Wisconsin Watch wins eight golds in Milwaukee Press Club contest

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Brad Horn/For the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Former Wisconsin Badgers fullback Austin Ramesh, No. 20, initially downplayed brain injury risks. But in May 2018, he walked away from his shot at making it onto the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals because of continuing post-concussion symptoms. This photo was part of the award-winning Countering Concussions series that won gold at the Milwaukee Press Club awards.

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism won top investigative and public service awards for stories published in 2018 at Friday’s Milwaukee Press Club Gridiron Dinner. In all, Wisconsin Watch received eight gold, five silver and two bronze awards for stories, photos, audio reports and a documentary.

Some of the awards were won in conjunction with University of Wisconsin-Madison students or Wisconsin Public Radio, which works closely with Wisconsin Watch to produce in-depth online and audio news reports. Collaborations with Madison Magazine, Twelve Letter Films and the Chicago Sun-Times also earned honors.

“It is gratifying to see the number of undergraduate and graduate students we have trained and mentored be recognized in this prestigious professional journalism contest,” said Andy Hall, executive director of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. “Many of our investigative reports also were produced in collaboration with other media. These are two of our core goals: training future journalists and increasing the quality and quantity of investigative journalism.”

The Wisconsin Watch staff is seen at the 2019 Milwaukee Press Club Awards. The Center won eight gold, five silver and two bronze awards for stories, photos, audio reports and a documentary.

Wisconsin Watch earned awards in the following categories:

Gold awards

Best Investigative Story or Series: The Countering Concussions series explored the impact of brain injuries in sports. Reporters Luke Schaetzel and Emily Hamer, Digital and Multimedia Director Coburn Dukehart, photographer Brad Horn and Managing Editor Dee J. Hall contributed to the series.

Best Investigative Story or Series (online): In Losing Track, Wisconsin Watch’s Riley Vetterkind exposed false alerts in Wisconsin’s GPS monitoring system that land offenders in jail when their equipment malfunctions. Dukehart contributed photos to the series.

Best Public Service Story or Series: Our series on the potential vulnerabilities in Wisconsin’s election system was reported by Grigor Atanesian with photographs by Dukehart and editing and reporting assistance from Hall.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Brad Pamperin talks with Deborah Hermsen, an election chief-in-training, during voting at the village hall in Little Chute, Wis., for a special election in the 1st Senate District on June 12, 2018. This photo was part of the award winning series by Grigor Atanasian on potential vulnerabilities in Wisconsin’s election system.

Best Consumer Story or Series: Reporter Peter Coutu revealed the suspicious circumstances surrounding some repeat winners of the Wisconsin Lottery.

Best Explanatory Story or Series (online): Wisconsin Public Radio reporter Alexandra Hall, in collaboration with Dee J. Hall of Wisconsin Watch, explored the sometimes contentious role of so-called independent medical examiners in the state worker’s compensation system.

Best Use of Multi-Platform Reporting: The story, told online and in audio, revealed that state regulators skirted environmental rules in approving a controversial golf course along Lake Michigan. The story was reported by Wisconsin Public Radio’s Sarah Whites-Koditschek with photographs by Dukehart.

Alexandria Arriaga / Chicago Sun-Times

A Latino employee takes a break from mopping the floor at a Chinese restaurant near Waukegan, Illinois. He says managers treat the employees well and offer them a decent place to stay, but do not pay workers overtime or the minimum wage. This photo was part of the gold award winning entry for Best Business Story or Series (online) by Belle Lin and Alexandra Arriaga.

Best Business Story or Series (online): Reporter Belle Lin teamed up with Chicago Sun-Times reporter Alexandra Arriaga (a former Wisconsin Watch intern) to expose a network of labor agencies that send undocumented Latinos to Asian restaurants across the Midwest, where they are often underpaid and overworked.

Best Public Service Story or Series (online): Reporter Dee J. Hall revealed questions about the effectiveness of Wisconsin’s work requirement for FoodShare recipients. Dukehart produced photos for the story.

Silver awards

Best Documentary: Dukehart and Andy Hall from Wisconsin Watch, WPR’s Alexandra Hall, in partnership with Jim Cricchi and Susan Peters of Twelve Letter Films, explored the challenges for undocumented dairy workers and farmers under President Donald Trump’s immigration policies in “Los Lecheros” (Dairy Farmers).

Emily Hamer / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

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 a silver award for Best News Photograph from the Milwaukee Press Club.

Best Photo Essay or Series: Dukehart and Hamer teamed up to photograph December’s extraordinary” lame duck session of the Wisconsin Legislature.

Best Explanatory Story or Series (online): Wisconsin Public Radio’s Rich Kremer worked with Wisconsin Watch to produce a story exposing gaps in the state’s efforts to curb chronic wasting disease.

Best News Photograph: Hamer’s photograph features hands of protesters pressed against the glass of the hearing room door as lawmakers debate measures during the Legislature’s controversial session in December.

Best Long Hard Feature Story (audio): Wisconsin Public Radio’s Alexandra Hall, in partnership with Wisconsin Watch, explored the sometimes contentious role of so-called independent medical examiners in the state worker’s compensation system.

Bronze awards

Best Feature Photograph: Dukehart’s image, “Kissed by a calf,” captures a light-hearted moment during a day in the life of a Wisconsin dairy farm.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

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 bronze award from the Milwaukee Press Club for Best Feature Photograph.

Best Short Hard Feature Story (audio): Kremer’s radio story about chronic wasting disease in collaboration with Wisconsin Watch was honored with a bronze award.

Wisconsin Watch staff also contributed to Madison Magazine’s silver award in the public service category. The story, written by Maggie Ginsburg with contributions from Dee J. Hall and Dukehart, explores why sexual assault numbers on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus vastly understate the problem.

Since its launch in 2009, the Center has won 77 honors from the Milwaukee Press Club, which runs Wisconsin’s premiere all-media journalism contest.

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