About The Center

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 provides training and education for students, professional journalists and citizens to better understand agribusiness and its impact locally, regionally and globally. The Center uses 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 pursues 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 Reva and David Logan Foundation in Chicago.

It is further supported by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation in Chicago with past support from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation in Oklahoma City.



, Gannett Agriculture Data Fellow

Sky Chadde is the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting's Gannett Agriculture Data Fellow. In 2019, he graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism with a master's degree in investigative reporting. He's covered Missouri state government for the Columbia Missourian and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Before grad school, he was a reporter in Texas, covering local governments and law enforcement. At the Midwest Center, he focuses on data journalism.

Pam Dempsey

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 352Dave 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_251aActon 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.


on Wednesday, September 7, 2016. photo by Darrell Hoemann/The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

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.


on Friday, August 31, 2012.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.

, social media & marketing

Cynthia Voelkl handles social media and marketing content for the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. A University of Illinois alum, she also has a Master’s degree in geography from Eastern Michigan. She has worked at non-profits for many years, as well as running an antiques business. She is an inveterate lover of back roads and traveling the Midwest. She can be found at sandwichlifeconsulting.com, which combines her personal blog, her consulting business, and her Americana house concert series.


Nikki Usher, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Nikki Usher is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Illinois. She has covered and produced commentary on a wide range of issues related to media, tech policy, technology and social media, and political communication. Her journalism has appeared in CJR, the Washington Post, Slate, CNN, the Atlantic, and beyond. Her academic work focuses on how journalism and politics are changing in the digital age

Contact us! 

Mail: 701 Devonshire Dr., C-33, Champaign, IL 61820
Email: staff@investigatemidwest.org
Phone: (312) 970-0395