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.
The Midwest Center has also received support from: the Lumpkin Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network, Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting and David and Elizabeth Steinglass. 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.
Pramod Acharya, Data Visualizations/Reporter
Pramod Acharya is an investigative journalist, data reporter, and multimedia content producer. As a Research Assistant at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he produced data-driven and investigative news reports for Journalism Department newsroom CU-CitizenAccess. He previously worked as the Assistant Editor at the Center for Investigative Journalism Nepal, and was a Dart fellow at Columbia University and Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN).
He started his journalism career as a cub reporter in a community radio station in Nepal in 2009 and has spent a decade working on electronic, print, and online media.
Pramod holds an MS in Journalism from the University of Illinois and an MA in English from Tribhuvan University, Nepal.
Sky Chadde, 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.
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 University 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.
Cynthia Voelkl, 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.
Interns Summer 2020
Frank Hernandez, Intern
Frank Hernandez is a senior at the University of Texas at El Paso, majoring in philosophy and multimedia journalism. Previously, he reported for Borderzine.com, an online news magazine covering life on the US-Mexico border. He has presented research at conferences in Texas, Wisconsin and New York. Last summer, he interned with the East and Central European Studies program at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. He is interested in reporting on the environment, climate change and vulnerable communities across the country and the world.
Madeline Perry, Intern
Madeline Perry is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a concentration in Public Policy and Democratic Institutions and a minor in Journalism. Last summer, she interned in Washington D.C. as Senator Durbin's Press Intern. There she worked with Senator Durbin's Press Team on social media posts as well as policy research. Madeline developed an interest in investigative journalism last semester through taking Brant Houston's investigative reporting class. She hopes to one day inspire systemic change with one of her stories.
Marissa Plescia, Intern
Marissa Plescia is from Barrington, IL, and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign with a major in journalism and a minor in public relations. Over the last few years, she has interned with the Chicago Tribune's collection of suburban papers, The Daily Herald and Southwest Lake Lifestyle Magazine. She also worked with The Daily Illini as a features reporter and later assistant features editor.
Heather Schlitz, Dow Jones Business Reporting Intern
Heather Schlitz is a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she studies journalism, global studies and East Asian languages and cultures. Previously, Heather reported on climate change and the environment as a Dow Jones Data Journalism intern at AccuWeather and has spent three years writing about science news for the student newspaper and the University News Bureau.
Samuel Trilling, Dow Jones Editing Intern
Samuel Trilling is a recent graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, where he majored in Journalism and Political Science. A Dow Jones intern at the Midwest Center, Sam spent last summer in Sarajevo, Bosnia working for the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. Sam is originally from rural New Jersey and is currently based in Philadelphia, and hopes to continue working in investigative reporting.
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
Mail: 701 Devonshire Dr., C-33, Champaign, IL 61820
Phone: (312) 970-0395