Wisconsin is one of just five states in the country that allows civil detention for pregnant people accused of drug or alcohol use. These so-called fetal protection laws are one often-overlooked way the government exercises authority over pregnancy. (Tommy Washbush)
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Wisconsin Watch was named a finalist for 10 stories or series Friday in the Milwaukee Press Club’s Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism competition. 

First, second and third place award winners for work produced in 2022 will be announced May 12. 

The nominations bring to more than 140 the number of awards Wisconsin Watch has won in the state’s premier all-media competition. Some of the stories were reported in collaboration with Wisconsin Watch reporting partners, including University of Wisconsin-Madison journalism students, WPR, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service and the Anchorage Daily News.

Here are the finalists: 

Best Multi-Story Coverage of a Single Feature Topic or Event

UW-Madison journalism students in collaboration with Wisconsin Watch produced a multipart series, Beyond Hunger. The students examined the problem of food insecurity in Wisconsin, including barriers to obtaining and keeping federal food assistance, the impact of free school meals, efforts to bring fresh food to Wisconsin’s food deserts and the barriers to reducing food waste.

Best Business Story or Series

Mario Koran, Ilana Bar-av and Jim Malewitz reported and photographed a story examining the impact and future of casino gaming on the Ho-Chunk Nation’s economy. One tribal official commented on the need to diversify the nation’s revenue base: “We’ve got to get gaming out of our blood.” Wisconsin Watch later held a forum in Black River Falls in which Ho-Chunk citizens called for more transparency from their government — and for more support for entrepreneurship.   

Another finalist in this category was a story documenting the toll of Long COVID on Wisconsin’s workforce. At least half a million people in Wisconsin have been hobbled to one extent or another by Long COVID, Wisconsin Watch’s Zhen Wang found, leading to worker shortages, financial hardships and, in some cases, loss of jobs. 

A blackjack table is seen at Ho-Chunk Gaming Black River Falls in Black River Falls, Wis., on Feb. 9, 2022. “When we see anything less profitable, there’s a thought of, ‘Is it worth it?’”, said Ho-Chunk Nation President Marlon WhiteEagle of his tribe’s investment in casinos. (Ilana Bar-av for Wisconsin Watch)

Best Investigative Story or Series

Brenda Wintrode and Hope Karnopp of Wisconsin Watch and Michelle Theriault Boots of the Anchorage Daily News are finalists for ongoing series, Flawed Forensics, which documents how a former University of Wisconsin pediatrician wrongly diagnosed at least a dozen children as abused — and the heart-rending consequences that followed.

Best Public Service Story or Series           

Voting takes place in Tripp Commons on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Nov. 8, 2022. (Amena Saleh/ Wisconsin Watch)

Matt Mencarini, Phoebe Petrovic, Jacob Resneck and Matthew DeFour are finalists for Wisconsin Watch’s Democracy on the Ballot series, which recounted threats to Wisconsin’s elections and democracy including extreme partisan gerrymandering, intimidated poll workers and disenfranchised voters.

Best Explanatory Story or Series

Phoebe Petrovic explored the impact of Wisconsin’s “tangled” abortion laws and the question of whether abortion is ever medically necessary, the varying interpretations of Wisconsin’s 173-year-old abortion ban, whether even children who are victims of sexual assault could have abortions; a comprehensive guide to the abortion-related stances of 2022 candidates and their endorsements by major anti-abortion rights groups. Petrovic also examined Wisconsin’s “punitive” fetal protection law and how a more compassionate model could accomplish the same goals.

Chanel Clark hugs her son, Thane, on Jan. 11, 2022, near her home in Verona, Wis. Clark supports paid family leave, which would have allowed her to spend more time with her son when he was born in 2013. (Angela Major / WPR) Angela Major / WPR

WPR producer Jenny Peek, in collaboration with Wisconsin Watch, is also a finalist in this category. Peek explored how the lack of paid parental leave was fueling the labor shortage and anxiety among working parents. Despite broad public support, the United States is the only country among 41 European Union and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations that fails to guarantee paid parental leave. Just one in four American workers had the benefit in 2021.

Best Consumer Story or Series   

Hope Karnopp of Wisconsin Watch and Matt Martinez of Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service teamed up to explore the baby formula crisis in Wisconsin. Karnopp explained how the single-source system of government-subsidized formula exacerbated the shortage. Martinez explored how families could get the types of formula their infants need. Karnopp followed up with a story about how families could navigate the lingering shortage

Raquel Urbina feeds her daughter Adaliz Angeles on June 24, 2022 at their home in Milwaukee. Urbina is an administrator of the Milwaukee Formula Parents Facebook group, which allows its 3,000-plus members to swap tips about how to obtain baby formula during a national shortage in recent months. Searching for formula feels like a “treasure hunt,” Urbina says. (Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch)

Best Original Podcast

Open and Shut exposes the gaps in the U.S. justice system that allow its most powerful actors to use their nearly unchecked authority to win questionable cases, convict the innocent and pervert the pursuit of justice. The podcast from Wisconsin Watch and WPR was inspired by reporting spanning 20 years on how a pair of Wisconsin prosecutors misused their authority with tragic consequences. Petrovic was the host, reporter and producer with additional reporting, technical production and support from nearly two dozen other Wisconsin Watch and WPR staff members and freelancers.

Best Explanatory Story or Series (online)

Mario Koran’s three-part series on Kiel, Wisconsin showed how culture wars that erupted over racial and anti-trans bullying of students threatened to dismantle democracy in the community. Bomb threats closed the community’s schools, Kiel school board members were ousted and a Black student was forced to transfer to a district 45 minutes away. One Kiel resident told Koran:  “I feel like my town has been hijacked.”

Amy and Dan Wempner pose with their 18-year-old son Armond at their home in Kiel, Wis., on June 2, 2022. After discovering racist Snapchat messages directed at Armond before his junior year of high school, the family pushed the Kiel Area School District to respond. A plan to offer anti-racism training prompted backlash from white parents who accused the school of promoting critical race theory, an academic concept that conservative activists have politically weaponized. (Lianne Milton for Wisconsin Watch)

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