A windowless office in Vilas Hall — outfitted with a dry erase board, recycled desks and thick files from WisconsinWatch investigations — is known to journalists across the country as the “Northern Bureau.”
It’s where I and other University of Wisconsin-Madison journalism students have passed from the school to a WisconsinWatch internship and learned an important lesson about working as an investigative journalist: It’s not as glamorous as it sounds.
You’ve read the reports produced by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, complete with visuals, portraits and artwork that are often featured by publications across the state and nation. They’ve shed light on the dark money and political maneuvers that take power away from regular citizens, tracked the increase in acts of hate and bias following the 2016 election, and chronicled the value immigrants bring to the state.
Behind these essential stories and the shiny awards they receive, the entire team at WisconsinWatch rolls up their sleeves to analyze records, track down sources and engage with the communities affected by the issues covered. At the end of it all, they spend hours meticulously checking every fact in the report until it’s bulletproof.
There is no classroom that can provide this kind of hands-on experience. And it works — alumni from WisconsinWatch work all over the world reproducing the quality of journalism we all learned in Vilas Hall. I’m back in my hometown, covering exciting Chicago stories such as the mayoral election for the Chicago Sun-Times.
And another important note: Internships at Wisconsin Watch are paid. So if you’d like to have a hand in training the next generation of reporters who will hold your public officials accountable, consider making a contribution before the end of the year. NewsMatch, a national campaign to encourage grassroots support of nonprofit news, will give your donation extra impact until Dec. 31 by matching your gift.
All donations to the Center are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law. You can make a gift securely via credit card or mail a check to WCIJ, 5006 Vilas Hall, 821 University Ave., Madison WI 53706.
I’ll always be grateful for the learning opportunity I had as an intern at WisconsinWatch.
Thanks for making that a possibility for the next generation of investigative journalists!