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Wisconsin Right Now Wins 3 Milwaukee Press Club Awards for DeSantis Podcast, Kaul Open Records Battle, Review

Wisconsin Right Now has won three prestigious Milwaukee Press Club awards for our investigative reporting into Attorney General Josh Kaul’s botched crime victims’ audit response, our podcast with then-presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, and our movie review of Matt Walsh’s documentary, “What is a Woman?”

One of the awards, for public service story, involved a 1.5 year-long open records battle with the state Department of Justice.

The awards, won by WRN co-editors Jessica McBride, Jim Piwowarczyk, and Liberty University college student Jenna Piwowarczyk (who co-hosted the podcast), were announced by the Press Club on March 12, 2024.

The place – 1st, 2nd or 3rd – for each of the awards will be announced on May 3 at the Gridiron Awards Dinner at the Pfister hotel in Milwaukee.

The Milwaukee Press Club is a statewide contest, so Wisconsin Right Now competed against the state’s major television stations, newspapers, and online sites. “The Milwaukee Press Club is the oldest continuously operating press club in North America, and possibly the world,” its website says. The judges are journalism professionals from out-of-state.

Wisconsin Right Now has won prestigious journalism awards every year since its founding in August 2020.

For example, last year, WRN’s co-editors Jim Piwowarczyk and Jessica McBride won three gold awards, including the best public service reporting in the state for their reporting on Gov. Tony Evers’ appointee’s paroles of murderers and rapists into Wisconsin communities. The previous year, Jim Piwowarczyk and Jessica McBride won awards in video and column writing for their coverage of the Water Street shootings in Milwaukee and the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. And the year before that, Jim Piwowarczyk won an award for best news photography from on-scene coverage of the Kenosha riots.

This year’s awards are for:

Best Original Podcast

Appearing on the Wisconsin Right Now podcast, DeSantis, who was running for president at the time, made national news; he ruled out being Trump’s running mate and ruled out Robert F. Kennedy Jr. being his. He accused the media of creating a false narrative about his campaign.

The podcast was co-hosted by Jim Piwowarczyk, Jessica McBride, and Jenna Piwowarczyk.

Best Public Service Story or Series

Wisconsin Right Now uncovered, through a long-delayed open records request, that Attorney General Josh Kaul’s office had so badly mismanaged an audit response involving his Office of Crime Victim Services that the Wisconsin Department of Justice was labeled a “high risk” state for federal grants, imperiling funding for domestic violence, sexual assault, and other victims throughout Wisconsin for months.

We obtained the information after a lengthy open records battle with Kaul’s office.

On May 20, 2021, the feds formally designated Wisconsin’s DOJ a high-risk grantee after Kaul’s office failed repeatedly to comply with federal requests to document questionable costs charged by local organizations, the records obtained by WRN show.

Jessica mcbride
Josh kaul.

We first filed the open records request with Kaul’s office in May 2022, months before the Attorney General’s election, after getting a tip that the high-risk state label, which no one had reported until now, was imperiling important public safety grants. Even though Kaul’s office is supposed to be the state’s top enforcer of open records laws, we did not get a response for almost 1.5 years, until October 2023. That prevented Wisconsin voters from learning about Kaul’s mismanagement of a major federal audit response before the election.

The other media never covered the story.

Best Critical Review

We wrote a movie review on “What Is a Woman?

It was something most news sites wouldn’t dare touch. Movie critics shunned Matt Walsh’s epic and brilliant documentary even though more than 110 million people had watched it. That’s okay; the country’s elite critics are making themselves irrelevant in a central debate of our times.

Walsh pointed out on Twitter that only six movie critics had written reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and none from major sites.

To some degree, Walsh’s documentary is a statement on censorship. It’s worth noting that the documentary would have reached far fewer eyes if Elon Musk hadn’t purchased Twitter. This is a pattern. In interview after interview, Walsh’s carefully worded, completely legitimate questions eventually cause squirming interview subjects to shut down a conversation they can’t win.

There’s a power shift happening in America, and it started with the concerns of parents at a local level bubbling up to the national stage. The free flow of information is essential.

Wisconsin Right Now is an independent news site that was founded by Piwowarczyk and McBride to give state readers information that the other media leave out, censor, or spin.

If you want to help WRN continue, we do have a donation link, which you can find here. Recurring donations of even $10 a month help us most because it builds sustainability.

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