DEI Board Task Force

The Wisconsin Watch Board of Directors established a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force in January 2020. This was in response to 2019 board-staff discussions about the need to improve Wisconsin Watch’s DEI strategy and implementation, including board recruitment, in collaboration with the staff. The staff, which established its own committee that has involved all 16 staff members, is committed to working with the Board to strengthen our journalism, training, hiring practices and overall operations.

Wisconsin Watch recognized that the commitment to diversity efforts, which encompasses many different actions, had to be made a top priority moving forward. Wisconsin Watch has always been committed to amplifying the voices and exposing systems that fail people in vulnerable circumstances, to hold power to account and improve the quality of life for the residents of Wisconsin. That cannot be done to its fullest without an active commitment to DEI efforts, which are as integral to Wisconsin Watch’s fulfilment of mission as are journalistic excellence and financial sustainability.

In 2021, Wisconsin Watch’s focus on improving the diversity, equity and inclusiveness of its journalism and operations includes: Hiring a consultant to interview and survey staff and other key figures, and monitor communications, to assess the landscape and recommend areas for improvements; surveying Wisconsin Watch’s news sources to examine the diversity of the voices included in our reports; surveying the board and staff to examine the diversity and to track changes over time.

The DEI Board Task Force, led by Board member Karen Lincoln Michel, meets regularly to ensure that the recruitment process for the Board and staff maintains a sharp focus on candidates with diverse backgrounds and experiences. The Task Force also receives updates from and offers input to the DEI Staff Committee, discusses how job postings can reach a wider range of diverse applicants, and examines how Wisconsin Watch can connect with new distribution partners to reach larger and more diverse audiences.

Membership of the Task Force currently includes board members Michel, Malcolm Brett and Brant Houston; Ron Smith, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service editor; Binnu Hill, UW-Madison Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion; Heather Reese, Wisconsin Public Media Director of Strategic Initiatives and Compliance; and Wisconsin Watch staff members Barbara Johnson, senior strategic adviser; Lauren Fuhrmann, associate director (who serves as the board-staff liaison) and Andy Hall, executive director.

DEI Staff Committee

The DEI Staff Committee meets regularly to discuss many DEI topics that are relevant to Wisconsin Watch and can lead to actionable change. The Staff Committee’s main project so far has been developing and implementing a demographic survey for sources who are quoted in investigations. Modeled after a survey developed by our partners at WPR, this survey is a way for Wisconsin Watch to keep track of which identities — racial, gender, age, geographic — are underrepresented in its reporting and therefore need to be prioritized. 

In addition, the DEI Staff Committee allows for time to discuss important and sensitive topics in a safe, supportive environment. Those have included extensive full-staff conversations about the killing of George Floyd in police custody, and widespread police brutality — often targeting Black people  — and the effects of racism and marginalization.