Votebeat helps Wisconsin Watch expand 2020 election coverage

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Wisconsin Watch is pleased to announce its participation in Votebeat, a pop-up nonprofit newsroom covering local election administration and voting in eight states, created by Chalkbeat. 

Nora Eckert is a reporter on the Votebeat team.

Support from Votebeat allowed us to hire two stellar reporters and an experienced editor to guide our election coverage through the rest of 2020. 

Nora Eckert joined Wisconsin Watch in mid-October after working as an intern on the Wall Street Journal’s audio team and a contractor for its investigations team. Eckert is a Wisconsin native and earned a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland in 2019.

Anya van Wagtendonk hit the ground running a week before the Nov. 3 election after moving from Muskegon, Michigan, where she covered government, business and environmental issues for MLive/Muskegon Chronicle. Van Wagtendonk is a 2019 graduate of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. 

Anya van Wagtendonk is a reporter on the Votebeat team.

Sharon McGowan is Wisconsin Watch’s Votebeat editor. McGowan is the founder and former editor in chief of the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, based at Marquette University. McGowan’s deep knowledge of Milwaukee and Wisconsin has been invaluable as we explore the aftermath of the 2020 election.

“This offer of support from Votebeat was a happy surprise,” Wisconsin Watch Managing Editor Dee J. Hall said. “The added resources have allowed us to cover stories that would have been beyond our reach before.”

Sharon McGowan is the editor of the Votebeat team.

Already, the team has produced stories on the state of polling sites in Wisconsin, the addition of hundreds of drop boxes across the state to meet the surging demand for absentee voting, the process for curing absentee ballots with errors, what voters can expect on Election Day, what constitutes voter intimidation, day-of coverage of Wisconsin’s momentous election and a look at get-out-the-vote efforts in Milwaukee’s African-American community.

Wisconsin Watch was a natural fit for Votebeat. Since June, Wisconsin Watch has been covering voting security, suppression and disinformation aimed at voters in Wisconsin as part of the Narrow Margin project.

Moving forward, the Votebeat team will continue to explore how Wisconsin elections can be improved and what insights can be gleaned about Wisconsin’s deeply divided electorate.

In addition to Wisconsin Watch, other newsrooms participating in Votebeat are NJ Spotlight News, a multi-platform outlet focusing on local, in-depth journalism; WURD, an African-American owned talk radio station in Pennsylvania; WFAE, Charlotte, North Carolina’s NPR news source; WABE, Atlanta’s public radio station; The Texas Tribune, a member-supported nonpartisan media organization; Spotlight PA, which focuses on investigative journalism about Pennsylvania government and statewide issues; CalMatters, which specializes in explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters; Bridge Michigan, a nonpartisan, nonprofit news source; and Bridge Detroit, its city-focused spinoff.

Will Cioci / Wisconsin Watch

Robert Disch checks in with poll workers at the Goodman Community Center polling place in Madison, Wis., on November 3, 2020. Disch, a Madison resident for over half a century and a Vietnam War veteran, said he exercises his “civic duty” in nearly every election.

Wisconsin Watch is a nonpartisan, nonprofit newsroom based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The independent news outlet was founded in 2009. Our mission: To increase the quality, quantity and understanding of investigative journalism to foster an informed citizenry and strengthen democracy. 

If you would like to meet our new Votebeat reporters, please join us on Thursday, Nov. 12 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. for Wisconsin Watch’s virtual event, Speakeasy: Behind Wisconsin’s election numbers: What just happened? Eckert and van Wagtendonk will recap insights from Wisconsin’s election. Wisconsin Watch reporter Vanessa Swales also will speak, along with special guest Jennifer Epps-Addison of the Center for Popular Democracy. A recording of the event will be posted on WisconsinWatch.org.

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