Wisconsin Watch has a nationally acclaimed board of directors, including experts in investigative journalism, nonprofit journalism and nonprofit financial management that determines policies, while day-to-day operations are handled by the staff. Individuals’ affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.
Houston is the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Chair in Investigative and Enterprise Reporting and teaches investigative and advanced reporting in the Department of Journalism at the University of Illinois. He formerly served as president of the Wisconsin Watch’s board of directors. He is a founder and former chair of the board of directors for the Institute for Nonprofit News, a consortium of nonprofit investigative news organizations. Houston formerly worked as executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors, a 4,000-member organization, and as a professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Before joining IRE, he was an award-winning investigative reporter at daily newspapers for 17 years. Houston was part of the newsroom staff of The Kansas City Star that won a Pulitzer Prize for its work on the 1981 walkway collapse at the city’s Hyatt Regency Hotel, and he was one of four investigative team members who won a Headliners Award for coverage of misconduct by Kansas City area building inspectors. At The Hartford Courant, he won awards for investigations into state and federal government programs and was the paper’s database editor. During 14 years at IRE, Houston oversaw the creation of numerous training programs nationally and internationally and also helped it strengthen and increase its membership. Houston is the author of three editions of the textbook, “Computer-Assisted Reporting: A Practical Guide,” and co-author of the fourth edition of “The Investigative Reporter’s Handbook.” Houston co-founded the Global Investigative Journalism Network in 2000. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Bennington College in Vermont.
Kathy Bissen is the Associate Director and Chief Operating Officer at PBS Wisconsin and is responsible for a wide range of services at the statewide public media network including Operations, Engineering and Finance as well as being part of the Wisconsin Public Media Leadership Team.
Previously Bissen has been PBS Wisconsin’s Director of Production responsible for overseeing the creation and dissemination of hundreds of hours of original broadcast and digital content every year; and Executive Producer of News and Public Affairs. She has also been the Producer of multiple national PBS documentaries; Co-Creator and Producer of GET REAL!, a children’s television series that aired on commercial and public broadcasting; co-founder of WisContext, a digital news and information service; and was co-director of LZ Lambeau, the largest community engagement event in PBS history. Her work is widely recognized having earned a National Emmy for a documentary on political advertising, multiple USC Annenberg Walter Cronkite Awards for Excellence in Political Journalism, Parents’ Choice Awards, regional Emmys and Edward R. Murrow Awards. During her career, which started in commercial television, she has reported extensively on science, health, legal, educational and environmental issues.
She is a former member of the Advisory Board for the Center for Journalism Ethics; is on the President’s International Advisory Board for St. Cloud State University, and works with a number of charitable foundations.
Baumann is active in the journalism community. A resident of Madison, he is board chair for the Daily Cardinal Media Corporation, the nonprofit organization that owns The Daily Cardinal, a UW-Madison student news organization. He also serves on the Wisconsin Newspaper Association Foundation Board, and is a founding board member of the Wisconsin Collegiate Media Association. Baumann is the former editor and managing editor of the now-defunct Chicago Suburban Times Newspapers chain, and was assistant editor of the Vilas County News-Review in Eagle River, Wis. As a health care marketer and new product developer, he has several “firsts” to his credit. At Children’s Memorial Hospital (now Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago), the pediatric teaching hospital of Northwestern University Medical School, he created that organization’s first marketing department, and led development of its first logo, advertising campaigns, and sponsorship program. While at Voluntary Hospitals of America (now Vizient Inc.), Baumann led development of health promotion and disease prevention programs that reached millions of people. At the American Hospital Association, Baumann developed that organization’s first sponsorship program. In 2007 Baumann founded Green Line Strategies LLC, from which he retired in 2016. The firm provided sponsorship, marketing and strategic planning services to trade associations and other not-for-profit organizations. Baumann received a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1975 from the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication, which presented him with a Distinguished Service Award in 2007. He now serves on the UW-Madison College of Letters and Science Board of Visitors.
William “Bill” Merrick is a retired certified public accountant in Appleton. He currently serves on the board of the Community Real Estate and Personal Property Foundation, which is part of the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region. The foundation reviews and accepts gifts of various types of property and, typically, sells that property to benefit the donor’s charitable preferences. Merrick owned a tax and accounting practice for more than 20 years before merging it with SVA Certified Public Accountants.
Mukhtar Ibrahim is the founding publisher and CEO of Sahan Journal, a nonprofit online news organization dedicated to covering Minnesota immigrants and communities of color.
He previously worked as a staff writer for the Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio News. He has also written for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Al Jazeera English, BuzzFeed News and Wisconsin Watch, where he was an investigative reporting fellow in 2017
Ibrahim is among the first trained journalists of Somali background in Minnesota and in the country. He earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota and a graduate degree in investigative and data journalism from Columbia University.
He is the recipient of the prestigious leadership fellowship from the St. Paul-based Bush Foundation (2016), a “Great Immigrant” award from the Carnegie Corporation of New York (2019), Islamic Resource Group’s “Building Bridges Award in Media” (2019), Twin Cities Business Magazine’s 100 People to Know (2020), recognized as the Institute for Nonprofit News ‘Emerging Leader’ (2021). He is also the recipient of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism’s First Decade Award, given to an alum in recognition of contributions to the journalism profession during the first 10 years after graduation from the school.
Born in Somalia, Ibrahim spent his childhood in Ethiopia and Kenya and has lived his adult life in Minnesota. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and three daughters.
Originally from Minneapolis, Minn., Louisa Lincoln is a PhD student at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research examines sustainable funding models for journalism, with a focus on nonprofit news and public media organizations in the United States. Lincoln got involved in the nonprofit news industry as a public engagement and marketing intern at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism in 2016. She went on to work in the sponsorship department at NPR in Washington, D.C., and in the development department at PRX (formerly Public Radio International) before starting her doctoral studies. More recently, Lincoln was a 2022 COMPASS Fellow at the American Journalism Project and was a 2021-2022 Lipman Family Prize Fellow. She is affiliated with the Media, Inequality & Change (MIC) Center and serves on the Steering Committee for the Center for Media at Risk. Lincoln graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in Journalism and Political Science, and a certificate in Gender and Women’s Studies. In 2017, she was awarded the James L. Baughman Senior Achievement Award from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Lincoln also holds a Master of Arts in communication from the University of Pennsylvania.
Regina Millner was raised in a military family and experienced nine relocations in her childhood. She completed her undergraduate education at the University of Nebraska and worked on a masters degree in Outdoor Education at Creighton University. In 1976, Millner moved with her husband and three sons to Madison, Wisconsin.
Over the past 46 years, her life and working experiences have gone through three distinct phases.
The first was as a stay-at-home wife and mother with a significant number of community volunteer activities. The second was as a non-traditional student at UW-Madison earning a JD degree from the Law School and a Master’s degree in Real Estate Finance and Land Planning from the UW-Madison School of Business. The third phase was in business: First as an associate for five years at Michael Best and Friedrich law firm; then as the founding partner in a commercial appraisal company; and finally as the principal in a boutique consulting firm working on real estate projects for government and private entities. She also was an expert witness for litigation real estate cases.
Since her retirement, Millner has served on the boards of a variety of private business, university, government, and nonprofit entities. A sampling includes: Madison Gas & Electric Company; Downtown Madison Inc; Meriter Hospital and Meriter Health Services; Rotary Club of Madison; Wisconsin Alumni Association; Wisconsin Children’s Museum; Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra; and UW System Board of Regents.
Currently Millner serves on the CG Schmidt Construction Company Madison Advisory Board; UW Madison Chazen Council; Friends of PBS Wisconsin Board; WCIJ Board; and WCO Advisory board. In her retirement she also enjoys travel, politics, walking, and entertaining family and friends.
Michael Louis Vinson
IMMEDIATE PAST CHAIR
Michael Louis Vinson is an LGBTQ, media and arts leader who lives in Green Bay. He is employed as Sales Director at Schreiber Foods and recently served as Chairman Emeritus of Fair Wisconsin, Inc., the state’s leading advocacy organization for the LGBTQ community, where he was on the board for six years and served in multiple leadership capacities. He also serves on the LGBT Caucus Advisory Board for the Democratic National Committee. Vinson sits on the board of Arts Midwest, which serves a nine-state region in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. Previously, he held an arts leadership fellowship at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, Ill. A former journalist, Vinson holds a Master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University, where he was a McCormick Scholar, and earned his bachelor’s degree in Government at Harvard University, where he was a Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholar.