This has been a year of sadness, sickness and far too much death. It’s also been a year of racial reckoning, rioting and rage. We’ve seen a tumultuous presidential election and its contentious aftermath. We have seen severe unemployment and financial difficulties for residents of our state. And we’ve fundamentally changed the way we interact with our world, or have simply stayed home, isolating from a brutal virus.
Through it all, Wisconsin Watch editors, reporters and photojournalists have worked harder than ever to bring you stories and photo essays from across the state that help protect the vulnerable, expose wrongdoing and explore solutions. Converting our homes into makeshift offices, our staff have rarely seen each other in person since March. Yet we continue to work together daily to chronicle this extraordinary year and report on solutions that could help improve the lives of Wisconsinites.
During April’s primary election, Wisconsin Watch associate director Lauren Fuhrmann and I visited Milwaukee to cover how voters would respond to the decision to narrow polling sites from 180 to five. The virus was new to us, and people were scared to leave their homes. But still, people came en masse to exercise their right to vote — most wearing homemade masks or coverings scooped up from hardware stores or elsewhere. People stood six feet apart, some in the pouring rain, to wait for hours to vote. We photographed them, and listened to their stories.
Just as pandemic fatigue started taking hold in May, people rallied at the Capitol to protest Gov. Tony Evers’ extension of his Safer at Home order. While rally goers shared stories of hardships from the statewide shutdown, they also displayed signs of the country’s larger political and culture war. Once again, our photographers and reporters donned masks and headed into the crowds to capture personal stories that we laced together with rich political and public health context.
In April, we collaborated with WPR to launch Outbreak Wisconsin, where we are following Wisconsin residents navigating life during the pandemic. We introduced readers to Madison bartender Amy Moreland and ER nurse Mariah Clark. Adija Greer Smith and dairy farmer Brian Voegeli helped us understand pandemic life as a small business owner. The perspective of Beverly Blietz showed us life as a senior, and we followed the challenges and resilience of single mom Jessica Barerra after she lost a job and found new work. All the while, we were there to share their stories.
In May, our photographer Will Cicoi chronicled the sometimes violent unrest in Madison after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd sparked nationwide protests against police brutality. He documented interactions between protesters and the police amid tear gas and damaged property. When Jacob Blake was shot in August, Cioci documented the response in Madison and Kenosha. He also photographed moments of unity, love and joy in Madison and Milwaukee: inspiring murals, Juneteenth celebrations and a pride march for Black lives.
And as the nation’s eyes fixated on purple Wisconsin on Nov. 3, our photographers and reporters traveled the state to bring you live coverage of voting, portraits from the polls and a nuanced analysis of the day from our Votebeat team. That weekend, when major media called the election for President-elect Joe Biden, Cioci and I sped to the Capitol to document the opposite reactions of Trump and Biden supporters — a mix of angry protests and dances of triumph.
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This has been a year of struggle, but it’s also been a year of strength. Will you show your support to help us tell these critically important stories?
The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (wisconsinwatch.org) collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, PBS Wisconsin, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.