Wisconsin Watch wins 11 awards for stories and visuals published in 2019

The Milwaukee Press Club announcement includes awards for online and audio reporting, best news website, feature photography and illustration

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Stories by Wisconsin Watch about labor trafficking, the Foxconn project, clergy sexual abuse, the controversy over cash bail, the quietly growing methamphetamine crisis in Wisconsin and restrictions on reproductive health care at Catholic hospitals have won awards in the annual Milwaukee Press Club contest

Several of the award-winning stories were produced in collaboration with Wisconsin Public Radio and the Cap Times, which sponsor fellows who are embedded in the Wisconsin Watch newsroom. A Fulbright scholar and Wisconsin Watch interns from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and UW-Eau Claire also received awards — all in professional categories.

Wisconsin Watch also was recognized for excellence in feature photography and illustration and for its website, WisconsinWatch.org

Whether the entries won gold, silver or bronze is scheduled to be announced at the press club’s annual Gridiron Awards dinner, currently scheduled for May. 

The awards bring to 88 the number of Milwaukee Press Club awards Wisconsin Watch has won since its launch in 2009.

Here are the winning entries:

Best multi-story coverage of a single feature topic or event

Emily Hamer / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Invenergy’s renewable energy manager, Dan Litchfield, shows a single solar panel outside of the company’s office in Cobb, Wis., on Dec. 18, 2018.

Sarah Whites-Koditschek, WPR’s Mike Simonson Memorial Investigative Reporting Fellow, explored controversies over solar and wind projects in Wisconsin, which lags behind most of the country in alternative energy. Wisconsin Watch intern Emily Hamer and Digital and Multimedia Director Coburn Dukehart produced photographs for the stories. See the stories here, here and here.

Best public service story or series

In Beyond Bail, Hamer and volunteer freelance journalist Sheila Terman Cohen examined the controversy over the use of cash bail, which allows the rich to go free while the poor stay in jail. Dukehart produced photos for the series.

Best consumer story or series

Parker Schorr, reporting in collaboration with Rikha Sharma Rani of Fuller Project, showed the effects of restrictions on reproductive health care at the one-third of Wisconsin hospitals that are run by the Catholic Church. Schorr, a former Wisconsin Watch intern, is the Cap Times’ public affairs reporting fellow embedded in the Wisconsin Watch newsroom. Fuller Project is a nonprofit news outlet that covers women’s issues. Dukehart produced photos for the stories here, here and here.

Best illustration or cartoon

Emily Shullaw for Wisconsin Watch

Mexican farm workers told federal investigators that farm labor contractors yelled at them to work faster and refused medical help when they were sick. Some men passed out in the fields, they said, and the supervisors would not let their fellow workers move them into the shade.

Freelance artist Emily Shullaw, working for Wisconsin Watch, produced a series of illustrations to accompany a story about labor trafficking of Mexican immigrants at a Wisconsin cabbage farm.

Best feature photograph

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch

Marigeli Roman lies down with her son Adriel, 2, and husband, Erick Gamboa, while watching a movie in their Milwaukee home on February 8, 2019.

Dukehart’s photo featured an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who was reunited with his family in Milwaukee after a judge rejected an attempt to deport him.

Best long hard feature story

Whites-Koditschek and WPR’s Alexandra Hall teamed up to produce an audio report on an undocumented immigrant caught up in an alleged labor trafficking scheme that stretched from Mexico to Georgia to Wisconsin.

Best local news or feature website

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism’s website, WisconsinWatch.org.

Best use of multi-platform reporting

Whites-Koditschek, Hall, Dukehart and Shullaw were recognized for audio and online stories about an undocumented immigrant caught up in an alleged labor trafficking scheme that stretched from Mexico to Georgia to Wisconsin.

Best hard feature story

Schorr reported on the quietly growing methamphetamine crisis in Wisconsin, which saw a 450 percent increase in cases between 2008 and 2018.

Best investigative story or series

In collaboration with Wisconsin Watch, Wisconsin Public Radio’s Corrinne Hess reported on homeowners in the path of the massive Foxconn site who say they were misled into selling their properties. Wisconsin Watch intern Izabela Zaluska produced an interactive graphic of the land sales, and Dukehart produced photos.

Best explanatory story or series

Brent King / Director of Communications for the Diocese of Madison

Bram Sable-Smith interviews Bishop Donald Hying in his office at the Diocese of Madison in Madison, Wis., on Oct. 23, for the story about priest abuse in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Watch reporter Erica Jones, an Ann Devroy Fellow from UW-Eau Claire, teamed up with Wisconsin Public Radio investigative fellow Bram Sable-Smith to reveal the extent of Catholic clergy sexual abuse in Wisconsin and how the church is handling it. Also contributing were Dukehart, Wisconsin Watch’s Alisa Ivanitskaya, a Fulbright scholar and Edmund S. Muskie Internship participant from Russia who produced videos and photos; and intern Francisco Velazquez, who gathered data on the roughly 170 priests credibly accused of sexually abusing children in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Watch is the news outlet of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit organization that produces fact-checked multimedia reports on government accountability and quality-of-life issues of importance to the people of Wisconsin. The reports put issues into national context and are distributed for free via wisconsinwatch.org and hundreds of news organizations across the state and nation. The Center trains the next generation of investigative journalists through internships and classroom collaborations. Its mission is “to increase the quality, quantity and understanding of investigative journalism to foster an informed citizenry and strengthen democracy.” 

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