As part of an effort to better cover crucial issues in the agricultural industry, Investigate Midwest has acquired IowaWatch and its talented team, bringing together a combined 25 years of public service journalism to Iowa and the Midwest.
IowaWatch (The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism) will cease operations as a nonprofit and evolve into an expanded Iowa-based newsroom within Investigate Midwest (The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting) under an agreement approved this month by the boards of directors of both nonprofit organizations.
Under the umbrella of Investigate Midwest, the Iowa team will focus its coverage on agriculture and rural issues.
“As colleagues for many years, IowaWatch and Investigate Midwest have naturally gravitated toward the common goal of deeply covering rural communities and Midwest issues that often go unseen and unreported,” said Pam Dempsey, executive director for Investigate Midwest.
The newsroom will do more investigative stories for Iowans and allow Investigate Midwest — whose mission is to expose the dangerous and costly practices of influential agricultural corporations and institutions — to expand its coverage in a state that’s a global leader in agriculture.
The newsroom also will retain IowaWatch’s educational mission of training young journalists — a key part of Investigate Midwest’s work as well.
“As we close this chapter in IowaWatch’s history, we’re thrilled for this opportunity to bolster our reporting for Iowans by joining Investigate Midwest, which has long helped folks understand how powerful companies, institutions and people affect our food supply, energy sources and environment,” said Jim Malewitz, the outgoing president of IowaWatch’s board of directors. “We approached this partnership with the same mission-focused, collaborative spirit that has fueled our work since 2010, and Iowans will be better off for it.”
Suzanne Behnke, who joined IowaWatch in August 2019 as executive director and editor, will lead Investigate Midwest’s Iowa expanding newsroom. Beginning in June, an Iowa-based reporter will represent Investigate Midwest as one of 10 partner newsrooms that are a part of the Missouri School of Journalism’s Mississippi River Basin Ag & Water Desk.
Mary Ungs-Sogaard, IowaWatch’s business development director, will stay on with Investigate Midwest, both fundraising its Iowa reporting and continuing popular IowaWatch events such as Sunset on the Farm.
Under the agreement, two longtime IowaWatch board members will join Investigate Midwest’s board of directors: Lyle Muller, who was IowaWatch’s first full-time executive director-editor from May 2012 until retiring in August 2019; and Erin Jordan, an award-winning investigative reporter for The Gazette in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City and the IowaWatch board’s past president.
The remaining IowaWatch board members will become an advisory group to Investigate Midwest.
“We’ve collaborated with Investigate Midwest for several years as individual newsrooms,” Muller said. “This move makes great sense. Our shared reporting missions should have more impact for a wider audience.”
About Investigate Midwest
Launched in 2009, Investigate Midwest is an independent, nonprofit newsroom. Its mission is to serve the public interest by exposing dangerous and costly practices of influential agricultural corporations and institutions through in-depth and data-driven investigative journalism.
Investigate Midwest uncovers and critically reports on stories affecting agricultural communities, so we all can better understand how powerful companies, institutions and individuals affect our food supply, energy sources and environment.
Founded in 2010 by Stephen J. Berry, a Pulitzer-prize winning investigative journalist, and Robert Gutsche Jr. while they worked at the University of Iowa, IowaWatch grew into the state’s leading collaborative investigative nonprofit news organization. Its mission was to maintain an independent, non-partisan journalistic program dedicated to producing and encouraging explanatory and investigative journalism in Iowa, engaging in collaborative reporting with Iowa and national news organizations and educating journalism students. IowaWatch developed a network of partners for collaboration and distribution of stories. More than 100 news organizations annually republished or aired its stories.
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