George Stanley, who has been named CEO of Wisconsin Watch
George Stanley has been named CEO of Wisconsin Watch, effective Oct. 16. (Mike DeSisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
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George Stanley, a nationally respected veteran news leader and longtime Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editor, has been named CEO of Wisconsin Watch, effective Oct. 16.

“We are pleased that a journalist of George’s stature will lead Wisconsin Watch into the future,” said Brant Houston, chair of Wisconsin Watch’s board of directors. “He has the experience and vision to ensure that Wisconsin Watch rebuilds local news throughout the state through new initiatives and collaborations.”

Wisconsin Watch created the CEO position when the organization’s co-founders, Andy and Dee J. Hall, announced their departures in June. The Halls started the nonprofit Wisconsin Watch in 2009 and grew it into a $2 million newsroom with two dozen people.

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Stanley is president of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association and past president of the national News Leaders Association. He was the editor of the Journal Sentinel from 2015 to 2022 and managing editor since 1997. In addition, he built and oversaw the extensive in-depth and investigative reporting efforts that resulted in the Journal Sentinel being a Pulitzer Prize finalist 10 times since 2000 and winning three times.

“The business model that supported independent news gathering and reporting for more than a century has faltered,” Stanley said. “People need to be well informed, at the local, state and national levels, for self-government to work. We need to come together – community groups and civic leaders, for-profit and nonprofit news outlets, foundations and philanthropists – to help rebuild a healthy ecosystem for meeting our news and information needs. We all have to make informed decisions, navigate our daily lives and contribute to the civic life of our communities.”

Wisconsin Watch is in a unique position, as a nonprofit partner, to encourage the rejuvenation of local news gathering across the state in concert with small and large newspapers as well as broadcasters, Stanley said.

“Wisconsin Watch has a strong record of partnering with others and sharing important, impactful reporting – a legacy built by Andy and Dee Hall, two outstanding investigative journalists, and the talented staff they recruited,” Stanley said. “I’m grateful and excited to see what we all can do.”

Wisconsin Watch was launched as the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism to produce labor-intensive investigative reports that had declined as news outlets shrunk. Wisconsin Watch continues to produce award-winning investigative accounts and has expanded in recent years to fill information voids throughout the state. 

Wisconsin Watch is one of the nation’s most successful nonprofit news organizations and has been a leader in the Institute for Nonprofit News, an association of more than 450 independent nonprofit newsrooms. Wisconsin Watch provides its news and information for free to tens of thousands of readers and shares its work with other news outlets across the state and nation. This is made possible by tax-deductible donations from readers, foundations and other institutions that believe in informing citizens to strengthen democracy and self-government.

The newsroom is guided by three values: Protect the vulnerable. Expose wrongdoing. Explore solutions.

“We want to thank our donors – especially the foundations – that have stood by us for years for providing us the ability to have established a vibrant newsroom that is ready to expand dramatically,” Houston said.  

Stanley said the solutions part of the mission has never been more important. Wisconsin Watch will always look for best practices and better ways, he said.

“This is how we solve problems in America,” Stanley said. “People of goodwill see something’s broken and want to address it. Being people of goodwill, they almost always try to fix it through official channels first. If that fails, and they’re ignored or punished, they look for another way to expose the problem so that it will be addressed.” 

Wisconsin Watch has been a pioneer in forming collaborations with other news-gathering organizations in the state. Partners include the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, Wisconsin Public Radio, and the NEW (Northeast Wisconsin) News Lab, complementing and amplifying Wisconsin Watch’s journalism. 

The faculty and students of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication and more recently the Marquette University Diederich College of Communication continue to provide Wisconsin Watch with offices and invaluable opportunities to experiment. To date, Wisconsin Watch has trained more than 80 fellows and interns as investigative journalists and news entrepreneurs. 

Wisconsin Watch has received numerous awards for its journalism over the years. Most recently, they include top honors at the national 2023 Nonprofit News Awards and Local Independent Online News awards.

Interested in getting involved? Wisconsin Watch’s work to provide all Wisconsinites with the local news they need depends on strong local support. Reach out to us at to inquire about making a gift, becoming a sponsor, or working with us. You can also sign up for news and information from Wisconsin Watch here.

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