About Investigate Midwest

Investigate Midwest (previously The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting) is an independent, nonprofit newsroom. Our 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.

Started in 2009 by journalist Mike Sherry, Investigate Midwest provides training and education for students, professional journalists and citizens to better understand agribusiness and its impact locally, regionally and globally. Investigate Midwest uses both traditional and innovative digital tools and techniques to analyze data about agribusiness and distribute the results.

Investigate Midwest has federal 501(c)3 status and thus donations made to Investigate Midwest are tax deductible.

Investigate Midwest pursues collaborations with college journalism programs, nonprofit news organizations, citizens, and media outlets. Investigate Midwest is a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News.

Investigate Midwest is generously supported by the Reva and David Logan Foundation in Chicago.

Investigate Midwest has also received support from: the Lumpkin Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network, Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, David and Elizabeth Steinglass and the Gary Marx Journalism Fund. It is further supported by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation in Chicago  and Arnold Ventures in Houston, with past support from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation in Oklahoma City.

Contact us!

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

Steal Our Stories

Unless otherwise noted, you are allowed to republish our stories, original photos and graphics for free with these conditions.

Where Our Stories Appear

Our work at Investigate Midwest is often republished, referenced or cited throughout a variety of news outlets and organizations.

Here's a partial list of publications that have used or cited Investigate Midwest's content.

Staff

Pam Dempsey

Pamela G. Dempsey, Executive Director

Pam Dempsey is the executive director of Investigate Midwest.

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.

Erin Orr, Deputy Director

Erin Orr is Investigate Midwest's deputy director. She helps oversee editorial, personnel and business operations. She was an editor and senior personnel administrator for Lee Enterprises Design Center, The Times of Northwest Indiana, and The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Illinois, among others. She is based in northwest Indiana.

EDITORIAL

Sky Chadde, Managing Editor

Sky Chadde is the managing editor for Investigate Midwest. Previously, Chadde was the Center's USA TODAY 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.

Suzanne Behnke, Digital Editor

Suzanne Behnke is the digital editor for Investigate Midwest. She focuses on social media and newsletters, as well as working with our interns. Previously, she was the executive director of IowaWatch, the editor of the Des Moines Business Record and an editor of various sections of the Des Moines Register. She is based in the Des Moines, Iowa, area.

Darrell Hoemann, Photo Editor

Darrell Hoemann of Investigate Midwest, 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, S.C., and photographer and chief photographer for the Greenville (SC) News and Piedmont.

He completed his newspaper career with 25 years at the Champaign (IL) 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 included a wide variety of spot news, national political conventions and a self-assigned story on the then-new hospice programs.

His current assignments include 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 (SC) Museum of Art, Furman University, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and adult classes.

the Greenville County (S.C.) Museum of Art, Furman University, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and adult classes.

Madison McVan, Investigative Reporter

Madison McVan graduated from the University of Missouri in 2020 with degrees in Journalism and Latin American Studies. Before joining Investigate Midwest, she worked for the Columbia Missourian and Missouri Info Corps, covering topics including state and local government, meatpacking plants and the coronavirus pandemic. She is fluent in Spanish and has published work in both Spanish and English. Originally from Pflugerville, Texas, she is now based in the Twin Cities.

Mónica Cordero, Investigative Reporter, Report for America

Mónica Cordero has been published by Univision, Bloomberg Businessweek, La Noticia, Radio Ambulante, NPR, openDemocracy and The New York Times. She is a graduate of the University of Costa Rica and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York. Her past reporting won the 2020 Ortega y Gasset Journalism Award, the most prestigious journalism prize in the Spanish-speaking world, for best investigative reporting. Cordero focuses her work on agriculture's effects on the environment. She reports from Iowa and is a corps member of Report for America.

Johnathan Hettinger, Investigative Reporter 

Johnathan Hettinger focuses on pesticide coverage for Investigative Midwest.

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.

Dave Dickey, Columnist

David Dickey 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.

OPERATIONS/MARKETING

Alison Perkins, Operations Manager and Development

Alison Perkins is an award-winning journalist/video producer for documentaries and nonfiction television. After completing her PhD. examining how people learn about science outside of school, she taught visual storytelling and a graduate science journalism course at the University of Montana School of Journalism and worked as a freelance producer at Montana PBS.

Perkins has a thing for building collaborations and leveraging resources to support journalism because, outside of schools, journalism is where people learn about science, agribusiness, the environment and climate change. At the University of Montana, she developed a reporting model designed to reach Native American audiences, and at Oregon Public Broadcasting, she managed large-scale collaborative reporting projects designed to build audience reach and engagement.

Mary Ungs-Sogaard, Donor Relations Manager

Mary Ungs-Sogaard is Investigate Midwest's donor relations manager. She focuses on supporting the mission of Investigate Midwest through marketing and fundraising. She is the former regional publisher for eight Iowa community newspapers with Woodward Communications, a former president of the Iowa Newspaper Association and a former member of the Iowa Public Information Board. She was a founding board member of IowaWatch, where her title was Business Development Director. Ungs-Sogaard is based in Dyersville, Iowa. 

Cynthia Voelkl, Marketing and Audience

Cynthia Voelkl handles social media and marketing content for Investigate Midwest. A University of Illinois alum, she also has a master’s degree in geography from Eastern Michigan. She has worked at nonprofits 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.

FELLOWS AND INTERNS

Aruni Soni, Dow Jones News Fund Data Intern

Arundhati Soni is a senior economics major at Columbia University, where she serves as the graphics reporter on the school newspaper. Soni's internship is part of the Dow Jones News Fund.


Gary Marx Journalism Fund Fellows and Interns

Chicago reporter David Jackson established the Gary Marx Journalism Fund to honor a trusted newsroom colleague and to inspire a new generation of investigative reporters. Gary Marx began his career as a war correspondent in Africa, uncovered human rights abuses in Latin America and then returned to Chicago to expose prison murders, local political corruption and sexual violence against public school students. David and Gary collaborated on several important Chicago Tribune projects. Created in 2019, the Fund gives out $50,000-to-$100,000 annually to support paid newsroom internships, IRE/NICAR training and scholarships for Columbia College Chicago journalism students.

Mary Norkol, Fellow

Mary Norkol has covered education, housing, arts and culture, city government and COVID-19 for various news organizations, including the Chicago Sun-Times.


Marley Schultz, Fellow

Marley Schultz is a recent graduate from the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, where she completed the post-graduate journalism program.


Kendall Little, Intern

Kendall Little is a senior multimedia journalism student at Florida Atlantic University, where she is editor of the student newspaper.


Heather Robinson, Intern

Heather Robinson (not pictured) is a senior journalism and French studies student at the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, where she is the editor of the student newspaper.


See our alums here.