Since 2011, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism has received accolades that include a first-place national award from the Society of Professional Journalists, a national award for collaborations with college students from The Associated Press Media Editors, two Golden Gavel Awards from the State Bar of Wisconsin, acceptance of its first documentary, Los Lecheros (Dairy Farmers) to screenings at a film festivals nationwide, a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award for Los Lecheros, and 100 awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

The Center also has received three finalist citations in the student category from the Investigative Reporters and Editors Awards, and recognition from the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters and Dane County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Browse the list below for a full accounting of honors earned by the Center, and links to the award-winning work.

2021

Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism — collaborator

TMJ4 News, in collaboration with Wisconsin Watch, was honored with a 2021 Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism for the months-long investigation “Unemployment System Collapse.”

The TMJ4 I-Team collaborated with Wisconsin Watch’s Bram Sable-Smith to obtain open records, documents, and data used in the series.

The series told the stories of Wisconsinites struggling with the state’s dangerously outdated unemployment system and held the government’s feet to the fire, helping citizens collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in unemployment back pay.

The jury commended the station’s “great storytelling and selfless tenacity” as “a great example of journalism as a public service.”

Regional Edward R. Murrow Award

Wisconsin Watch and WPR’s reporter Bram Sable-Smith was honored for Best Investigative Reporting in the large market radio category in Region Four  — which covers Wisconsin, North and South Dakota and Minnesota — for Costly Care, an audio series that exposed the practice of hospitals suing patients for past-due bills during the pandemic. 

WPR’s COVID-19 obituary series also won for Best News Series. Among the installments was Sable-Smith’s audio story, Duane Bark — beloved educator and football coach who painted daughter’s nails, dies of COVID-19 at 61, which was also published by Wisconsin Watch, as were all the obituaries in the series. 

Association of Health Care Journalists — First place in the Health Policy (small) division

Lives on Hold; Bram Sable-Smith, Wisconsin Watch and Wisconsin Public Radio

Milwaukee Press Club — 12 awards: three gold, six silver and three bronze

Wisconsin Watch’s coverage of racial justice, unemployment and pandemic win top Milwaukee Press Club honors

Society of Professional Journalists’ Region 6 Mark of Excellence awards — finalist

Student reporter Kayla Huynh was a finalist in the SPJ Region 6 contest for her story
Wisconsin erected barriers to college voters. The pandemic added more.

Webby Awards nomination

Metcalfe Park: Black Vote Rising — produced by 371 Productions in partnership with Wisconsin Watch —nominated in the Documentary: Shortform category.


2020

Milwaukee Press Club

Wisconsin Watch earns 11 awards, including 4 gold, for 2019 coverage

Best local news or feature website (Gold)
WisconsinWatch.org

Best public service story or series (Gold)
Beyond Bail

Best multi-story coverage of a single feature topic or event (Gold)
Massive Wisconsin solar proposal splits farmers and clean energy fans
Proposal for 24 wind turbines whips up controversy in rural Wisconsin
Solar flare-up: Utility blocks Iowa firm from harnessing the sun in Milwaukee

Best hard feature story (Gold)
While millions are spent to fight the opioid epidemic, a meth crisis quietly grows in Wisconsin

Best consumer story or series (Silver)
Catholics run one-third of Wisconsin hospitals, putting many reproductive procedures off-limits
Catholic hospitals often only choice for women of color in Milwaukee
When Catholic hospitals merge, reproductive services can change

Best illustration or cartoon (Silver)
Fainting and freezing in the fields: Alleged labor trafficking victim tells of mistreatment in Wisconsin and Georgia

Best investigative story or series (Silver)
Property owners near Foxconn say they were misled. Now their homes are gone.

Best use of multi-platform reporting (Silver)
Fainting and freezing in the fields: Alleged labor trafficking victim tells of mistreatment in Wisconsin and Georgia

Best feature photograph (Bronze)

Marigeli Roman lies down with her son Adriel, 2, and husband, Erick Gamboa, while watching a movie in their Milwaukee home on February 8, 2019. Erick Gamboa spent six months in immigration detention which was a major hardship on the family. Says Roman: It moves your world in so many ways: emotionally, mentally, physically, financially. Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch

Best long hard feature story (Bronze)
Fainting And Freezing In The Fields: Alleged Labor Trafficking Victim Tells Of Mistreatment In Wisconsin, Georgia

Best explanatory story or series (Bronze)
Catholic Clergy Abuse


2019

Milwaukee Press Club

Wisconsin Watch wins eight golds in 2019 Milwaukee Press Club contest

Best Investigative Story or Series (Gold)
Countering Concussions

Best Investigative Story or Series — Online (Gold)
Wisconsin doubles GPS monitoring despite five years of malfunctions, unnecessary jailings

Best Public Service Story or Series (Gold)
How hackers could attack Wisconsin’s elections and what state officials are doing about it

Best Public Service Story or Series — Online (Gold)
Wisconsin to force parents to work for FoodShare, despite doubts about effectiveness

Best Consumer Story or Series (Gold)
Some people repeatedly win the Wisconsin Lottery. Do they play fair?

Best Explanatory Story or Series — Online (Gold)
Long-time judge: Some ‘independent’ doctors routinely rule against injured workers

Best Use of Multi-Platform Reporting (Gold)
Former DNR employee: Staff pressured to OK Kohler golf course on rare Wisconsin wetlands and state park

Best Business Story or Series — Online (Gold)
Asian restaurants and Chicago employment agencies accused of exploiting Latino workers in Midwest

Best Documentary (Silver)
Los Lecheros, Dairy Farmers

Best Photo Essay or Series (Silver)
Photo essay: Wisconsin’s frenetic lame duck session

Best Explanatory Story or Series — Online (Silver)
CWD spreads on deer and elk farms as Wisconsin’s control efforts stumble

Best News Photograph (Silver)

During the public hearing on the lame-duck bills Dec. 3, at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, members of the public bang on the doors and chant to be let into the hearing room. Police secured the doors, trying to control the crowd. This photo won an award from the Milwaukee Press Club for Best News Photograph. Emily Hamer / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Best Long Hard Feature Story — Audio (Silver)
What Hiring Independent Medical Examiners Means For Injured Workers

Best Short Hard Feature Story — Audio (Bronze)
CWD Spreads On Deer And Elk Farms As Wisconsin’s Control Efforts Stumble

Best Feature Photograph (Bronze)

Eve Clark, 10, is nuzzled by a calf during feeding time at Vision-Aire Farms. Also pictured is her cousin, Addison Grade, 7. Eve, along with her siblings and cousins, regularly take care of the animals and other chores around the farm. This photo won an award from the Milwaukee Press Club for Best Feature Photograph. Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

The Center also contributed to Madison Magazine’s silver award winning story in the public service category: Facing the truth behind the statistics of sexual assault.


2018

The State Bar of Wisconsin

Golden Gavel Award
Flawed FBI Analysis Leads to Wrongful Conviction

Award of Commendation
Wisconsin/US Used Flawed Hair Evidence to Convict Innocent People

The case against Richard Beranek, 58, is among 13 in Wisconsin which the FBI acknowledges it used flawed microscopic hair comparison. The Center’s coverage of the FBI’s flawed techniques won it a Golden Gavel award from the State Bar of Wisconsin. Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Milwaukee Press Club

Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, Wisconsin Public Radio honored with 14 awards

Best Public Service Story or Series (Gold)
Wisconsin misses chances to cut risk of lead exposure in drinking water

Best Explanatory Story or Series (Gold)
State of Change: Water, Food And The Future Of Wisconsin

Best Investigative Story or Series (Gold)
Flawed Forensics

Best Investigative Report — Audio (Gold)
Wisconsin, US Used Flawed Hair Evidence To Convict Innocent People

Best Long Hard Feature Story — Audio (Gold)
Controversial Proud Boys Embrace ‘Western Values,’ Reject Feminism And Political Correctness

Best Series Reporting — Audio (Silver)
Under Trump, Wisconsin Dairies Struggle To Keep Immigrant Workers

Best Use of Multi-Platform Reporting (Silver)
Wisconsin inmates report despair, little counseling in solitary confinement that can stretch on for years

Some of the harshest treatment in solitary is reserved for inmates who want to kill themselves. Confined in a cell with a bed made of a concrete and steel slab with a thin rubber mat, the prisoner wears only a a paper security gown or a quilted security smock. This image won a silver award for Best Illustration and also appeared as part of Center’s coverage on solitary confinement which won silver for Best Use of Multi-Platform Reporting. Emily Shullaw for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Best Coverage of a Single News Topic of Event Including Breaking News (Silver)
Fecal microbes found in 60 percent of sampled wells, raising concerns about dairy manure, septic waste

Best Multi-Story Coverage of a Single Feature Topic or Event (Silver)
Documenting Hate

Best Investigative Story or Series — Online (Silver)
DNA tests in Wisconsin murder raise questions amid alleged evidence tampering

Best Feature Photograph (Silver)
Undocumented on the Dairy

Guillermo Ramos vaccinates dairy cows in the freestall barn of a dairy farm in northern Buffalo County, Wis. on March 8, 2017. The 40-year-old, Mexican-born farm manager has worked on the farm for almost 20 years. This photo won a silver award for Best Feature Photograph and appeared as part of State of Change, which won gold for Best Explanatory Story or Series. Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Best News Photograph (Silver)
Scott Walker’s Wink

Gov. Scott Walker is seen at the State of the State address on Jan. 10. This photo won a silver award for Best News Photograph, and was published as part of Broken Whistle, which won gold for Best Public Service Story or Series. Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Best Illustration or Cartoon (Silver)
Stuck in Solitary

Best Public Service Story or Series – Online (Bronze)
Broken Whistle

Accolades for Los Lecheros

Los Lecheros (Dairy Farmers) was co-produced by Wisconsin Watch and Twelve Letter Films.

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and Twelve Letter Films produced a documentary, “Los Lecheros” (Dairy Farmers), which explores rising tensions over undocumented dairy workers since the election of President Trump. The film was screened at more than 30 film festivals and online showing, broadcast by a variety national news outlets, and was exhibited at libraries and community centers across Wisconsin.

The film also won recognition from the following two organizations:

Radio Television Digital News Association

Regional Edward R. Murrow Award
Los Lecheros (Dairy Farmers) documentary in collaboration with Twelve Letter Films

IDA documentary awards

Feature film short list
Los Lecheros (Dairy Farmers)


2017

The Society of Professional Journalists

Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism wins top national award for drinking water project

Top investigative story among small independent news sites
Failure at the Faucet

The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters

Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism receives Conservation in Action Award for investigation of risks to state’s drinking water

Conservation in Action Award
Failure at the Faucet

Jacob Reeves, pictured at home in Stoughton, was diagnosed in 2014 with juvenile dermatomyositis — a rare disease that his mother Dawn attributes to the high level of atrazine found in their well water. Jacob’s story was featured in the Failure in the Faucet series which won awards from the Society for Professional Journalists, The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters and the Milwaukee Press Club. Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Milwaukee Press Club

Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism wins three golds, other honors from Milwaukee Press Club

Best investigative story or series (Gold)
Failure at the Faucet

Best investigative story or series – Online (Gold)
Costs of widely prescribed drugs jumped up to 5,241 percent in recent years, joint investigation shows

Best investigative report – Audio (Gold)
No Relief From Wisconsin’s 565-Percent Payday Loan Interest Under New Rules

In the summer of 2015, Sandra Goodwin was sued by a debt buyer she had never heard of. The stories she was featured in won Best Investigative Story or Series, Best Investigative Audio Report and Best Use of Multi-Platform Reporting. Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Best Investigative Report — Audio (Silver)
• Lead Contamination Remains Major Issue In Wisconsin’s Drinking Water
• Despite Danger, Lead Often Comes Out Of Wisconsin Taps Undetected
• Wisconsin Launches Effort To Replace Aging Lead Pipes To Safeguard Drinking Water

Best Multi-Story Coverage of a Single Feature Topic or Event (Silver)
Focus on traumatic childhood helps victims heal and succeed

Best use of multimedia (Silver)
Critics: State’s plan to save bees provides little protection from pesticides

Best public service story or series (Bronze)
• Strong public support, pleas from grieving family fail to move Wisconsin on gun background checks
• Background checks, dealer licensing requirements in Wisconsin explained
• Instructor: Background checks OK but do not keep weapons from criminals

Best Use of Multi-Platform Reporting (Bronze)
• Controversial debt buyers get a break under new Wisconsin law
• Controversial Debt Buyers Get A Break Under New Wisconsin Law (audio version)


2016

The State Bar of Wisconsin

WCIJ takes top honors in State Bar of Wisconsin’s Golden Gavel Awards

Golden Gavel Award
Cruel and Unusual?

Inmates can spend years, even decades, in a cell like this one at Waupun Correctional Institution under so-called administrative confinement. This image was part of the Center’s award-winning series Cruel and Unusual? Wisconsin Department of Corrections

Milwaukee Press Club

WCIJ wins six gold, two bronze awards for journalistic excellence

Best investigative story or series (Gold)
Failure at the Faucet

Best public service story or series (Gold)
Precious Lives

This gif was one of twelve included in the Center’s animated guide to Wisconsin’s frac sand industry. The Center’s frac sand coverage received an award for Best Use of Multimedia – Online from the Milwaukee Press Club.

Best use of multimedia – Online (Gold)
Sand tells the story of the frac sand rush

Best business story or series (Gold)
Wisconsin Economic Development Corp: What went wrong?

Best investigative report – Audio (Gold)
Nitrates Polluting 1 In 5 Private Wells in Wisconsin

Best series reporting – Audio (Gold)
Precious Lives

Best coverage of a single news topic or event including breaking news (Bronze)
Peeking Behind the Bars: Solitary confinement in Wisconsin

Best public service story or series (Bronze)
Gov. Walker’s stealth government


2015

Milwaukee Press Club

Center takes home seven awards, including best website design, from Milwaukee Press Club

Best multi-story coverage of a single topic or event (Gold)
Kewaunee County’s water woes

Best business story or series (Gold)
Frac-sand boom creates promise, problems for Wisconsin

Best use of multimedia (Gold)
Murky Waters – Madison’s quest for clean lakes

A experimental boom surrounded Madison’s B.B. Clarke beach in 2010 to keep out algae, though it ended up being closed June 24 for high E. coli levels. This photo was part of the award winning series Murky Waters. Mike DeVries / The Capital Times

Best website design (Gold)
WisconsinWatch.org

Best investigative story or series (Silver)
Cruel and Unusual?

Best investigative story or series (Bronze)
Confidential informants on college campuses

Best public service story or series (Bronze)
Controversial monkey experiment planned at UW-Madison


2014

Milwaukee Press Club

Milwaukee Press Club honors Center with eight awards

Best public service story (Gold)
State passes up disabled aid despite backlogs

Best multi-story coverage of a single feature topic or event (Gold)
Water Watch Wisconsin

The boat launch at Long Lake, near Plainfield, no longer reaches the water. In Wisconsin’s Central Sands, some lakes and streams have lowered or dried up in recent years as the number of high-capacity wells has mushroomed, largely for irrigation. This photo was part of the award winning series Water Watch Wisconsin. Kate Golden / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Best reporting of an ongoing news story – Audio (Gold)
Project: Wisconsin’s sand rush

Best background, analytical or interpretive story (Gold)
Supreme Court justices tend to favor attorney donors

Best use of multimedia (Gold)
Water Watch Wisconsin

Best documentary, investigative or public affairs story or series – Audio (Gold)
State passes up disabled aid despite backlogs

Best background, analytical or interpretive story (Silver)
In some choice schools, disabilities are liability

Best investigative story or series (Bronze)
Lost signal, disconnected lives


2013

Investigative Reporters and Editors

Center, UW-Madison journalism school share role in IRE honor

Finalist
Gaps persist in campus mental health services

Milwaukee Press Club

Center wins gold, silver and bronze Milwaukee Press Club awards for coverage of key state issues

Best photo essay or series (Gold)
Rural Slide

Storm clouds roll in on a rural farm off Highway 97 near Marshfield, Wis. on July 8, 2012. This photo was part of the award winning photo essay Rural Slide, which also won for Best Innovative Feature. Lukas Keapproth / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Best innovative feature (Gold)
The Walker Calendar Files

Best innovative feature (Silver)
Brownfields

Best investigative story or series (Silver)
Service Stigma: Disabled or not, veterans face job challenges

Best multi-story coverage of a single feature topic or event (Silver)
Gaps persist in campus mental health services

Best public service feature story (Silver)
Green schemes make activists see red

Best innovative feature (Bronze)
Rural Slide

Best news photograph (Bronze)
Walker Recall Kiss

A husband and wife share a kiss after Gov. Scott Walker is declared the winner at the Waukesha Expo Center in Waukesha, WI, June 5, 2012. Lukas Keapproth/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

2012

Associated Press Media Editors

UW-Madison investigative reporting collaboration honored in APME award

Milwaukee Press Club

Center wins four awards, including top website, from Milwaukee Press Club

Best innovative feature (Gold)
Emissions data for seven coal-firedpower plant

Best background, analytical or interpretive story (Gold)
Security After 9/11: 10 Years Later

A July 2009 fire at the Patrick Cudahy meatpacking plant blazed for days, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of people and causing more than $200 million in damage. While many aspects of the response went well, significant problems also occurred, including failures to meet federal emergency response requirements. This photo was part of the award winning entry for Best background, analytical or interpretive story. Courtesy of Kimberly Prellwitz

Best local news or feature website (Gold)
WisconsinWatch.org

Best coverage of a single news topic or event (Silver)
Walker emails


2011

Investigative Reporters and Editors

Finalist
Wisconsin milk board removes weight loss claims from website

National Alliance on Mental Illness

NAMI cites Center for coverage of mental illness

Media Award for the Center’s extensive coverage of: perinatal depression among low-income mothers, Wisconsin’s high suicide rates, and elevated suicide rates among Native Americans.

Milwaukee Press Club

Center receives five Milwaukee Press Club awards

Best coverage of a single news topic or event (Gold)
Dairyland Diversity series

Best innovative online feature (Gold)
The changing landscape of Wisconsin dairy farms

Darlington, Wis., dairy owner James Winn says he relies on Latino immigrants to run his large farm. Hispanic workers are a crucial part of Wisconsin’s signature dairy industry. This photo was part of the award winning series Dairyland Diversity. Jacob Kushner / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Best investigative story or series (Gold)
‘Smart drug’ abuse rising on campuses

Best public service or public education feature story (Silver)
For-profit college accused of operating illegally in Wisconsin

Best business story or series (Silver)
How a polluter gets stimulus money — and avoids environmental review