Recent Stories

Free ‘Watchdog 101’ investigative reporting workshop is geared to students and working journalists; signup deadline is Wednesday

For the third consecutive year, high school, college and professional journalists are invited to a special investigative reporting workshop being offered as part of the annual Wisconsin Watchdog Awards event. “Watchdog 101 Workshop: Essential Skills for Investigative Journalists,” a free, fast-paced workshop, will be led by staff and board members of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism — Brant Houston, Ralph A. Weber, Dee J. Hall, Andy Hall and Coburn Dukehart. This year’s workshop will be geared to a wide range of journalists, from students to experienced reporters and editors. The workshop will include sessions on how to use the state’s open records law, the art of the interview, how to use multimedia in investigative journalism and backgrounding individuals and companies. See the full schedule below. The workshop will be held from 2:30 to 4:45 p.m. this Thursday, April 19, immediately before the eighth annual Wisconsin Watchdog Awards reception and dinner at The Madison Club, 5 E. Wilson St.

WisconsinWeekly: Cranberry tariffs, Foxconn jobs, frac sand pressure, Facebook ads, Paul Ryan’s future

WI cranberry growers fear tariffs, Racine may miss Foxconn boom, DNR fast-tracks project, state targeted by shadowy ads, and Paul Ryan early exit as speaker predicted
Of note: Donald Trump’s tough talk on trade helped get him elected president. Now, WUWM reports, some parts of Wisconsin that voted for Trump could bear the brunt of threatened Chinese tariffs on cranberries. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Racine residents, traumatized by years of economic and other woes, may be ill-suited to fill the tens of thousands of jobs promised by Foxconn. Citing public records and an interview with a former Department of Natural Resources supervisor, Wisconsin Public Radio reports that DNR staffers were pressured to quickly approve permits allowing destruction of rare wetlands for a planned frac sand facility in western Wisconsin. Channel 3000 reports on research by a UW-Madison journalism professor who found that many of the anonymous Facebook ads aimed at influencing the 2016 election targeted people in Wisconsin.

WisconsinWeekly: Ryan re-election doubts, Loyola hoopla, water quality and quantity, Supreme Court race and dangerous hate

Former Center interns take center stage, Dane County helps elect liberal justice, water quality and quantity issues dominate, white supremacist dies while making bombs
Of note: In this week’s edition, we highlight work of two of the Center’s former interns and a former fellow along with other news stories of interest to Wisconsin. Former Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism intern Tara Golshan, now writing for Vox, explains the growing speculation about whether House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin will seek re-election to his Janesville-area seat. Former WCIJ photojournalism intern Lukas Keapproth, now working for Loyola University, chronicles the school’s unlikely and thrilling trip to the NCAA Final Four men’s basketball tournament. Former Wisconsin Public Radio/WCIJ fellow Bridgit Bowden reports for WPR that groundwater quality is an election issue for some voters this fall. We also feature a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel analysis of the recent state Supreme Court race that saw liberal Rebecca Dallet beat a well-funded conservative candidate largely on the strength of high turnout in Dane County.

Your Right to Know: Policies put public health at risk

Wisconsin’s open government laws were meant to strengthen our democracy by ensuring an informed electorate. But, sometimes, transparency is about more than democracy—it is about human health, with serious consequences when transparency fails. Earlier this year, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the city of Milwaukee had failed to alert thousands of families whose children had blood tests indicating elevated lead levels. Lead from water pipes and old paint is a significant public health risk in Milwaukee and elsewhere, causing cognitive damage and other problems.

It later emerged that officials in Milwaukee had imposed a gag order on health department employees. It barred them from having contacts with elected officials without prior approval.

WisconsinWeekly: Winning the lottery 20+ times, Russians trolling WI, child sexual assault, frac sand is back

Win, and win again at the lottery; Russian trolls visit; the truth about child sexual assaults; frac sand revival
Of note: This week we highlight the Center’s latest investigation examining the curious circumstances surrounding some of the repeat winners of the Wisconsin Lottery. A database of frequent winners shows many have ties to the stores where they bought their winning tickets, either as owners or employees. We also offer a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article tracing the efforts by Russian trolls to stir up racial animosity in the wake of the shooting by police of a black man in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood in 2016. The Janesville Gazette finds 39 of 40 child victims of sexual assault in 2017 in Rock and Walworth counties knew their attackers, a story that dovetails with our recent investigation into problems with monitoring and residency restrictions of sex offenders. Finally, the La Crosse Tribune reports that frac sand mining is back.

WisconsinWeekly: Childhood trauma, hate crime, lead dangers, green water and harmful anti-malarial drug

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.

WisconsinWeekly: GPS monitoring flaws, coal ash pollution, low-profile Paul Ryan, cash for companies, young offenders

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.

Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council names ‘Opee’ winners

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.