Wisconsin Watch’s Report for America corps member will investigate criminal justice issues

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Phoebe Petrovic will work with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism as the Criminal Justice Reporting Project Manager. She is currently the Lee Ester fellow at Wisconsin Public Radio.

Wisconsin Watch is pleased to announce that radio journalist Phoebe Petrovic has been hired as a Report for America corps member to investigate criminal justice issues.

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 they are held accountable for their actions.

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Wisconsin Watch, operated by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, was one of 50 newsrooms across the country chosen to host a Report for America reporter in 2019. A total of 61 reporters will fan out across 28 states and Puerto Rico; 11 of them are returning corps members who were chosen in 2018.

Report for America is a national service program that places talented early-career journalists into local news organizations to report for one to two years on undercovered issues and communities. An initiative of The GroundTruth Project, Report for America addresses an urgent need in American journalism at a time when local news deserts threaten our democracy like never before.

Petrovic was a finalist from a pool of nearly 1,000 applicants to be a Report for America corps member. She will spearhead Wisconsin Watch’s investigation into police and prosecutorial misconduct and possible wrongful convictions in Wisconsin. Petrovic is currently the Lee Ester News Fellow for Wisconsin Public Radio. She will begin her new job in June.

“The quality of the applicant pool was mind-boggling, and their spirit — the commitment to local journalism as public service — was genuinely inspiring,” said Steven Waldman, co-founder and president of Report for America.

A 2018 graduate of Yale University, Petrovic was an intern with Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting and a freelance producer for Here & Now, a program of WBUR public radio in Boston featuring in-depth news, interviews and conversation. Petrovic also produced a podcast for the Yale University Art Gallery — developing skills she will put to use during her time at Wisconsin Watch.

“I’m thrilled to join Wisconsin Watch to report on criminal justice misconduct. I’ve admired the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism’s dogged team and hard-hitting work for a long while, and it’s a dream for me to join its ranks,” Petrovic said. “We’ve got important stories to tell, an exciting project to create and a whole lot of work to do — and I can’t wait to dig in.”

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Petrovic was a finalist from a pool of nearly 1,000 applicants to be a Report for America corps member. While working at the Center, she will spearhead Wisconsin Watch’s investigation into police and prosecutorial misconduct and possible wrongful convictions in Wisconsin. She is seen here working at Wisconsin Public Radio on April 23.

Report for America pays half of a corps member’s salary, with news partners responsible for the other half, plus benefits and other expenses.

“Report for America promotes new models for shared investment in local journalism, increasing the chances of sustaining watchdog community reporting, for the community, by the community,” said Charles Sennott, CEO and editor-in-chief of the GroundTruth Project, which launched Report for America in 2017.

Andy Hall, executive director and co-founder of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, said the hiring of Petrovic in collaboration with Report for America exemplifies the power of emerging models to reinvigorate local and state investigative journalism.

“The public,” Hall said, “plays a growing and critical role in supporting nonpartisan, authoritative journalism  — in Wisconsin and across the nation — that informs residents, holds power to account and strengthens our democracy. We will freely share the results of our reporting, to make Wisconsin a better state.”

The Center 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.

Wisconsin Watch has produced more than 350 major reports since 2009, which are made available for free on its website, WisconsinWatch.org, and to news organizations across the state and country.

More than 800 newsrooms have published, broadcast or cited Wisconsin Watch’s stories, reaching an estimated audience of more than 82 million. More information is available at: https://www.wisconsinwatch.org/about/

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