J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism; Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting; Sarah Colt Productions in New York City; HuffPost; and NPR.
In 2017, the Center launched the Watchdog Club to enrich members’ experience with investigative journalism, and to involve these loyal members in efforts to transform the Center into a larger, more financially resilient organization. These members donate $1,000 or more a year per household.
In 2019, the Center created the Leadership Circle, a group of Watchdog Club members taking a leadership role in sustaining investigative reporting and the training of investigative journalists. These members donated $5,000 or more in 2019:
Laura and John Arnold
Lau and Bea Christensen Charitable Foundation
Susan Troller Cosgrove and Howard Cosgrove
Wendy Fearnside and Bruce Meier
Andy and Dee J. Hall
Larry Hands and Karen Kendrick-Hands
Phil and Tricia Hands
Sally Mead Hands Foundation
Wm. Collins Kohler Foundation
Reva and David Logan Foundation
David and Marion Meissner
Peters Family Foundation
Mary and Ken Rouse
In 2019 and 2020, the Center received subsidies (50% in year one, 33% in year two) to support the salary of a Report for America journalist who is producing an investigative podcast on police and prosecutorial misconduct in Wisconsin.
In 2019 and 2020, the Center received a total of $234,000 from the Google News Initiative to support the launch of News414, a collaborative project of the Center, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service and Outlier Media. News414 engages residents of underserved Milwaukee neighborhoods, responds to information requests via text message, investigates residents’ most pressing needs and delivers accountability journalism.
In 2019 and 2020, the Center received $100,000 grants from the Facebook Membership Accelerator, to support its development of a membership program and improvements to its digital infrastructure. The Lenfest Institute collaborated in the grantmaking.
In 2020, the Center received $8,500 from the Walton Family Foundation for its role in a collaborative reporting project on rural education during the pandemic. Six other newsrooms participated in the project, with assistance from the Institute for Nonprofit News.
In 2020, the Center received a $93,581 forgivable loan under the federal Paycheck Protection Program to support its operations through the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic.
In 2020, the Center received $20,000 from First Draft to support the work of Howard Hardee, one of First Draft’s fellows reporting on misinformation and disinformation in the 2020 election.
In 2020, Craig Newmark Philanthropies provided a $70,000 grant to the Center for its role in the Election Integrity Project to safeguard the voices of voters. The Center collaborated with the UW-Madison Center for Journalism Ethics, which also received grant money, to produce tools for the public and journalists to discern what’s credible, and what’s not.
In 2020, ProPublica’s Electionland project provided a 25% subsidy of a Center reporter’s salary to support coverage of voting issues.
In 2020, the Center received $51,000 from Votebeat, a nonprofit newsroom covering local election administration and voting in eight states, created by Chalkbeat. The Center works with two reporters and an editor on stories focusing on Wisconsin elections and voting.
Our financial supporters
(Updated November 2020)
|A to Z Produce and Bakery|
|Lisa Aarli and Gail Owens|
|Abbotsford Tribune Phonograph|
|Linda and James Adams|
|Lynn and Dr. Tom Ansfield|
|Appleton Post-Crescent Community Fund|
|Laura and John Arnold|
|Adam Balin and Karin Mahony|
|Bastian Family Foundation|
|Frank W. Bastian|
|Chuck Bauer and Charles Beckwith|
|Mary Kay Baum|
|Herman Baumann and Kay Schwichtenberg|
|Keith and Juli Baumgartner|
|Beaver Dam Daily Citizen|
|Joseph and Josefina Beck|
|Tom and Katherine Bier|
|Blue Valley Farms|
|Elizabeth Brenner and Steve Ostrofsky|
|Malcolm and Penny Brett|
|Aimee and Karl Broman|
|Sandra Kay and James Brooks|
|Brian and Margaret Bull|
|Jim and Catherine Burgess|
|Linda and Edward Calhan|
|Tom and Patti Cameron|
|Marsha and Peter Cannon|
|Denis Carey and Carol Koby Carey|
|Duncan Carlsmith Carlsmith|
|Dick and Kim Cates|
|Ned Cochrane and Bonnie Cox|
|Marcus and Sheila Cohen|
|Joanne and Jim Collins|
|Craig Newmark Philanthropies|
|Nora Cusack and Brent Nicastro|
|Betty and Corkey Custer|
|James Danky and Christine Schelshorn|
|Brian A. Davis and Deborah M. Umstead|
|Dead Bird Brewing Co.|
|Claire and Chris DeRosa|
|Robert and Lynn Drechsel|
|Robert Dreps and Elizabeth Koehl|
|William and Gretchen Dresen|
|Thomas and Andy Dukehart|
|Sharon Dunwoody and Stephen Glass|
|Karen and Anthony Eclavea|
|Jennifer and John Edmondson|
|Lynne and Bill Eich|
|El Grito Taqueria|
|Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation|
|Mark and Sara Eversden|
|Facebook Journalism Project|
|Facebook Membership Accelerator|
|Kristeen and Todd Fansler|
|Michael and Gloria Fauerbach|
|Robert and Marianne Fazen|
|Wendy Fearnside and Bruce Meier|
|Paul and Sarah Ferguson|
|Dorothy Ann Flood-Smith|
|David Freedman and Harriet Kohn|
|Lewis Friedland and Stacey Oliker|
|Lauren and Eric Fuhrmann|
|Fund for Environmental Journalism|
|Fund for Investigative Journalism|
|Peter Gascoyne and Claudia English|
|Sharon and Warren Gaskill|
|Frank S. Gattolin|
|Janet and Derrick Gee|
|Maureen A Gerarden|
|Neil and Cindy Gleason|
|Christopher and Erin Glueck|
|Richard Goldberg and Lisa Munro|
|Dr. Lawrence and Hannah Goodman|
|Google News Initiative|
|Linda Gorens-Levey and Michael Levey|
|Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Nickel Fund|
|Jessica and Brad Green|
|Peter and Barbara Grenier|
|Megan Hagenauer and John Basler|
|George and Mary Ellen Hagenauer|
|Robert and Elke Hagge|
|Joseph Hall and Judy Thomas-Hall|
|Andrew and Dee J. Hall|
|Henry and Mary Ann Halsted|
|John Lawrence Hands and Karen Kendrick-Hands|
|Phil and Tricia Hands|
|Dr. Philip and Janet Hasler|
|Wendy and Shaun Hathaway|
|Neil Heinen and Nancy Christy|
|Heidi and Scott Herron|
|Susan and Leslie Hoffman|
|Julie Horn Alexander|
|Diana and Kermit Hovey|
|Leslie Ann Howard|
|Sue Kelley Hudson|
|Institute for Nonprofit News|
|Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment|
|Mike Ivey and Vicki Elkin|
|Forrest and Margaret Jafuta|
|Vince Jenkins and Stefanie Moritz|
|John K. MacIver Institute|
|John S. and James L. Knight Foundation|
|Paul and Diana Johnson|
|Judy and Gary Jolin|
|Margaret Jones and David Linton|
|Yvette Jones and John Lombardo|
|Patricia and Edward Jones|
|William M and Claudia Kaiser|
|Karon Medical Writing, LLC|
|Rita and Tim Kehl|
|George M Killenberg|
|Knight Foundation Donor Advised Fund at The Miami Foundation|
|Dennis Koi’s Sr.|
|James Kramer and Shoko Miyagi|
|William Kraus and Toni Sikes|
|Marilyn and Lawrence Krause|
|Todd M. Kursel|
|Kathleen Lapp James|
|Lau and Bea Christensen Charitable Foundation|
|Janet and Douglas Laube|
|Dr’s Douglas and Martha Lee|
|Sheryl and Roger Lepage|
|Donna and Scott Lewein|
|Charles Lewis and Pam Gilbert|
|Karen Lincoln Michel and Roberto Michel|
|David J and Madeleine Lubar|
|Mary and Timothy Lyke|
|Steve and Susan Macejkovic|
|Mary Lee Maki|
|Linda and David Maraniss|
|Daniel and Linda Marquardt|
|James Marrari and Barbara Carstens|
|Stuart and Carol Martell|
|Anita J. and James Martin|
|Kathleen Massoth and Marshall Bruce Edmonson|
|Shirley Brabender Mattox|
|McGillivray Westerberg & Bender LLC|
|Karen McKim and Keith Nelson|
|Oma Vic McMurray|
|Brent McNabb and David Macleod|
|Howard and Nancy Mead|
|David and Marion Meissner|
|Linda and John Mellowes|
|Janet Mertz and Jonathan Kane|
|Michael and Susan Michaelis|
|Mark Todd Milbourn and Lisa Heyamoto|
|Sally and Charles Miley|
|Milwaukee Journal Sentinel|
|Mary Miron and Gene Summers|
|Jack and Bonnie Mitchell|
|Doug Moe and Jeanan Yasiri Moe|
|Michaela and Greg Moy|
|Mary Joan Nastri|
|Elizabeth Neary and William Bula|
|Henry and Barbara Nehls-Lowe|
|Herb Nelson and Meg Theno|
|Mary Kae Nelson|
|Judy Newman Coburn|
|Kara and Ryan O’Connor|
|Vince O’Hern and Linda Baldwin|
|Open Society Foundations (Foundation to Promote Open Society)|
|Cathie and Harvey Ovshinsky|
|Tara and Carlos Pabellon|
|Susan S. Pastin|
|Mark and Catherine Pearce|
|Richard and Merry Noel Pearson|
|Susan Peters and Jim Cricchi|
|Peters Family Foundation|
|Pines Bach LLP|
|Mark Pitsch and Mary Kemp|
|Lynn and Martin Preizler|
|Richard and Krista Ralston|
|Judith Ranney and Robert Latchaw|
|Nancy H. and Roger Rathke|
|Cathleen A Razner|
|Don and Carol Reeder|
|Report for America|
|Reva & David Logan Foundation|
|Joanne and Gus Ricca|
|John and Julie Rice|
|Richard Thomas Record Living Trust|
|Hilda J Richey|
|Terry Rindfleisch and Linda Hirsh|
|Rita Allen Foundation|
|Robert R. McCormick Foundation|
|Michele and James Rohan|
|Mary and Ken Rouse|
|Finn Ryan and Brynn Bemis|
|Marjorie Sable and George Smith|
|Sally Mead Hands Foundation|
|Mary Sanford and Adrian Bourque|
|Barbara and Donald Sanford|
|Jenny and Louis Sanner|
|Irene Schapiro and Norman Fost|
|Schott, Bublitz & Engel s.c.|
|Ellen Seuferer and Richard Tatman|
|Caryl and Dr. Robert Sewell|
|Hemant and Elizabeth Shah|
|Michael Shank and Carol Troyer-Shank|
|Gail and Dan Shea|
|PJ and Jana Slinger|
|Richard Smith and Pat McKearn|
|W. Jeffrey Smoller|
|Norma and Elliott Sober|
|Brook and Nelson Soltvedt|
|Mary Spicuzza and Dan Simmons|
|Marianne and Brandon Spoon|
|Sharon Stark and Peter Livingston|
|Victoria and Patrick Sweeney|
|Charles and Victoria Talbert|
|Kent Tempus and Denise Sheedy-Tempus|
|Carol and John Toussaint|
|Tribune Phonograph TP Printing|
|Susan Troller Cosgrove and Howard Cosgrove|
|Dee Van Ruyven|
|Reinout Van Wagtendonk|
|Vantage Point luncheon series|
|Vital Projects Fund|
|Tom Warren and Anna Marie Benander Warren|
|We The People|
|Ralph and Patricia Weber|
|Roger and Kristi Williams|
|Brady and Lynn Williamson|
|Wisconsin Broadcasters Association|
|Wisconsin Newspaper Association|
|Wisconsin Newspaper Association Foundation|
|Wisconsin Public Radio|
|Wisconsin State Journal|
|Dean and Nettie Witter|
|Wm. Collins Kohler Foundation|
|Cynthia Yomantas and Steven Bauman|
|James W and Susan Zerwick|
Part of our mission at Wisconsin Watch is to train the next generation of journalists and those working in the business of journalism. After team members leave our offices, they move on to jobs in journalism and other fields, where they put the skills they learned at the Center to use by holding the powerful to account, creating innovative ways of engaging with the public and sustaining high-quality journalism, and strengthening our society. See where our former staff, fellows and interns are now.
Andy Hall, executive director
Andy Hall, a co-founder of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and a former Investigative Reporters and Editors board member, won dozens of awards for his reporting in 26 years at the Wisconsin State Journal and The Arizona Republic. Since the Center’s launch in 2009, he has been responsible for the Center’s journalistic and financial operations. Hall began his career in 1982 as a copyboy at The New York Times. At The Republic, Hall helped break the “Keating Five” scandal involving Sen. John McCain. At the State Journal, Hall’s stories held government and the powerful accountable and protected the vulnerable through coverage that addressed the racial achievement gap in public schools and helped spark the creation of the nationally noted Schools of Hope volunteer tutoring program, revealed NCAA violations by University of Wisconsin athletes, and exposed appalling conditions in neglected neighborhoods such as Allied Drive and Worthington Park. Hall won a first-place award in 2008 for beat reporting from the Education Writers Association. He also has received National Headliner, Gerald Loeb, James K. Batten and Inland Press Association awards for investigative, financial, deadline and civic journalism coverage. Hall has served as a mentor to the staff of La Comunidad, a Spanish-language newspaper in Madison, and has taught numerous courses at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism & Mass Communication. He serves on the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council Board of Directors, Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism Board of Directors, and Indiana University Media School’s Journalism Alumni Board, of which he is president. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University and, in 2016, received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU Media School. He also serves as a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News membership task force to create and uphold high industry standards.
Dee J. Hall, managing editor
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.
Lauren Fuhrmann, associate director
Lauren Fuhrmann joined the Center in 2011 after receiving her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. At the Center, Fuhrmann leads revenue development efforts as well as public engagement initiatives, including events, social media, newsletter and promotional materials; tracks the distribution and assesses the impact of WCIJ’s news stories; assists with development of donors and writing of grant reports; handles bookkeeping duties; produces photos, audio and video content; and copyedits stories. A Wisconsin native, her reporting focused on environmental and health issues. Fuhrmann previously researched audience engagement as a social media intern for Harvest Public Media and spent two years as a multimedia reporter for KBIA 91.3 FM and the Columbia Missourian. Fuhrmann is vice president and treasurer of the Madison Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. She was among five young leaders in the inaugural group of “Future Headliners” honored in 2014 by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association and a member of the inaugural Emerging Leaders Council recognized by the Institute for Nonprofit News. In 2017, Fuhrmann became a Certified Nonprofit Accounting Professional.
Jay Burseth, development director
Jay Burseth joined the Center in April 2020 as the Development Director. His role includes setting the organization’s vision for fundraising growth; building and executing a development plan; working directly with donors and other supporters to further the Center’s mission; managing grant proposals and reports; and leading the development team and interns to meet fundraising goals. Prior to joining the Center, Burseth led fundraising for the Milwaukee County Parks and was the Development Director for the Milwaukee-based public radio music station, WMSE 91.7. Burseth holds a Master’s in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from UW-Milwaukee, where he focused on fundraising and marketing in public media, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and History, also from UWM.
Coburn Dukehart, digital and multimedia director
Coburn Dukehart joined the Center in 2016 as digital and multimedia director. Her role includes directing the Center’s visual strategy, creating visual and audio content, managing digital assets and training student and professional journalists. Dukehart previously was a senior photo editor at National Geographic, the picture and multimedia editor at NPR, a photo editor at USATODAY.com and washingtonpost.com, interned in the White House photo department, and worked for a London-based publishing group. She has received awards from the National Press Photographers Association, Pictures of the Year International and the White House News Photographers Association. Her multimedia and photography work has been honored with a Webby, a Gracie, a Murrow, a duPont, and Milwaukee Press Club awards, and she was nominated for a national Emmy. Dukehart received a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She holds a master’s degree in photojournalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Jim Malewitz, investigations editor
Jim Malewitz joined the Center in 2019 as investigations editor. His role includes editing, managing fellows and interns, facilitating cross-newsroom collaborations and investigative reporting. Malewitz has worked almost exclusively in nonprofit, public affairs journalism. He most recently reported on the environment for Bridge Magazine in his home state of Michigan, following four years as an energy and investigative reporter for the Texas Tribune. Malewitz previously covered energy and the environment for Stateline, a nonprofit news service in Washington, D.C. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, POLITICO Magazine and newspapers across the country. Malewitz majored in political science at Grinnell College in Iowa and holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa. There, he was a founding staff member of the nonprofit Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, where he serves on the board of directors.
Emily Neinfeldt, membership director
Emily Neinfeldt joined the Center in September 2017 after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in journalism and political science. She started as a public engagement and marketing intern before becoming membership manager in 2019 and membership director in 2021. Her role includes maintaining and improving the digital infrastructure and operations developed under the Facebook Local News Membership Accelerator program and recommending and leading implementation of audience-growth efforts including marketing initiatives. Before working at the Center, she was a news intern at Wispolitics.com. She has also worked as associate news editor, features editor and managing editor at The Badger Herald, an independent student newspaper. Neinfeldt is secretary of the Madison Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Bram Sable-Smith, WPR Mike Simonson Memorial Investigative Reporting Fellow
Bram Sable-Smith joined the Center in 2019 as the Wisconsin Public Radio Mike Simonson Memorial Investigative Reporting Fellow. Before moving to Wisconsin he spent five years reporting on health care at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and as a founding reporter of Side Effects Public Media, a public media reporting collaborative in the Midwest. He also taught radio journalism at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Sable-Smith’s contributed stories to National Public Radio’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, American Public Media’s Marketplace and Kaiser Health News. His reporting has received two national Edward R. Murrow awards, two national Sigma Delta Chi awards, a health policy award from the Association of Health Care Journalists among others. Sable-Smith is a proficient Spanish speaker and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis.
Phoebe Petrovic, criminal justice reporting project manager
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.
Vanessa Swales, investigative reporter
Vanessa Swales joined the Center as an investigative reporter in 2020. Swales is a multilingual British-American-Iranian reporter who has worked in London, New York, San Francisco and Málaga, Spain. She most recently completed a reporting fellowship at the New York Times. Swales is a graduate of the Spanish-language journalism program at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in investigative and data journalism. She previously worked for NBC Investigations, Reveal, Diario SUR and SUR in English. She speaks fluent Spanish, and intermediate French, and basic Italian and Farsi.
Bevin Christie, project manager, News414
Bevin Christie joined News414, a collaboration between Wisconsin Watch, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service and Outlier Media, in August 2020. Christie is a social entrepreneur and community organizer, with a background in education reform and workforce development. Throughout her career, Christie has partnered with a variety of industries, public/private schools, community based organizations, and the Milwaukee community to build upon a belief that a culture healing, equity, and inclusion is key to Milwaukee being a better place to thrive not just survive. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Zeidler Group for Public Discussion, is a board member and on planning committees for Youth Frontiers Ethical Leadership Luncheon, Latino and Black Male Achievement Summit, Alverno Summit for Women and Girls, City of Milwaukee’s Black Male Achievement Council Education/Workforce Development Committee, and Milwaukee’s Boys and Men of Color Week. She also serves as a program committee member for Employee Milwaukee’s Board of Directors, and Milwaukee County’s Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) Learning Community.
Claire DeRosa, graphic designer & animator
Claire DeRosa graduated from UW-Madison with a degree in journalism and political science in 2020. As graphic designer, she is responsible for creating project series graphics, logos, ads, page layouts and social media content for the Center. DeRosa serves as lead designer for Wisconsin Watch’s collaborative text-based service journalism project with Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service and Outlier Media, News 414. She also serves as lead designer for the Center’s collaborative Election Integrity project with the Center for Journalism Ethics and First Draft covering disinformation in the 2020 presidential election. DeRosa studied 3D animation at the School of Motion during quarantine learning how to model, light, color and animate in Cinema 4D. Claire enjoys deejaying and producing electronic music in her free time.
Will Cioci, multimedia reporter
Will Cioci joined Wisconsin Watch in 2020 as a multimedia journalism intern. He is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, pursuing a degree in Journalism, Environmental Studies, and Political Science. He has interned for state and local government in the past and works as a photographer and occasional reporter for the Daily Cardinal student newspaper at UW-Madison.
Enjoyiana Nururdin, production assistant, investigative podcast
Enjoyiana Nururdin joined the Center in October 2019 as a reporting intern. She was promoted in March 2020 to the position of production assistant on the Center’s investigative podcast, which is examining police and prosecutorial misconduct in Wisconsin. Nururdin began her journalism career in middle school, working for the nonprofit Simpson Street Free Press. She currently is a junior studying Reporting and Strategic Communication and Political Economy, Philosophy and Politics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has interned for the Cap Times, WORT Radio and The Weekend Today Show at NBC in New York City.
Lauryn Azu, public engagement and marketing intern
Lauryn Azu joined Wisconsin Watch in January 2021 as a public engagement and marketing intern. She is pursuing a degree in journalism and Latin American studies and a certificate in digital studies. At UW-Madison she is senior copy editor of the online student publication The Black Voice. She has previously interned with the Center for Journalism Ethics as an Election Integrity Fellow, WDET-FM Detroit, the Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy Institute at the University of Notre Dame, and the Detroit Free Press. She’s interested in media literacy, language, technology, ethics, and finding creative ways to share stories that matter.
Dana Brandt, reporting intern
Dana Brandt joined Wisconsin Watch in January 2021 as an editorial intern. She is a senior at UW-Madison, where she studies journalism and English. Brandt has previously worked as a student fellow with the university’s Center for Journalism Ethics, as an investigative intern with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and as college news editor with the Daily Cardinal, an independent student newspaper on campus.
Abigail Steinberg, public engagement and marketing intern
Abigail Steinberg joined the Center in January 2021 as a public engagement and marketing intern. Steinberg began communications work as the opinion editor for The Badger Herald, an independent student newspaper, and has held internship positions with the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs, Madison Public Library Foundation, Planet Propaganda, and the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is a senior at UW studying strategic communication, political science, and public policy. Steinberg is an avid volunteer for the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Foundation and is excited to further her passion for journalism, communications, and public service with the Center.
Barbara Johnson, senior strategic adviser
Barbara Johnson joined the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism in 2016. A volunteer at the Center, Johnson draws upon her professional experience and contacts to strengthen the Center’s operations, with a special focus on the development of the Center’s business model. She was CEO and COO of four media companies in New York and Madison before her retirement in 2015. Johnson was a reporter and editor for 15 years before moving into business roles, winning national and state awards for her investigative stories. She has served on the boards of public and private companies and as an operating partner of a private equity firm. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan.
Christopher J. Glueck, development consultant
Christopher Glueck joined the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism in 2015, shortly after retiring from his position as a senior director of development at the University of Wisconsin Foundation. In his 12 years there, Glueck worked with alumni and friends of UW-Madison, primarily on behalf of the College of Letters & Science. Glueck had a broad focus, traveling throughout the nation and succeeding in helping a significant number of people realize their interests in supporting the university in a variety of ways, ranging from annual gifts to scholarships to chairs and professorships. Prior to that, Glueck spent 30 years in the high-tech field working in sales, product management, marketing and management positions, primarily with Wang Laboratories, Inc. and NCR Corporation. He earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from UW-Madison and a master’s in business administration from Rivier College (now Rivier University) in Nashua, New Hampshire.
Gail Kohl, development consultant
Gail Kohl came to the Center in 2010 with more than 30 years of fundraising experience for both statewide and local organizations, including American Players Theatre, Taliesin Preservation Commission, Frank Lloyd Wright Heritage Tourism Program, United Cerebral Palsy, Seth Peterson Cottage Conservancy and Big Top Chautauqua. From 1993 until 2010, Kohl was development director of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters. Over her career, Kohl has been responsible for major gifts, project and operations funding, membership development and enhancement, strategic partnerships and alliances, event planning and coordination, special projects, proposal and grant writing.
Christa Westerberg, counsel
Christa Westerberg is an attorney at Pines Bach LLP in Madison, Wisconsin, where she practices environmental, civil rights, and open government law. Since 2008, Westerberg has served as the vice president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council.
Mission Statement with Coverage Priorities
At the nonprofit and nonpartisan Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, accuracy is something we think about all the time. An integral step in our process happens after a reporter finishes a story but before the story reaches our readers’ eyes: fact-checking.
Every report we produce goes through a rigorous review. Managing Editor Dee J. Hall, or another fact-checker, typically spends between eight and 12 hours with the reporter verifying each and every word. Tack on the time it takes to vet multimedia elements, and we spend at least two full days scrutinizing each major package we distribute.
We believe it is time well spent.
“We’re in the information and fact business,” Hall said. “It is up to individual news editors to choose to run our stories, and they have to be able to trust us.”
Because even a minor fact error like a misspelled name could undermine the Center’s credibility, we take every measure we can to report with accuracy.
For each individual fact — a name or age, a report’s title, a summary of events, a quote or even an impression — the reporter must produce evidence of it from a reliable source. On a printed copy of the story, the fact-checker numbers the fact, while the reporter shows and marks its supporting evidence, which is also printed.
It is a version of a system graciously shared in 2009 by our colleagues at the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity — one we adopted to improve the accuracy of our journalism after two of our earliest reports contained mistakes.
Every fact-check reveals the need for additional editing to enhance clarity. Hall and the reporter also consider whether a story covers a topic fully and fairly.
“There are times during the fact-checking process where you identify gaps in the reporting,” Hall said. “Let’s say a fact you thought was correct is actually off, what else does that mean?”
It is not unusual for a reporter to be sent to do additional reporting after the first review.
In the end, every story has a thick paper file of fact-checking materials which can be easily referenced and reviewed.
Future journalists trained in fact-checking
In addition to producing high-quality journalism, another key part of our mission is training current and future journalists. We aim to instill our obsession with accuracy in them, too.
In 2016 we began working with The Observatory, a student fact-checking outlet founded by Michael Wagner and Lucas Graves, faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. We assist in fact-checking every story The Observatory publishes.
This page was excerpted from a longer article by Center reporter Cara Lombardo: We take facts seriously at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Here’s why.
Unnamed Sources Policy
Adopted May 8, 2018, by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism Board of Directors
The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism’s newsroom guidelines on use of unnamed sources are based on the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, approved in 1996, and adopted in full by the Center in 2009; and guidelines publicly shared by The New York Times in July 2016.
The Center’s guidelines on use of unnamed sources:
— Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability.
— Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.
— Any use of anonymous sourcing must be specifically approved by a top editor such as the managing editor or executive director.
— Direct quotes from anonymous sources should be used rarely, and only when such quotes are pivotal to the story.
— At least one editor must know the specific identity of any anonymous source. This in no way reflects a lack of trust between editor and reporter; it’s just a regular part of our diligence in this sensitive area. The reporter should routinely offer this information, or the story editor should ask.
Article Post Types
After waiting more than three months for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development to process her unemployment claim, Lorrie Wickman grew excited when an agency adjudicator finally called on Aug. 5.
“My heart started fluttering,” Wickman said. “I was like, ‘Oh yay, yay, yay! Maybe something is going to happen.’ ”
Something did happen. But it did not send money to her dwindling bank account, at least not for another two exhausting weeks of navigating state bureaucracy. The 56-year-old artist and social worker instead learned she faced yet another hurdle before she would finally receive replacement for some of the wages she lost due to the coronavirus pandemic — even after state officials promised to aid people in Wickman’s position.
Wickman is among about 175,000 people in Wisconsin who receive federal disability assistance, officially called Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), to supplement their limited income. The vast majority work part-time, including Wickman, who grapples with the lingering effects of an injury she sustained on the job 10 years ago.
Wisconsin’s Republican-led Legislature in 2013 barred SSDI recipients from receiving regular unemployment benefits when they lose work. Only North Carolina has a similar ban.
During the pandemic, Wisconsin’s DWD spent months deciding whether disability recipients should qualify for a special pot of unemployment benefits: federally funded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), created in March under Congress’ disaster stimulus bill. The program pays to expand benefits to people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic but “would not qualify for regular unemployment compensation.”
After first denying, then pausing decisions on PUA claims from people on disability, DWD on July 27 announced it received federal permission to declare the group eligible for PUA. But Wickman and similarly situated Wisconsinites are now finding that DWD procedures are leaving them waiting much longer for relief.
About 1,450 SSDI recipients applied for PUA through July 30, according to DWD spokesman Ben Jedd. The agency did not know how many of those claims it had processed, but DWD as of Aug. 14 said it issued determinations on about 64,400 of nearly 99,000 total PUA applications filed since DWD began accepting applications on April 21.
The agency employs 1970s-era technology to process unemployment insurance claims, and PUA claims are particularly taxing on an already backlogged system, he said.
“The payment of PUA is extremely manual and depends on qualifying for the program, addressing any associated eligibility issues, and how quickly that person files weekly claims after their PUA (qualification) is established,” Jedd wrote in an email.
WPR and Wisconsin Watch spoke to nine disability recipients who applied for PUA months ago. DWD as of Tuesday had yet to deliver on eight of their claims. But Wickman on Tuesday woke up to six months of backpay in her bank account, following a four-month wait — capped by two weeks of lengthy phone calls, technology glitches and 32 emails to agency administrators.
Left waiting and feeling misled
Wickman applied for PUA when DWD began accepting applications. The Porterfield resident learned about the program from a friend and fellow artist who lives across Wisconsin’s border with Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
The friend said he and several art colleagues qualified for the PUA in Michigan, and he suggested that Wickman should apply in Wisconsin. Wickman said selling her clay, glass and wire pieces is her main source of income. That dried up as the pandemic canceled art shows. She also lost part-time work helping elderly and disabled Wisconsinites hire in-home care staff.
Wickman and her 36-year-old son — who also has a disability — live with Wickman’s boyfriend, whose auto mechanic job has kept the household afloat during the pandemic.
“He’s pretty much supporting both of us right now,” Wickman said. “I still get my disability, but I’m supporting two individuals on $1,000 a month, and that’s not easy at all.”
SSDI serves people who have worked and paid Social Security taxes but can no longer perform “substantially gainful activity.” Recipients are encouraged to work — so long as an employee does not earn more than $1,260 per month.
The program allows Wickman to purchase health insurance through Medicare and sends her monthly checks of about $1,000. She began drawing those benefits in 2014 after a client fell on her in 2010, breaking two vertebrae and her tailbone. (Separately, Wickman suffered heart failure in 2015, an episode in which she said she was pronounced dead four times.)
Those who qualify for PUA receive payments of $163 to $370 each week — plus the additional $600 that the federal government added to weekly unemployment checks throughout most of the pandemic. Although the extra $600 payments ended July 25, recipients can retroactively receive the assistance back to early February for unemployment caused by the pandemic.
DWD requires PUA applicants to first apply for and be denied regular unemployment benefits. Wickman said she did not initially know about that policy. But she understood she could not collect regular unemployment, so she first applied for PUA. And she waited.
DWD did not deny Wickman’s PUA claim until late July, once the federal government confirmed that people on disability could qualify. Months into her wait, she was told she must restart the process so the agency could first deny her regular benefits — those she already knows she can’t receive.
She felt misled.
“They knew I was on Social Security disability,” Wickman said. “I had the documentation from the government from filing my taxes that I get Social Security disability. So they had all that sitting there that whole time.”
After learning more about the process, Wickman promptly filed for regular benefits.
An adjudicator called days later, on Aug. 5, to tell her DWD issued that denial, delivering her next set of obstacles.
She faced a frustrating choice: Reapply for PUA and risk being sent to the back of the line in a first come, first served system. Or appeal her PUA denial and wait weeks or possibly months for a hearing.
After first deciding to appeal, she dropped the case. Then she waited five more days for an online portal to update before she could refile for PUA. Fed up with waiting, she sent 32 emails to agency administrators on Aug. 11 and left a voicemail for the adjudicator who called her earlier.
“Within a half an hour, believe it or not, she called me back,” Wickman said.
The adjudicator said she would try to fix a glitch in Wickman’s portal. The portal updated soon after, offering Wickman a glimmer of hope.
“I actually have a lump in my throat. I’m so overwhelmed,” Wickman wrote in a Facebook message at the time. “Now if I could just see a dollar amount and payment I would be elated!!”
But she would wait another week for a resolution.
More claims in limbo
Other people on disability who filed for PUA remain in the dark about their claims status.
Jedd said his agency will prioritize claims from SSDI recipients who were already denied regular unemployment aid. But the agency does not track how many PUA claims it has processed from people on disability.
DWD can’t just rubberstamp those claims, Jedd added. Staffers must ensure applicants meet a range of eligibility requirements. But that human review is not foolproof, applicants say.
Duane Adams was preparing for his 20th season taking tickets at Milwaukee’s Miller Park when the pandemic hit and left him without work. The 64-year-old said the Brewers pay him roughly $5,000 every summer, a useful supplement to his monthly disability checks of about $890. (SSDI recipients in 2020 averaged less than $1,259 in monthly benefits.)
Adams said he knew that his SSDI status made him ineligible for regular unemployment insurance. But he filed anyway “just to see.” He was denied and then applied for PUA.
When Wisconsin confirmed eligibility for disability recipients, he figured his claim would gain easy approval.
But on Aug. 5 he received a denial letter. The reason, in capital letters: “THE CLAIMANT HAS NOT EXHAUSTED ALL UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE…” for the year.
“I was surprised to see that,” Adams said, wondering how he could be penalized for failing to exhaust a benefit he had not been approved for. Adams is appealing, which could take months more.
Evan Johnson Sr., 54, filed for unemployment in March when his employer, a Penske trucking location outside of Wausau, slashed his weekly hours from 16 to four amid the pandemic.
Johnson’s coworkers faced similar cutbacks, he said, and most received unemployment insurance without incident. Johnson, who qualifies for disability due to lingering effects of a broken leg, could not draw regular benefits. But DWD denied him PUA as well, claiming he did not lose work hours due to any “qualifying COVID-19 reasons.”
Johnson said multiple calls to the state’s PUA claimant hotline and correspondence with a state lawmaker’s staff have yielded conflicting advice on how to proceed.
Others aid applicants are equally confused about next steps.
Jessica Barrera, 40, is another disability recipient waiting for PUA approval. WPR and Wisconsin Watch profiled the single mother from Eau Claire in June. Barrera, who lost months of income after losing her airport shuttle service job, has yet to learn her claim’s status.
“I check every day, and nothing changed,” she said.
Jeffery Behunin, 62, said he calls a DWD hotline daily, with no luck getting the latest on his PUA claim. The De Pere resident immediately followed the agency’s steps to apply in April after he was laid off from a job handing out food samples and demonstrating other products at Costco.
Behunin and his wife both have compromised immune systems and face higher risks for serious complications from COVID-19 due to his Type 2 diabetes and her rheumatoid arthritis, so returning to work at the grocery chain doesn’t seem prudent. Both receive SSDI assistance, and they have struggled to keep up on their bills — rent, doctor visits, prescriptions, groceries, car payments — since Behunin lost his job.
“We barely make it,” he said.
In Madison, 51-year-old Eugene Wilson expressed more optimism about his claim. After months of filing weekly claims without progress, Wilson said the state’s recent announcement that disability recipients might qualify for PUA offers “some sort of hope.”
Wilson in February lost a job he found through Opportunities, Inc., which provides jobs for people with disabilities. He is stretching his $1,100 monthly SSDI check after moving into a cheaper apartment with his support dog in April and living frugally — a point of pride.
Relief finally arrives: ‘I got paid!!!!!’
Back in Porterfield, Wickman said her adjudicator called again in mid-August to confirm that DWD was still working on her claim.
“That’s impressive. I actually found an adjudicator that really cares,” Wickman said.
The following week proved confusing as her online portal fluctuated wildly. At times it registered approval for PUA or approval for regular unemployment. At other points it showed approvals for some weeks and disqualifications for others. The adjudicator’s message: Hang in there.
Her saga ended Tuesday morning, after months of waiting, borrowing money and creating a plan to scrounge up funds by selling vegetables from a garden road stand. Wickman woke up to money in her bank account.
“I got paid!!!!! It’s in my account as of this morning!!! All back pay for last 6 months,” she wrote to a reporter. “Going to be a busy morning paying bills!”
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Wisconsinites with disabilities see long wait for jobless aid, even after gaining eligibility
by Bram Sable-Smith, WisconsinWatch.org
August 18, 2020