Wisconsin Watch is pleased to announce it has hired Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Matt Mencarini to cover the statehouse, where he will focus on threats to Wisconsin’s democracy.
Mencarini, 35, will help launch Wisconsin Watch’s first statehouse bureau to cover the governor’s office, Legislature, state agencies and Wisconsin Supreme Court and the impacts of bills, laws and policies on residents. Mencarini most recently was a member of the investigative team at the Louisville Courier Journal, where he shared in one Pulitzer Prize in 2020 and was on the reporting team that was a finalist for journalism’s highest honor in 2021.
The 2020 Pulitzer Prize in breaking news awarded to Mencarini and his Courier Journal colleagues recognized the newspaper’s coverage of hundreds of last-minute pardons and commutations issued by outgoing Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin.
The series uncovered numerous questionable pardons, including one offender convicted of raping a child, another who hired a hit man to kill his business partner and a third who killed his parents. Mencarini and another reporter revealed that just 5% of the 336 commutations went to people of color, although they comprised 20% of the people who were eligible.
Before his tenure in Louisville, Mencarini reported for the State Journal in Lansing, Michigan, where he was the lead reporter on the newspaper’s investigation into Larry Nassar, the former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics team physician who sexually abused hundreds of women and girls. Mencarini’s reporting also exposed the university’s mishandling of the Nassar and other sexual assault cases.
Prior to that, Mencarini was a reporter for newspapers in Sterling, Illinois, and Ormond Beach, Florida. He earned his bachelor’s degree in speech communication at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
Mencarini is the first member of what this year will become a three-person Wisconsin Watch statehouse bureau, including a Report for America corps member and an editor/reporter who will direct the coverage.
The bureau will focus on actions, policies and laws that threaten Wisconsin’s democracy, including voter suppression, disinformation and government secrecy.
It will also provide news and important information to communities within Wisconsin that are not well-served by coverage of state government, including Black, Indigenous and people of color and residents of rural areas whose local news outlets lack the capacity to cover state government.
“We are thrilled to welcome Matt to our staff,” Managing Editor Dee J. Hall said. “He is a wizard at filing public records requests and developing a deep bench of sources. These skills will be put to use to help the public understand threats to our democracy and ways to combat those threats.”
She noted that true to form, Mencarini filed two public records requests in his first week on the job.
“I’m excited to join the Wisconsin Watch team and start reporting on important issues that impact people’s lives,” Mencarini said.
About Wisconsin Watch: The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism increases the quality, quantity and understanding of investigative reporting in Wisconsin, while training current and future generations of investigative journalists. Our work fosters an informed citizenry and strengthens democracy. Wisconsin Watch, the Center’s news outlet, distributes its content to newspapers, radio and TV stations and news websites in Wisconsin and nationwide. In 2021, Wisconsin Watch produced 74 major stories that were picked up by more than 360 news outlets, reaching an estimated audience of more than 60 million.
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