Report for America chooses Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism for local news effort

Beginning in June, the RFA corps member will focus on criminal justice issues in Wisconsin, including wrongful convictions and official misconduct

Katie Scheidt/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Center public engagement and marketing assistant Natalie Yahr interviews Bob Blersch on primary election day at the Oconomowoc Community Center on Aug. 14, 2018, as part of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism series, Undemocratic: Secrecy and Power vs. The People. The Center will be hiring a Report for America corps member who has audio skills, experience producing podcasts and interest or experience in covering criminal justice issues.

The Center’s RFA corps member will investigate criminal justice issues in Wisconsin, including wrongful convictions and official misconduct. Apply through Report for America here by Feb. 8.

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism is pleased to announce it has been been selected to host one of 50 journalists by Report for America, a national service program that places emerging reporters in local newsrooms to report on undercovered topics and communities.

The Center’s RFA corps member will investigate criminal justice issues in Wisconsin, including wrongful convictions and official misconduct. News organizations were chosen based on a demonstrated “civically-important gap in coverage” and “a strong plan to deploy new reporting resources in the public interest.”

“We’re so proud to be partnering with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism — especially on such an important project,” said Steven Waldman, co-founder and president of Report for America. “It was a very competitive process, but the judges were impressed with both the past work of the Center and their plan for deploying a Report for America corps member to help track prosecutorial misconduct.”

Report for America’s 2019 news organizations span 26 states and territories. They include the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, a nonprofit watchdog group in Puerto Rico, the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota, Pulitzer-prize winning Cincinnati Enquirer and the Associated Press.

Corps members will be placed in nonprofit organizations, weeklies, public radio stations and daily newspapers. Additional news organizations and reporting positions will be announced in the coming weeks, bringing the total number of corps members to 60 in 2019. Full details here.  

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Center reporting intern Alexandra Arriaga interviews the family of Cesar DeLeon, a Wisconsin inmate who is being held in administrative confinement — a form of indefinite solitary confinement with no clear end date — on Dec. 14, 2016. If you would like to produce news that matters, apply to become the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism’s new Report for America reporter.

The Center will be hiring a reporter who has audio skills, experience producing podcasts and interest or experience in covering criminal justice issues. Journalists interested in working for the Center or for other RFA news organizations must apply by Feb 8, 2019. The application and information can be found here: https://www.reportforamerica.org/rfa-corps-members/

Send us a tip

The Center’s new Report for America reporter will investigate criminal justice issues in Wisconsin, with a focus on officials who fail to act in the best interest of justice — and whether officials are held accountable for their actions.

Have a story tip that our new Report for America reporter should pursue? Send it to: tips@wisconsinwatch.org or WCIJ, 5006 Vilas Hall, Madison WI 53706

Report For America corps members typically have three to six years of experience, while some are recent graduates.

Adding a Report for America journalist will significantly boost the capacity of the Center, which has just four full-time permanent employees and largely relies on University of Wisconsin-Madison journalism students, paid interns and collaborations with Wisconsin Public Radio and other news organizations for its reporting.

“Funding to hire a talented young professional to join the Center’s staff is great news for us and for the state,” said Andy Hall, the Center’s executive director. “This support from Report for America will help us significantly expand our capacity to produce award-winning journalism focused on issues of importance to Wisconsin.”

Report for America is an initiative of the GroundTruth Project, a nonprofit news organization that supports young journalists around the world.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Center reporting intern Riley Vetterkind interviews Chuck Ripp at Ripp’s Dairy Valley farm in Dane County, Wisconsin on Sept 12, 2017. The Center will be hiring an early career journalist to join our small newsroom with support from Report for America.

Report for America is funded by variety of sources including Facebook, the Google News Initiative, the Knight Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Heising-Simons Foundation, Dirk and Natasha Ziff, Galloway Family Foundation, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, The Tow Foundation, Select Equity Group Foundation, the Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation, the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, The Steans Family Foundation, Henry M. Kimelman Family Foundation and the Duo Collective.

Report for America currently has 13 reporters in Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, New Mexico, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia. The organization said it hopes to fund 1,000 reporters by 2023, which “speaks to the urgent need to close the local news reporting gap.”

The program, funded by both private and public donors, pays for half of each reporter’s salary. The remainder, any benefits such as health insurance, and expenses such as travel and acquiring public records, are covered by the local newsroom and local benefactors.

Donate to help us hire this reporter

The Center will be responsible for providing $20,000 — half of the Report for America reporter’s first-year salary — plus about $10,000 for health care and expenses such as travel and the costs of public records.

Donations are welcomed and may be sent securely online or mailed to WCIJ, 5006 Vilas Hall, 821 University Ave., Madison WI 53706

The Center expects to pay $20,000 in support of the first-year salary plus about $10,000 in payroll taxes, health care costs and business expenses such as travel and the cost of public records. Donations to support the Center’s new RFA reporter are welcomed online or at WCIJ, 5006 Vilas Hall, 821 University Ave., Madison WI 53706.

The Center, which this month begins its 11th year of operations, is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit news organization housed in the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

It increases the quality, quantity and understanding of investigative reporting in Wisconsin, while training current and future investigative journalists. Its work fosters an informed citizenry and strengthens democracy while guided by three principles: Protect the vulnerable. Expose wrongdoing. Explore solutions.

The Center has produced more than 350 major reports, which are made available for free on its website, WisconsinWatch.org, and to news organizations.

More than 800 newsrooms have published, broadcast or cited the Center’s stories, reaching an estimated audience of more than 73 million. More information is available at: https://www.wisconsinwatch.org/about/

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