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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 PageReading Time: 9 minutes
The nonpartisan, nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism increases 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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Ethics PolicyReading Time: 9 minutes
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.
Diversity StatementReading Time: 9 minutes
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 ReportReading Time: 9 minutes
Demographic breakdown by gender and race
Jan. 13, 2021
Corrections PolicyReading Time: 9 minutes
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, FundingReading Time: 9 minutes
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|
Reading Time: 9 minutes2009-01-19
MastheadReading Time: 9 minutes
We are proud of our team of senior staff, staff, fellows, contributors, interns and consultants, who work together to make Wisconsin Watch strong. Click on the team member’s name to learn more about them.
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, sustaining high-quality journalism, and strengthening our society. We celebrate the successes of our former staff, fellows and interns, who are Wisconsin Watch’s legacy.
Also, learn more about our Board of Directors.
Andy Hall is co-founder and executive director of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Since 2009, he has overseen the Center’s journalistic and financial operations. Previously he spent 26 years at the Wisconsin State Journal and The Arizona Republic and has won dozens of awards, including a Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism and a national award from the Education Writers Association. Hall is a former Investigative Reporters and Editors board member, and current IRE member.
Dee J. Hall, a co-founder of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, joined as managing editor in June 2015. She worked at the Wisconsin State Journal for 24 years as an editor and reporter focusing on projects and investigations. Previously she was a reporter for eight years at The Arizona Republic, covering city government, schools and the environment. Hall has won more than three dozen local, state and national awards for her work, and is a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors.
Jay Burseth joined the Center in April 2020. His role includes setting the organization’s vision for fundraising growth and building and executing a development plan. Prior to joining the Center, Burseth led fundraising for the Milwaukee County Parks and was the Development Director for WMSE 91.7 in Milwaukee. Burseth holds a Master’s in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from UW-Milwaukee, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and History, also from UWM.
digital and multimedia director
Coburn Dukehart joined the Center in 2015. Her role includes directing the Center’s visual and digital strategy, creating visual content, and managing digital assets. Dukehart previously was a senior photo editor at National Geographic, picture and multimedia editor at NPR, and a photo editor at USATODAY.com and washingtonpost.com. She has received numerous awards from the National Press Photographers Association, Pictures of the Year International and the White House News Photographers Association.
Lauren Fuhrmann joined the Center in 2011 after receiving her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Fuhrmann leads revenue development efforts as well as public engagement initiatives, and assists with development of donors and writing of grant reports. Fuhrmann is vice president 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.
Jim Malewitz joined the Center in 2019. His role includes editing, managing fellows and interns, and investigative reporting. He has worked for Bridge Magazine in his home state of Michigan, was an investigative reporter for the Texas Tribune and Stateline. Malewitz majored in political science at Grinnell College in Iowa and holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa. He was a founding member of the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, where he serves on the board of directors.
Emily Neinfeldt joined the Center in 2017. Her role includes maintaining the digital infrastructure and operations developed under the Facebook Local News Membership Accelerator and leading audience-growth efforts including marketing initiatives. Before working at the Center, she was a news intern at Wispolitics.com and managing editor at The Badger Herald. Neinfeldt is secretary of the Madison Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and holds degree in journalism and political science from UW-Madison.
project manager, News414
Bevin Christie joined News414, a collaboration between Wisconsin Watch, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service and Outlier Media, in 2020. Christie is a social entrepreneur and community organizer, with a background in education reform and workforce development. She has partnered with public/private schools, community based organizations, and the Milwaukee community to build upon a belief that healing, equity, and inclusion is key to Milwaukee being a better place to thrive not just survive.
Will Cioci joined Wisconsin Watch in 2020. 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 co-editor-in-chief and photographer for the Daily Cardinal student newspaper at UW-Madison.
graphic designer & animator
Claire DeRosa joined the Center in 2019. As graphic designer, she is responsible for creating project series graphics, logos, ads, page layouts and social media content for the Center. She also serves as lead designer for the collaborative News 414 project. DeRosa graduated from UW-Madison with a degree in journalism and political science in 2020 and studied 3D animation at the School of Motion during quarantine learning how to model, light, color and animate in Cinema 4D. She enjoys deejaying and producing electronic music in her free time.
Mario Koran joined the Center in July 2021. He was a 2021 Knight Wallace fellow at the University of Michigan. Previously, he was a west coast correspondent for the Guardian US and covered education for Voice of San Diego, where he was named 2016 reporter of the year by the San Diego Society of Professional Journalists. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Appeal, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and he was a Wisconsin Watch intern in 2013. He holds a BA in Spanish literature and MA in journalism from UW-Madison.
criminal justice reporting project manager
Phoebe Petrovic joined the Center in 2019 as a Report for America corps member. She is leading creation of an investigative podcast examining police and prosecutorial misconduct. She formerly worked at WPR through the Lee Ester News Fellowship and was an editorial 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. Petrovic earned a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Yale University, where she founded and led various audio projects.
Vanessa Swales joined the Center in 2020. Swales is a multilingual British-American-Iranian reporter who has worked in London, New York, San Francisco and Málaga, Spain. She previously was a reporting fellow at the New York Times, and worked for NBC Investigations, Reveal, Diario SUR and SUR in English. 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.
Reynolds Journalism InstituTe Innovation Student Fellow
Noelle Alviz-Gransee joined Wisconsin Watch in May 2021. She is a junior at the University of Missouri, pursuing a degree in journalism and political science. Noelle has previously worked at Vice Reports as a social media correspondent and Startland News as a reporting intern. She is interested in the spread of misinformation, racial disparities, politics, and highlighting communities often forgotten or misrepresented by mainstream media.
EDMUND S. MUSKIE REPORTING FELLOW
Diana Butsko joined the Center in June 2021 as an Edmund S. Muskie reporting fellow. Currently, she is studying political science at Southern Illinois University through the Fulbright scholarship. Diana has almost five years of reporting experience in Ukrainian and Russian media. She speaks Ukrainian and Russian. She is based in Madison.
Ann Devroy reporting Fellow
Madeline Fuerstenberg joined Wisconsin Watch in June 2021, after graduating from UW-Eau Claire with a bachelors in journalism. She has interned with The Cambridge News & Deerfield Independent, was editor-in-chief of UW-Eau Claire’s newspaper, The Spectator, wrote for The Chippewa Valley Post and interned with WQOW News 18. Her work includes international coverage of Holocaust research in Lithuania. She has two Wisconsin Newspaper Association awards, and is the recipient of the 2020 Ann Devroy Fellowship. She will intern with the Washington Post in the fall.
WPR Mike Simonson Memorial Investigative Reporting Fellow
Bram Sable-Smith joined the Center in 2019. Previously he spent five years reporting on health care at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and as a founding reporter of Side Effects Public Media. He also taught radio journalism at the University of Missouri. Sable-Smith has contributed stories to NPR, American Public Media’s Marketplace and Kaiser Health News. His reporting has received two national Edward R. Murrow awards, and two national Sigma Delta Chi awards. He is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis.
Roy W. Howard Fellow
Brenda Wintrode joined the Center in July 2021. She earned her BA in business administration at Bryant University in Rhode Island. After a career switch, she was named the Philip Merrill College of Journalism’s outstanding master’s student when she graduated in 2020. As a reporter for the Howard Center, she was the lead writer on an award-winning investigation of the federal CARES Act’s failure to prevent evictions during the pandemic. She also covered Maryland state government for Capital News Service and was a data journalist for Maryland Matters.
Contributing reporter, New News Lab
Jack Kelly reports on politics, health care, and agriculture in Wisconsin and the Midwest. Born and raised in the Milwaukee-area, he is a proud alumnus of both UW-Madison and Northwestern University. Jack’s reporting has been published by the Wisconsin State Journal, The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., United Press International and dozens of other outlets.
Audio Stories Narrator
Wesley Lethem is an audiovisual and acoustic engineer with a diverse background in narration, audio design & production, podcasting, theater, live sound, noise control, recording, AV design, and architectural acoustics. He is the owner and founder of Sound Service, a Chicago based design and engineering company and currently works for Shure Incorporated as a DSP Test Engineer.
public engagement and marketing intern
Lauryn Azu joined Wisconsin Watch in January 2021. She is pursuing degrees in journalism and Latin American studies and a certificate in digital studies from UW-Madison. She is interning at the Chicago Tribune for the summer of 2021. She is also senior copy editor of UW-Madison’s publication The Black Voice. She was an Election Integrity Fellow with the Center for Journalism Ethics, and interned at WDET-FM Detroit, the Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy Institute at the University of Notre Dame, and the Detroit Free Press.
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.
Hannah Davis joined Wisconsin Watch in June 2021. She is currently pursuing a Political Science/ International Relations degree from Carleton College, where she is a rising junior. Davis is the Managing Editor of Carleton’s independent student newspaper, the Carletonian, and has previously worked as the Carletonion’s Features and Arts Editor and as a Staff Writer.
Knight Nonprofit News Intern
Rachel Henderson joined Wisconsin Watch in June 2021. She is a junior at the University of Missouri majoring in journalism and minoring in sociology. Rachel is a member of Mizzou’s chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists and currently serves as the Assistant General Manager of Mizzou’s student-run news station, MUTV 23News. She has over six years of broadcast experience and is now beginning to expand her skillset into the realm of strategic communications and audience engagement.
public engagement and marketing intern
Abigail Steinberg joined the Center in January 2021. Steinberg began communications work as the opinion editor for The Badger Herald, 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 also an avid volunteer for the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Foundation.
Zhen Wang joined Wisconsin Watch as a reporting intern in May 2021. At UW-Madison, she is pursuing a master’s degree in journalism, honing her investigative journalism skills, and preparing herself for a career in health care journalism. She previously worked for the Guardian Beijing bureau and China Daily. Before joining the journalism industry, she worked in various sectors and obtained a master’s degree in international relations in New Zealand. She speaks Chinese and is a member of Asian American Journalists Association.
Isaac Wasserman joined Wisconsin Watch in 2021 as a photo intern. He is pursuing degrees in journalism and environmental studies at the University of Oregon but is based in Madison, Wisconsin for the summer. He is a photojournalist at the Daily Emerald, the student paper at UO, a sports photographer for GoDucks and a photographer for Flux Magazine, the SOJC’s premiere feature magazine. Journalism that covers environmental justice issues ignited his passion for photojournalism and continues to inspire him.
Christopher Glueck joined the Center in 2015, after retiring as a senior director of development at the University of Wisconsin Foundation. Prior to that, Glueck spent 30 years in tech 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 in Nashua, New Hampshire.
Gail Kohl joined the Center in 2010. She has 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.
senior strategic adviser
Barbara Johnson joined the Center in 2016. As a volunteer, she helps strengthen the Center’s operations, with a special focus on the development of the Center’s business model. Johnson was CEO and COO of four media companies in New York and Madison before her retirement in 2015. She was also 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.
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 PrioritiesReading Time: 9 minutes
The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism is a nonprofit and nonpartisan center based in Madison, Wis.
We publish our news stories on our website WisconsinWatch.org and distribute them statewide through our own distribution system and nationally through a partnership with the Associated Press.
To increase the quality, quantity and understanding of investigative journalism to foster an informed citizenry and strengthen democracy.
The Center values truth and pursues it through accurate, fair, independent, rigorous and nonpartisan reporting. We also value transparency, collaboration, innovation and a spirit of public service. These values guide the Center’s training of journalists and its investigations, which seek to protect the interests of people in vulnerable circumstances, expose wrongdoing and deficiencies in systems, and explore solutions to problems.
Our guiding principles:
Protect the vulnerable. Expose wrongdoing. Explore solutions.
How we work
To fulfill its mission, the Center combines innovative technology with time-tested journalistic techniques to increase the transparency of official actions, intensify the search for solutions to governmental and societal problems, strengthen democracy and raise the quality of investigative journalism.
The Center works by:
- Producing investigative reports independently and in partnership with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, and other for-profit and nonprofit news organizations including members of the Institute for Nonprofit News.
- Educating and training high school and college students and working journalists in investigative reporting techniques, including through guest lecturing and teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
- Offering paid reporting and public engagement and marketing internships to UW-Madison students, who work in a professional capacity for the Center.
- Partnering with Wisconsin Public Radio on their Mike Simonson Memorial Investigative Reporting Fellowship to train an early career radio reporter in investigative reporting techniques.
- Hosting fellows from other journalism programs, including the Edmund S. Muskie Graduate Fellowship Program and The Tamer Center for Social Enterprise at Columbia University.
- Helping commercial news outlets, including ethnic media, pursue their own investigations or produce joint projects.
- Publishing and distributing investigative reports and offering a forum for sharing investigative findings, story tips and moderated discussions.
The Center is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization operated by a professional staff under the guidance of a nationally noted board of directors. The Center collaborates with, but is independent of, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism & Mass Communication, where it is housed; Wisconsin Public Radio; and Wisconsin Public Television — and with mainstream and ethnic news media across the nation. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the University of Wisconsin-Madison or any of its affiliates.
The Center is a founding member of the Institute for Nonprofit News, formerly the Investigative News Network, the first network of nonprofit journalism organizations that conduct investigative reporting in the public interest.
The Center is a national leader in promoting journalistic ethics and financial transparency standards.
Our focus is on government integrity and quality of life issues. Since its launch in January 2009, the award-winning Center has distributed more than 350 major reports, exploring such issues as: the growing reliance on immigrants by the state’s dairy industry — published in both Spanish and English; the rising numbers of low-income students in Wisconsin schools; the role of DNA testing in proving the innocence of a dozen Wisconsin prisoners; Wisconsin’s troubling increases in suicides; the underreporting of sexual assaults on Wisconsin campuses; the flaws in Wisconsin’s GPS monitoring program; dwindling protections and incentives for whistleblowers; and the state of Wisconsin’s democracy.
Many of the Center’s reports are produced in collaboration with other news organizations in Wisconsin and nationwide. The reports have been cited, published or broadcast by more more than 800 news organizations including Wisconsin Public Radio, The New York Times, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, HuffPost, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin State Journal, The Capital Times, Green Bay Press-Gazette, Oshkosh Northwestern, La Crosse Tribune, Eau Claire Leader Telegram, The Country Today, WBAY-ABC in Green Bay, Hudson Star-Observer, Janesville Gazette, La Comunidad and WisPolitics.com. The Center’s reports have reached an estimated audience of more than 73 million.
Fact-checking StandardsReading Time: 9 minutes
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 PolicyReading Time: 9 minutes
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
Reading Time: 9 minutespost
This article is made possible through Votebeat, a nonpartisan reporting project covering local election integrity and voting access.
With nearly 2 million Wisconsin ballots already cast, hundreds of thousands of voters ventured from their homes Tuesday in the midst of a raging pandemic to finalize the state’s judgment on the next president — and help cement the nation’s future for the next four years.
In 2016, voters from three states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — handed Republican Donald Trump a narrow victory over Hillary Clinton. This time, former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden appeared better positioned to compete for Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes. And the weather was unseasonably mild, with high temperatures around the state from the mid-50s to the mid-60s and no rain in sight.
Related content: Wisconsin votes: Portraits from the polls
Wisconsin Watch reporter Nora Eckert talks about how the election played on the Axios Re:Cap podcast on Nov. 4.
But the pandemic continued to cast a shadow over Tuesday’s voting as state health officials reported a record 5,771 new COVID-19 cases and another 52 deaths, bringing the statewide death toll to 2,102. And as voters gathered at the polls, Wisconsinites elsewhere lined up to be tested for the disease. Wait times for free testing the Alliant Energy Center in Madison eclipsed three hours early Tuesday afternoon.
To underscore Wisconsin’s national importance, Trump on Monday night made his penultimate campaign stop here, telling supporters at the Kenosha Regional Airport that “you’re the ones that put us over the top.” The city was the site of destructive protests sparked by the police shooting of Jacob Blake in August, culminating in the deaths of two protesters — shot by a teenage vigilante from Illinois whom some conservatives portray as a hero.
Unlike in April, most municipalities opened a full set of polling places and installed an estimated 500 drop boxes to facilitate return of absentee ballots as many voters sought to avoid the U.S. Postal Service, which has suffered from delayed deliveries and lost ballots in 2020.
Two federal judges ordered the U.S. Postal Service to scour facilities in Wisconsin and several other states to ensure there were no remaining absentee ballots to be delivered to clerks’ offices. Attorneys for the Postal Service reported Tuesday afternoon that inspectors general were on the ground in Green Bay, Madison and Milwaukee to ensure compliance and that sweeps of the facilities had turned up no errant ballots.
“We had a safe voting experience and very minimal issues, and it was a very good day here in the city of Milwaukee for voting,” said Claire Woodall-Vogg, executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission.
About 169,000 absentee ballots were cast in Milwaukee, roughly two-thirds of which were processed as of 8 p.m. Woodall-Vogg expected counting to last until about 4 a.m.
Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe said there were no reports of serious poll worker shortages or specific threats to voting sites. Wolfe added that there were shortages of ballots in some small jurisdictions but the respective counties dealt with the shortages.
Nationwide, Election Day overall went smoothly, said Tammy Patrick of the nonpartisan Democracy Fund. Patrick credited the “dedication and fortitude of election officials,” who provided flexible options including absentee voting.
“While some cast doubt on the integrity of our electoral process, others stood up and said ‘not on my watch,’ ” she said.
Knocking on doors, rounding up voters
Ahead of this election, activists including Melody McCurtis and Danell Cross called their Metcalfe Park neighbors and knocked on their doors — one of several efforts to mobilize people of color in Milwaukee who disproportionately sat out the election four years ago.
As polling sites opened Tuesday, Democratic state Rep. David Bowen of Milwaukee met with members of Black Leaders Organizing for Communities, which deployed 73 people to call voters and monitor for intimidation at the city’s polling places. Said Bowen: “I’ve seen and felt this energy that I haven’t seen in my lifetime.”
But there was apprehension as well. BLOC Executive Director Angela Lang told Wisconsin Watch that one of the group’s online accounts was hacked early Tuesday morning, the latest in a series of “scary” attacks on Black leaders and groups this election season.
At the Hayes Bilingual Elementary School on Milwaukee’s south side, chief inspector Joe Dannecker said his polling site was combined with another nearby after two workers at the other site came down with COVID-19. Dannecker joked that he, his wife Mary and their two adult children decided to spend time together on the couple’s 30th anniversary — by working at the polls.
Wisconsin voters more than doubled the 830,763 absentee ballots cast in the 2016 general election. As hospitals filled up with people infected with COVID-19, about 1.3 million voters in Wisconsin mailed in their ballots and another 650,000 avoided crowds by casting early in-person absentee votes.
The labor-intensive work of processing absentee ballots means some of 1,850 clerks who run Wisconsin’s elections will still be counting them at least into Wednesday. Wisconsin is among the few states that ban poll workers from processing absentee ballots until Election Day, while clerks elsewhere get a head start.
The Madison City Clerk’s Office said it had processed 121,207 absentee ballots cast in Wisconsin’s second largest city —with a reported 82% voter turnout.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett told reporters that absentee balloting was three times the volume of 2016.
“We could not have a better day to get out and vote,” Barrett said, adding, “Every vote is going to be significant.”
First-time voter ‘emotional’
That was especially true for Rutilia Ornelas of West Allis. Ornelas, 65, became a U.S. citizen on Monday. The next day, she voted for the first time at Lane Intermediate School, which she described through an interpreter as a “very emotional” moment. Said her daughter, Paola Espinoza: “I’m very proud of her … she accomplished what she’s wanted to since a long time.”
At Milwaukee’s central vote counting facility, machines buzzed and clicked loudly as 400 workers opened absentee ballots and fed them into the counters. Boxes of ballots were stacked up within pods designed to keep workers socially distant. Election observers milled about the hall, some taking notes. Workers waved yellow fans to alert election officials to questions about how to handle ballots.
Poll workers in the Fox River Valley faced an added burden: remaking as many as 13,500 completed absentee ballots by hand because of a tiny printing flaw that prevents tabulating machines from reading them.
It’s a scratch no wider than a fingernail, but created headaches for clerks in 22 municipalities in Outagamie and Calumet counties. The small tick in the black boxes at the bottom of these ballots causes machines to spit them back out with an “error” message.
Election workers discovered the problem in time to correct early in-person and Election Day ballots — but only after thousands of absentee ballots were mailed to voters.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission said it did not have the authority to advise municipalities on how to handle the misprint — or to extend the deadline for counting ballots. A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court also declined to give guidance or a reprieve.
At Appleton’s Mount Olive Evangelical Lutheran School polling site, chief inspector Sue Siebers waited to start processing absentee ballots until about four hours into the day. Before then, lines were out the door, with wait times creeping up to an hour and a half, she said.
“I didn’t feel right doing (the absentee ballots) until the line was in the door,” she said, adding that her polling place had around 100 ballots with the error.
But in Grand Chute, the laborious process of copying votes from about 2,000 ballots over to new ballots was nearly completed by late afternoon. Unlike Appleton, the town centralized its ballot counting. Poll worker Maureen Armstrong — dressed as Wonder Woman to lighten the mood — said it took about 3 minutes per ballot, with two people working on each one.
“It breaks my heart a little bit” to think of the time spent fixing ballots, Armstrong said. But she was impressed by the level of accountability built into each step of the process. “I got a lot of confidence from today.”
Calling in the National Guard — and nuns
To meet a potential shortage of poll workers during the pandemic, Evers for the third time this year mobilized the Wisconsin National Guard. Between 200 and 300 guard members — dressed in civilian clothing — were on call to fill election jobs including sanitizing polling places and encouraging social distancing to avoid spreading the coronavirus. Guard members also helped remake ballots in Outagamie and Calumet counties.
The state’s polarized politics has played a role throughout 2020, making Wisconsin one of the nation’s COVID-19 hotspots — and paralyzing the Wisconsin Elections Commission at key moments. A deluge of disinformation has also washed over Wisconsin residents, aiming to sway their choice for president.
Speaking at a mid-Tuesday press briefing, Green Bay Police Chief Andrew Smith warned of social media posts falsely claiming the city had surreptitiously removed voting machines from polling places — claims that could lead voters to to mistakenly believe they were closed.
Green Bay planned weeks ago to move its central ballot counting location, but social media posts instead claimed the city was suddenly pulling voting machines from polling places. “That’s baloney,” Smith said in a press conference recorded by WBAY-TV. “We were planning on (moving the central count) a long time ago. That was announced publicly on the website.”
Voters at several polling sites complained that workers were not wearing masks, as the Wisconsin Elections Commission had advised. Wolfe said she had heard a handful of complaints, but the problem was not “widespread.”
In addition to helping elect the president, voters decided races for 99 Assembly districts, 16 state Senate districts, district attorneys for Wisconsin’s 72 counties and the state’s eight U.S. House members.
Meanwhile, some residents offered relief at the polls to cut the tension. including participants in the national nonpartisan Joy to the Polls movement, which brought music to Milwaukee.
And members of the spiritual group Nuns and Nones doled out candy and blessings to voters at polling places in Racine, Kenosha and Milwaukee.
“It’s not like polling places have an inherently positive connotation,” Paige Ingram said at a stop in Milwaukee. But with the nuns around? “People feel like there’s a little extra blessing in this place.”
Wisconsin Watch’s Nora Eckert, Anya van Wagtendonk, Vanessa Swales, Sharon McGowan and Dee J. Hall contributed to this report. The nonprofit Wisconsin Watch (wisconsinwatch.org) collaborates with WPR, PBS Wisconsin, other news media and the University of Wisconsin-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.
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Braving a pandemic, Wisconsinites vote for president — and the future of the nation
by Wisconsin Watch, WisconsinWatch.org
November 3, 2020