The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting is an independent, nonprofit newsroom devoted to educating the public about crucial issues in the Midwest with a special focus on agribusiness and related topics such as government programs, environment and energy.
Started in 2009 by journalist Mike Sherry, the Center intends to provide training and education for students, professional journalists and citizens to better understand agribusiness and its impact locally, regionally and globally. The Center also plans to use both traditional and innovative digital tools and techniques to analyze data about agribusiness and distribute the results.
The Center has federal 501-(c)-3 status and thus donations made to the Center are tax deductible.
The Center will pursue collaborations with college journalism programs, nonprofit news organizations, citizens, and media outlets. The Center is a member of the Investigative News Network
The Center is generously supported by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation in Chicago and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation in Oklahoma City.
Pamela G. Dempsey, Executive Director
Pam Dempsey is the executive director of the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.
She is an award-winning journalist who has done investigative reporting and editing on topics including agribusiness, migrant farm workers, health, housing and Native American government.
Dempsey, who is an online, print and radio journalist, has developed community engagement programs and investigative reporting workshops.
She also has helped coordinate the start-up of two online newsrooms that heavily emphasize data journalism.
In 2017, she was selected as a Reynolds Institute Journalism Fellow to co-lead a team of data journalists and computer scientists with Brant Houston, Professor and Knight Chair in Investigative Reporting at the University of Illinois, to develop a "freemium" model of a digital tool to better identify issues of risks within Big Ag.
Dave Dickey, Commentary
David Dickey of the Midwest Center for Investigative Journalism always wanted to be a journalist.
After serving tours in the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy, David enrolled at Rock Valley Junior College in Rockford, Ill. where he was first news editor and then editor in chief of the school newspaper The Valley Forge.
A 1988 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Media, he spent the next 28 years at the Univeristy of Illinois NPR member station WILL-AM 580. There David reported on sports, news, and hosted Saturday programming including Weekend Edition for more than a decade.
During the last 13 years of his career at WILL, he served as the station's director of agricultural programming.
During his radio career, Dickey won a dozen Associated Press awards for his reporting and he is a recipient of a Peabody for his reporting on dental issues in Illinois.
Dickey was also a member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting, dedicated to bringing timely news to the agricultural community.
Acton Gorton, Data Reporter
Acton H. Gorton is a data journalist with a focus on open data, geospatial analysis, and software development.
His work commonly appears in investigative journalism news outlets, such as CU-CitizenAccess and The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.
Gorton is currently completing a PhD with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, focusing on the visualization of computer based data analytics using Augmented Reality.
Johnathan Hettinger, Enterprise Reporter
Johnathan Hettinger is an enterprise reporter for the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, focusing on climate change in Illinois.
Growing up in Central Illinois, Johnathan saw and had family members working in all aspects of agribusiness, from boots-in-the-field farming and raising livestock to spreading fertilizer, managing grain elevators and trading commodities.
Sadly, though, he didn't have a tractor for "Drive your tractor to school day" at Monticello High School.
Johnathan is a proud 2015 graduate of the University of Illinois, where he worked for four years at The Daily Illini, the best student newspaper in the state. After graduation, Johnathan worked at The News-Gazette, the daily newspaper in Champaign, Ill., where he covered the Champaign and Urbana municipal governments and the University of Illinois.
Darrell Hoemann, Photo Editor
Darrell Hoemann of the Midwest Center for Investigative Journalism, sold his first photo to a newspaper at age 15 and was published in the St. Louis (MO) Globe-Democrat.
A 1974 graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he began his career as a reporter/photographer in Anderson, South Carolina, eventually working as a photographer in Columbia, SC and photographer and chief photographer for the Greenville (S.C.) News and Piedmont.
He completed his newspaper career with 25 years at the Champaign (ILL) News-Gazette, as their first photo editor, retiring in 2013 to pursue a freelance career and work with the center.
Hoemann was a founding member of the Associated Press Photo Managers, serving on the board for several terms. After his retirement, he was designated an emeritus board member, and continues to serve the photojournalism community.
He was also president of the South Carolina Press Photographers Association and is a 38 year member of the National Press Photographers Association.
Significant assignments include a wide variety of spot news, national political conventions and a self assigned story on the then new hospice programs.
His current assignments include a wide variety of sports, performing arts and news. Hoemann is the official photographer of the Champaign-Urbana ballet and his automotive coverage includes his membership in the Midwest Automotive Media Association.
Teaching has also been an important part of his career, teaching photography classes at the Greenville County (S.C.) Museum of Art, Furman University, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and adult classes.
Kaolin Sewell, Content Editor/Reporter
Kaolin Sewell is a content editor and reporter for the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. She grew up in the Chicago suburbs away from farmland and agriculture but is excited to gain a new perspective in her reporting.
Kaolin recently graduated from The University of Illinois and received her master's degree in Journalism from the College of Media.
At Illinois, she was the executive producer for Good Morning Illini, a student-run morning show and worked for the Daily Illini, student newspaper, creating student guides for various University events.
Christopher Walljasper, Investigative Reporter
Christopher Walljasper is an investigative reporter who grew up in a small town in Southeast Iowa, where much of his family still farms.
He has worked in various aspects of media, from advertising to digital production management, data journalism and reporting.
He now lives in Chicago and his work has appeared in Farm Journal, Global Post, Missouri Life, The Chicagoist and the Austin Weekly News.
He graduated from Monmouth College, and received his master's degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
Mail: 701 Devonshire Dr., C-33, Champaign, IL 61820
Phone: (312) 970-0395