Project archives

Since its launch in January 2009, Wisconsin Watch has produced and distributed more than 350 major reports. Our professional and student journalists work both independently and in partnership with WPR, Wisconsin Public Television, and other for-profit and nonprofit news organizations.

This page compiles all of our major projects produced through our fact-checked, nonpartisan reporting. 

The projects are listed in reverse chronological order.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch

Costly Care — Reporter Bram Sable-Smith investigates the impact of medical debt on people in Wisconsin and looks at how and why hospitals have continued to sue patients, even during a pandemic.

Provided photos

Lives on Hold — Wisconsin has failed to deliver unemployment aid to thousands at a time when they most need it. This series examines the state’s unemployment system and how it is working, or not, for the people who most need assistance.

Will Cioci / Wisconsin Watch

Coronavirus Coverage — Wisconsin Watch’s reporters and editors are investigating state and local impacts of the global pandemic and issues related to quality of life in Wisconsin.

Claire DeRosa / Wisconsin Watch

Outbreak Wisconsin — This series chronicles people’s journeys through the coronavirus crisis, exposes failing systems and explores solutions.

Claire DeRosa / Wisconsin Watch

Wisconsin COVID-19 Update — A roundup of top news and information about Wisconsin’s response to the coronavirus.

Claire DeRosa / Wisconsin Watch

Narrow Margin — This project is examining voting security, suppression and disinformation aimed at voters in Wisconsin — a crucial state that could determine the winner of the 2020 presidential election. Narrow Margin is reported by Wisconsin Watch staff, media partners and a University of Wisconsin-Madison investigative journalism class led by managing editor Dee J. Hall.

Will Cioci / Wisconsin Watch

Photo Essays — Photojournalism produced by Wisconsin Watch reporters and photographers.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Flawed Forensics — This series examines flaws in scientific tests and techniques used to solve crimes — and how well the justice system addresses those shortcomings.

Cole Monka / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Failure at the Faucet — Failure at the Faucet is a series exploring risks to drinking water across Wisconsin.

Emily Hamer / Wisconsin Watch

The Cannabis Question — The Cannabis Question is a series by a University of Wisconsin-Madison investigative journalism class examining what would happen if Wisconsin were to legalize marijuana. The class is led by managing editor Dee J. Hall.

Courtesy of Kathryn Walczyk

Catholic Clergy Abuse — This series illuminates the legacy of trauma left behind by clergy sexual abuse in Wisconsin. We reported on recommendations to better root out the abuse, and ways the church can mitigate the damage it has caused.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch

Seeking a Cure: The Quest to Save Rural Hospitals — This collaborative project includes the Institute for Nonprofit News and INN members IowaWatch, KCUR, Bridge Magazine, Wisconsin Watch, Side Effects Public Media and The Conversation; as well as Minnesota Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Radio, Iowa Public Radio, The (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) Gazette, Iowa Falls Times Citizen and N’west Iowa Review.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch

Cruel and Unusual? — Our reporting found prisoners experience despair, suicide attempts, mental harm and lack of services in solitary confinement that can stretch on for years.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Beyond Bail — Beyond Bail is a Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism series exploring the use of cash bail in Wisconsin and around the country.

Brad Horn / For the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Countering Concussions — This series examines the effectiveness of efforts to prevent sports-related brain injuries.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Broken Whistle — This series explores Gov. Scott Walker’s attack on waste, fraud and abuse and the dwindling protections and incentives for whistleblowers in Wisconsin.

Dee J. Hall / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Undemocratic: Secrecy and Power vs. The People — This series examines the state of Wisconsin’s democracy in an era of gerrymandering, secret campaign money, restrictive voting laws and legislative maneuvers that weaken the power of regular citizens to influence government.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Losing Track — This series explores flaws in Wisconsin’s GPS monitoring program for offenders. In 2013, the Center exposed problems including false alerts and lost signals that sent offenders to jail even when they did not violate terms of the monitoring.

Elijah Nouvelage / Getty Images

Documenting Hate — The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism joined ProPublica’s Documenting Hate project to collect data and stories on hate and discrimination incidents in our community.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

State of Change: Water, Food And The Future Of Wisconsin — There are few things more important than food and water. They sustain life and our economy. In Wisconsin, both face numerous challenges but they also offer countless opportunities. Our partner, Wisconsin Public Radio, took a year-long look at these precious resources. Stories explored what food and water mean for Wisconsinites’ lives, and what they might look like in the future.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch

Precious Lives — For two years, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism partnered with other media organizations on Precious Lives, a wide-ranging effort that examined the causes and consequences of gun violence on Milwaukee youth. Precious Lives included stories in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and 100 weekly radio episodes, produced by 371 Productions, which aired on WUWM (89.7 FM) and WNOV (860 AM). The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism produced investigative reports examining the roots of gun violence and potential solutions in Milwaukee and statewide.

Alexandra Arriaga / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Voting Wars — by News21 — These stories were reported and edited for a Wisconsin audience, and are part of the project “Voting Wars – Rights | Power | Privilege,” produced by the Carnegie-Knight News21 initiative, a national investigative reporting project by top college journalism students and headquartered at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

Michelle Stocker / The Capital Times

Children Left Behind — A project exploring reasons for faltering performance and ways to improve the state of education for Wisconsin’s poor children and students of color.

Courtesy of Jim Kachel

Frac Sand Rush — We help you get up to speed on issues facing Wisconsin’s frac sand industry, from local control to water use.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Scott Walker’s Wisconsin — Stories about Scott Walker’s time as governor of Wisconsin — the effects of his policies on public sector unions, job creation, public records, the environment and more.

Grey Satterfield IV / Curb Magazine

Exotic and Exploited? — A series examining the ownership of exotic animals in Wisconsin.

Craig Schreiner / Wisconsin State Journal

Under the Influence — Despite arrests, fines, convictions and prison time, many Wisconsin drivers continue to drink and drive. A collaboration with the Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team documents the state’s pervasive problem of repeat drunken driving.

Wisconsin National Primate Research Center

Animal Research — An ongoing investigation of ethics and practices into animal research in Wisconsin.

Erik Daily / La Crosse Tribune

Water Watch Wisconsin — A project examining the quality and supply of Wisconsin’s water, in collaboration with Wisconsin Public Television and Wisconsin Public Radio. Water Watch Wisconsin is supported in part by the Joyce Foundation.

Mike DeVries / The Capital Times

Murky Waters — The Capital Times and Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism produced this four-part series examining threats to the quality of the Madison area’s spectacular lakes, and ambitious new efforts that seek to improve them. Researchers around the world are watching our lakes in hopes of adapting these lessons to troubled bodies of water in other areas.

Nora G. Hertel / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journailsm

Rethinking Sex Offenders — The Center’s Nora Hertel teamed up with Gilman Halsted of Wisconsin Public Radio on “Rethinking Sex Offenders,” a three-day series examining Wisconsin’s changing methods of dealing with sexually violent persons. The series reveals that officials have nearly quadrupled the number of offenders released from state custody after they were committed as sexually violent persons. It also includes a rare glimpse inside the walls of Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center in Mauston.

Kate Golden / WCIJ

Endocrine disruptors — Scientists have learned that some chemicals may mimic or disrupt the hormones of people and wildlife, with potentially health-damaging results.

Kate Golden / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Groundwater supply — In a state with about 15,000 lakes and more than a quadrillion gallons of groundwater, it is hard to believe that water could ever be in short supply. Experts say, however, that the burgeoning number of so-called high-capacity wells is drawing down some ground and surface water.

Martha Kelash / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

State of the Parks — With taxpayer funding for Wisconsin’s state parks slowly shrinking, parks are increasingly reliant on revenue from visitors, and donated money and time from volunteer groups. This 2013 project, examining the impact of this shifting fiscal picture, was produced by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism in collaboration with a UW-Madison reporting class taught by Professor Deborah Blum.

Lukas Keapproth / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

A Frail System — Families’ abilities to hold potentially negligent nursing facilities accountable have been diminished by a recent change in state law that bars records of abuse and neglect from use in the courts, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism has found. The Center’s investigation also shows that some long-term care facilities are failing to report deaths and injuries, as required by law. This project explores those issues and offers families help in identifying which of the state’s nursing homes have been sued or cited for major problems.

Lukas Keapproth / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Rural Slide — In this series, the Center’s Lukas Keapproth and Mario Koran explore how three Wisconsin counties are coping with their population changes — and potential statewide solutions to rural population loss. From 2000 to 2010, while the state’s population grew by 6 percent, one-fourth of Wisconsin’s 72 counties lost population, with the declines concentrated in rural areas.

Kate Golden / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Wasted Places — Wasted Places is a collaborative investigation by six nonprofit newsrooms into federal and state programs designed to cleanup and redevelop polluted tracts known as brownfields.The project was coordinated by the Investigative News Network, and reported and written by the Connecticut Health Investigative Team, City Limits, Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and INN.

Lukas Keapproth / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Campus Mental Health — This series examines mental health services across the University of Wisconsin System.

Lukas Keapproth / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

The Walker Calendar Files — Through the state’s open records law, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism received Gov. Scott Walker’s official schedule as Google calendars that had been printed out, redacted and scanned back in as PDFs. Center reporters then created a database of all 4,414 entries in the calendars. This three-part series explores the files.

Lukas Keapproth / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Gov. Scott Walker: Uniter, Divider — A three-part series examing Gov. Scott Walker and his role in Wisconsin.

Kyle McDaniel / Wisconsin State Journal

Security after 9/11: 10 Years Later — Homeland security funding is dwindling. How are emergency response agencies trying to do more with less? This series explores issues of security after 9/11 in Wisconsin.

Robert Gutsche Jr. / WCIJ

Dairyland Diversity — This project explores the increased role of immigrants on Wisconsin dairy farms.

Andy Hall / WCIJ

Suffering in Silence: Sexual Assaults at the University of Wisconsin —  This investigation examines how UW is tackling sexual assaults on its 13 four-year campuses.

Is State Ready for Rail? — This project by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and University of Wisconsin-Madison journalism students found the state might not be quite ready for high-speed rail.