Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Milwaukee-----Doing It Big Again

In 2008, a man had an idea. Former Milwaukee County workers were getting absurd pension checks and not paying taxes. Garbage men who topped out at 60,000 thousand a year were collecting six-figure checks. Something odd was happening. David Umhoefer looked a little deeper. When all was said and done, the county had paid out over 60 million in bogus pension money, the system was changed, people prosecuted, and David Umhoefer walked away with a Pulitzer Prize.

While the Milwaukee is no stranger to big-time intellectual awards, it's always a welcome surprise. And again, just yesterday at 2pm, the city got another welcome surprise, Raquel Rutledge racked up another Pulitzer for the Journal Sentinel.

In Wisconsin, the state allows parents to leave their children, 4 or 5 years old, at day car centers or kindergarten. Kindergartens must be accredited organizations, while increasingly, these day-cars have become more of a fly-by-night organization. Rutledge looked into a complex web of deceit allowing parents to open up dodgy day care centers, bill the state, and operate with little to no oversight. In some cases, the children they billed for didn't even attend the day care. A years worth of investigation shamed the State into changing their policies.

Oh but there's more. Not only did we win the award this year, but Journal reporter Dan Egan was a finalist in the explanatory reporting category for "his path-breaking coverage of how invasive aquatic creatures have disrupted the ecosystem of the Great Lakes and other bodies of water, illuminating the science and politics of an important national issue."

2 Pulitzers for local reporting in three years. This is unprecedented. This is unheard. This is beyond expectations. In a time when print newspapers fail left and right, Milwaukee has set a new bar for American journalism.

"Cashing In On Kids"

"Pension Twists Cost County Millions"

"Great Lakes, Great Peril"

Also worth checking out are the two winners for investigative reporting:

"Deadly Choices At Memorial" by Sheri Fink

This is one of the most riveting and disturbing things you will read. The article asks serious questions about medical ethics while also giving a blow by blow, white-knuckled, minute by minute account of what it was like to be trapped in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

And from The Philadelphia Daily News, "Tainted Justice"
These articles read like one of the best police dramas you have ever seen. Corrupt cops, snitches, tainted evidence, FBI probes, hundreds of false convictions, it goes on and on. Crazy stuff.


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