Nominations sought for 2022 Distinguished Wisconsin Watchdog Award

2018 Wisconsin Watchdog Awards held at the Madison Club on April 19, 2018. - Lauren Justice/for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Nominations are being sought for the annual Distinguished Wisconsin Watchdog Award, recognizing an individual’s extraordinary contributions to open government or investigative journalism in Wisconsin.

The award is presented jointly by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, the Madison Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the Wisconsin Newspaper AssociationWisconsin Broadcasters Association and University of Madison-Wisconsin School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Letters of nomination are accepted from journalists, news organizations and other individuals and organizations involved in open government and investigative journalism issues. Self-nominations also are welcomed.

Nominations should summarize the individual’s extraordinary contributions to open government or investigative journalism in Wisconsin and provide examples of why those efforts matter. The award may recognize an individual’s achievements over an extended period of time, or within a single year, at the discretion of the selection committee. 

Nomination letters should be no more than two pages, single-spaced. Nominations may include a resume and/or a link to clips or a professional website for the nominee. Nominations that did not succeed in previous years are automatically in the running for this year.

Dave Zweifel, editor emeritus of The Capital Times and a founder of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, was named the inaugural winner in 2011 and serves on the award selection committee. The late Dick Wheeler, founder of the Wheeler Report and an advocate for public access to the workings of state government, was honored in 2012. In 2013, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman, the chief author of Wisconsin’s Open Records Law and a strong advocate of the Open Meetings Law, received the award.

The 2014 recipient was Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigative reporter Dave Umhoefer, a Pulitzer Prize winner. In 2015, Journal Sentinel investigative health reporter Meg Kissinger received the honor for tirelessly exposing flaws in the mental health system. In 2016, attorney Robert J. Dreps was honored for being a champion of open government and representing news organizations in groundbreaking cases for three decades. The 2017 recipient was Gilman Halsted, a retired Wisconsin Public Radio reporter who produced award-winning examinations of the state’s criminal justice system. In 2018, the award was given to Raquel Rutledge, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter at the Journal Sentinel. The 2019 recipient was Jessica Arp, the former assistant news director and chief political reporter for News 3 Now and

The 2020 recipient was selected and will be honored at this year’s event, along with the 2022 recipient, because the 2020 and 2021 events were canceled because of COVID-19 concerns.

Nominations should be sent by March 21 to Andy Hall, the Center’s executive director, at or WCIJ, Fifth Floor, Vilas Hall, 821 University Ave., Madison, WI 53706.

The recipient will be honored at the Wisconsin Watchdog Awards reception and dinner, which begins at 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 21 at the Madison Club, 5 E. Wilson St. in Madison. Tickets are $75. To sign up, click here.

If conditions of the pandemic warrant, measures may be put in place to protect the health of guests.

Sponsorship packages are available for the event. Contact Jay Burseth, the Center’s development director, at for more information. 

Proceeds benefit the Center and Wisconsin Watch, its award-winning news outlet, the participation of young journalists in the event and an online investigative reporting workshop at the Wisconsin Newspaper Association’s annual convention on May 5 and 6. Signup details will be announced soon.