The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism was named a winner Monday of 14 prizes in the 2017 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism contest, including awards for investigative, public service and explanatory reporting; single story and multi-story coverage; photography and illustration.
Oprah explores childhood trauma; Madison sees another hate crime; adults harmed by lead exposure and other stories affecting Wisconsin
Of note: This week we look at local — and national — news reports that touch on deep problems, several of which we’ve previously examined here at WCIJ. On 60 Minutes, Oprah Winfrey produces a “life-changing” report on trauma suffered in childhood, exploring her own upbringing in Milwaukee. The Wisconsin State Journal reports on Trent Jackson, a former University of Wisconsin-Madison basketball player who was racially harassed while walking his dog. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel cites a study linking lead exposure to 250,000 cardiac deaths. WisContext shows the links between agriculture and icky green algal blooms in water.
Losing Track: Wisconsin doubles GPS monitoring despite five years of malfunctions, unnecessary jailings; and other news affecting our state
Of note: This week we highlight a significant package of stories by Center reporter Riley Vetterkind revealing widespread flaws in Wisconsin’s GPS monitoring program for offenders. Riley’s story comes five years after the Center first uncovered the technological problems that land offenders in jail — even when they have done nothing wrong. In other news, the Associated Press reports on water contamination from coal ash, an issue the Center explored back in 2014. Writing in the New York Times, a government professor slams economic development subsidies such as the billions in taxpayer dollars promised to Foxconn as elected officials “using the public coffers for political theater.“ The Times also reports on the suddenly quiet House Majority Leader Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Finally, we offer a column in The Crime Report written by two University of Wisconsin-Whitewater researchers who warn that raising the age of criminal culpability to 20 or 21, as some states do, could lead to more crime.
Gov. Scott Walker, several journalists and a courageous private-sector employee are among those honored by the 2017-18 Openness Awards, or Opees, bestowed annually by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council. The state Legislature, meanwhile, is being singled out for negative recognition. The awards, which are being announced today in advance of national Sunshine Week, March 11-17, recognize extraordinary achievement in the arena of open government. This is the 12th consecutive year that awards have been given. “For more than a decade, the Opees have served to remind state residents that open government is a perpetual struggle, with heroes and villains,” said Bill Lueders, council president.
Investigative reporting about WI reveals hidden impacts of environmental, medical, tax and gun laws and lack of affordable dental care
Of note: This week we highlight some strong investigative reporting about Wisconsin by news outlets here and elsewhere. The Wisconsin State Journal’s Steve Verburg reported on the alarm of former Department of Natural Resources experts to a proposal to let one company destroy valuable wetlands. Jonathan Anderson, reporting for the USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin, found that large tax breaks for manufacturers are translating into big property tax increases for others in some Wisconsin communities. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s John Fauber, with help from MedPage Today, found 500 doctors disciplined for malpractice in one state moved to another state to practice — with sometimes tragic consequences. The Chicago Tribune traces a gun used to kill a Chicago police commander to a Cross Plains gun shop.
In my career as a journalist, I have encountered many public officials who respect government openness and transparency. There was the state records custodian who turned over dozens of her boss’s embarrassing emails after telling him that keeping them secret would violate the law. And the university staffers who pointed me to public information the school tried to keep out of the public eye. And the local elected official who told me what happened in a closed session she thought may have been illegally closed. As we approach this year’s annual celebration of Sunshine Week, March 11-17, it’s worth recalling times when people entrusted with our tax dollars have stood up for our right to know.
Hate groups proliferate, WI rape kits reveal suspects, MKE hospital accused of unneeded surgeries, and court decisions could change political landscape in WI and beyond
Of note: This week we draw your attention to the tracking of hate by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which identified a big increase in hate groups in the past three years, and Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism stories that documented such groups operating in Wisconsin. Also: Long-delayed DNA testing of rape kits is yielding suspects, the Appleton Post-Crescent finds. A whistleblower says in a lawsuit that the Medical College of Wisconsin hired and retained a surgeon accused of performing unnecessary surgeries in part because of the revenue he generated, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report. And National Public Radio lays out the three pending lawsuits that could change Wisconsin’s and the nation’s political landscape. WisconsinWeekly is produced by Andy and Dee J. Hall, a couple who founded the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.