Ruth Conniff, Henry Redman, Isiah Holmes and Erik Gunn at the Milwaukee Press Club Awards dinner on May 6, 2022 | Examiner photo
The Wisconsin Examiner won six Milwaukee Press Club awards for excellence in journalism for stories published in 2021. The winners, which were announced at the club’s Gridiron Awards dinner at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee on May 6 included:
- Silver Award: Best Pandemic Story that Appeared Online: Erik Gunn “Racial and income fault lines over back to school”
Gunn shined a light on the debate over school reopening and how it resonated very differently with different socioeconomic groups. While lawmakers and others who called for a swift return to face-to-face teaching focused on poor families and families of color, many of those same families were reluctant to go back, Gunn reported. Digging into survey data and interviewing experts, Gunn explored how social conditions amplified the risks of COVID-19, causing parents of color to take a more conservative approach to sending their children back to school, and how virtual learning was, even apart from the pandemic, a more attractive option than in-person classes for many of those kids.
- Silver Award: Best Investigative Story or Series: Ruth Conniff “How a Wisconsin tribe helped launch a MAGA charter school”
Conniff broke the story of the connection between the Lac Courte Oreilles College in northern Wisconsin and a charter school the college helped launch in Oconomowoc, at the other end of the state, that is part of a network receiving curriculum, teacher training, and mentoring from Hillsdale College, a small Christian college in Michigan with deep ties to the Trump administration. The “patriotic education” model used by the school downplays genocide and slavery, making it a surprising partner for a Native American educational institution. Conniff uncovered how “educational sovereignty,” the key concept that brought together the tribe and members the influential rightwing Christian school choice movement, has profound implications for the future of public schools in Wisconsin.
- Silver Award: Best Online Coverage of News: Isaiah Holmes and Henry Redman “How Kenosha Police reacted to protests after the Jacob Blake shooting”
Using open records, Holmes and Redman uncovered the conversations among Kenosha police and U.S. Marshals about their use of the same tactics against Black Lives Matter protesters in Kenosha and Portland, the militarized approach to local law enforcement, and the friendly response of Kenosha officers to armed militia who came into the city.
This entry included six separate stories: “Marshals saw Kenosha as ‘unique opportunity’ to ‘get what we all know we need,’ ” “U.S. Marshals came directly from Portland to Kenosha during unrest,” “Was the Alvin Cole shooting decision delayed by Kenosha unrest?,” “Kenosha Law enforcement’s thin blue line challenge coins,” “Texts show Kenosha officers called armed civilians ‘very friendly hours before Rittenhouse shooting,” and “How Kenosha PD and the FBI received Wisconsin’s BLM protester list”
- Silver Award: Best Public Service Story or Series: Isaiah Holmes “Police surveillance”
Holmes took a deep look at the technology and evolving theory of police surveillance and what it means for Wisconsin citizens who might be unwittingly sharing information with law enforcement. Submissions for this award included three stories: “Concerns raised over wiretap bill,” “Wiretap experts fear bill will open back door for police,” and “How should fusion centers be used during protests.”
- Bronze Award: Best Explanatory Story or Series: Erik Gunn “Where did all the workers go?”
Gunn covers the much-discussed labor shortage in Wisconsin, interviewing economists and workers to shed light on a complex issue and the barriers to work that affect individual families with repercussions for the entire economy. This submission included three stories: “As the pandemic eases, worker shortages grow,” “Wages, child care and more: Why the labor market isn’t growing” and “Matching workers with the right jobs.”
- Bronze Award: Best Soft Feature Story: Henry Redman “Madison Ballet tries to bring dance and joy in visit to Fort McCoy”
Redman reported on a special production of “The Nutcracker” at Fort McCoy Army base for the Afghan refugees who arrived there after the U.S. troop withdrawal from their country. On Dec. 10-11, dancers from Madison Ballet taught classes to children and performed Act Two of the famous holiday show on a makeshift stage for raucous crowds of hundreds.One dancer told Redman “she feels like they were ‘quenching a thirst’ by allowing kids to be kids.” “Every single student expressed joy the entire time, and I’ve never seen that,” she added.
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