Thursday, February 2, 2023
Thursday, February 2, 2023

Milwaukee Press Club 'Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism' 2020 & 2021 Award Winners

Top Ranking: Wisconsin Right Now Helps Drive Media Shakeup

By: George Mitchell

Wisconsin Right Now is top-ranked in popularity among all independent online news sites in Southern Wisconsin and ranks ahead of many major legacy media newspapers and television stations throughout the state.

Stories out of Kenosha in 2020 and last year point to a sea change in how people get their news. Sources such as UrbanMilwaukee and the flourishing upstart Wisconsin Right Now illustrate the new landscape.

Consider the common thread that drove early mainstream news coverage after the 2020 police wounding of Jacob Blake and the subsequent actions of Kyle Rittenhouse. In both cases, the so-called legacy media set aside traditional journalistic standards to advance agenda-driven narratives about police brutality and white supremacy that defined the news following the death of George Floyd.

However, as events unfolded, the early coverage turned out to be flat-out wrong — a Democratic prosecutor said the shooting of Blake was justified and a jury acquitted Rittenhouse. Both outcomes were premised on issues covered extensively in the so-called alternative media but largely ignored by the mainstream press. So, while the resolution of each case has been described as “the system” working, that’s only partially true. The system might not have worked but for information that became public through alternative media sources. These venues are enabled by the low overhead of the digital age, the decline in traditional newsrooms of standards that once were the rule, and other factors.

In the case of Rittenhouse, videographers at the scene of the Kenosha riots provided multiple clips of events before and during the actual encounters. Wisconsin Right Now reporters were on the scene for several nights. Their reporting and posts of videos helped focus attention on the possibility of self-defense. They found missing evidence, interviewed witnesses right after the Rittenhouse shooting, and live-streamed arson fires at a time when few traditional reporters remained at the scene. The videos from independent videographers on both sides of the political spectrum became evidence that eventually was central to the Rittenhouse trial and acquittal.

Independent data cited below shows the stunning magnitude and reach of alternative media sites that have emerged in Wisconsin.

Historically, an important measure of media impact was daily circulation of hard copy newspapers. By that measure, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s dive has been so profound as to cost the paper its longstanding status of independent local ownership. At the time of the paper’s formation through a merger in 1995, daily circulation was 328,000. It has plunged to less than 100,000. Bruce Murphy has chronicled the trend, including here.

As people increasingly go online for news, the matter of where they log in, and for how long, helps gauge the impact of various outlets. Of several sources that estimate website traffic, Amazon-owned Alexa is among the prominent.

A key Alexa measure tracks known websites worldwide. Its global rankings compare sites based on traffic, i.e., number of hits. As of a recent Friday in January 2022, Alexa tracking tells a fascinating Wisconsin story. Wisconsin Right Now is the highest-ranked “independently run online” Wisconsin site in southern Wisconsin, followed closely by: Wispolitics (a longstanding source of state political news); OnMilwaukee (an entertainment and dining out site); and UrbanMilwaukee, the local news and opinion site established by veteran Milwaukee journalist Bruce Murphy and where I am an occasional contributor. In the state as a whole, the northern Wisconsin website DrydenWire, which is a non-partisan news site and podcast that was founded in 2015, is #1 out of independently-run online news sites, with Wisconsin Right Now leaping to #2, above many other longer established sites.

The high ranking of Wisconsin Right Now (WRN) is especially noteworthy. It only came on the scene in August 2020, while the three that follow it in the rankings and the one before it have been around for years. It has a “staff” of two — Jessica McBride and Jim Piwowarczyk. Neither draws a salary.

Here are the rankings for Wisconsin news sites as of January 2022. According to the Amazon-owned Alexa site, its rankings “are calculated using a combination of average daily visitors to this site and pageviews on this site over the past 3 months. The site with the highest combination of visitors and pageviews is ranked #1.” Thus, the lower the rank, the more popular the site. The numbers below represent each site’s rank on the Alexa popularity list:

Wisconsin Independently Run News Sites’ Alexa Rank

DrydenWire: 94,331
Wisconsin Right Now: 174,735 177,117 219,834
Urban Milwaukee: 224,889
Shepherd Express: 434,684
Wisconsin Examiner: 465,219
Madison Isthmus: 648,116
Up North News: 826,988
MacIver Institute: 868,404
Milwaukee Record: 885,869
Washington County Insider: 992,402
Neighborhood News Service: 1,001,631
Racine County Eye:1,101,872
Wisconsin Watch (Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism website): 1,794,204
Badger Institute: 1,815,121
Badger Project: 2,498,568
Milwaukee Courier Online: 2,613,256
Empower Wisconsin: 2,743,791
Wisconsin Spotlight (Empower Wisconsin website): 2,910,562
Wisconsin Conservative Digest: Not enough traffic to rank
Kenosha County Eye: Not enough traffic to rank

For Comparison Purposes, Traditional Media Rankings

WISN-1130 AM website: 2,579
Milwaukee Business Journal: 3,052
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: 22,692 48,238
Milwaukee Spectrum TV News: 59,609
WTMJ-TV Milwaukee: 69,275
Wisconsin Public Radio: 79,887
Fox 6 Milwaukee TV: 87,840
WISN-TV: 100,616
WBAY-TV Green Bay: 108,615
CBS 58 Milwaukee TV: 116,339
—Wisconsin Right Now: 175,598—–
La Crosse Tribune newspaper: 218,935
Green Bay Press-Gazette: 256,865
WEAU-TV Eau Claire: 278,170
WSAW-TV Wausau: 301,787
APG-Wisconsin 303,099
Appleton Post-Crescent newspaper: 314,274
Eau Claire Leader-Telegram newspaper: 385,890
Milwaukee Magazine: 449,412
620 WTMJ-AM website: 503,595
WXOW-TV La Crosse: 653,808
Waukesha Freeman newspaper: 929,217
Oshkosh Northwestern newspaper: 979,531
Fond du Lac Reporter newspaper: 1,633,366

For Comparison Purposes, Political Party Website Rankings

Wisconsin Democratic Party website: 1,208,733
Wisconsin Republican Party website: 3,179,010

McBride, a former Journal Sentinel reporter, teaches journalism at UW-Milwaukee and is a national freelance writer. Piwowarczyk is a Realtor and former police officer. Sites with major funding, from the Wisconsin Examiner to Wisconsin Watch to the MacIver Institute to Up North News, are lagging far behind.

McBride and Piwowarczyk have gained traction with a steady series of spot news scoops and insightful analysis and commentary focused mainly on criminal justice, current events, and political issues. They’ve gained audience thanks to their social media expertise. A scoop this year reported that a suspect in the shooting of an off-duty policeman was out on $1,000 bail and that another had three open felony cases. A Republican candidate for governor chose Wisconsin Right Now as one of two news outlets in which to announce his campaign.

The Journal Sentinel’s report on the news credited Wisconsin Right Now with being first. Local TV and other newspapers focused on a suspect not believed to be the gunman. Following the Waukesha Christmas parade tragedy, Wisconsin Right Now’s journalists were the first to name names and provide a chronology of how Darrell Brooks was free on the streets. They followed this with evidence that Brooks’ ill-advised release was not a one-off. They also scooped the rest of the media with news of backlogs in the Milwaukee County Courts, the staffing crisis in the Milwaukee County Jail, and with data on the high percentage of cases dropped by District Attorney John Chisholm despite police recommendations for prosecution. Earlier last year their exclusive reports on missing podcasts led Ryan Owens to withdraw as the frontrunner candidate for the GOP Attorney General nomination.

Wisconsin Right Now gets a big boost from conservative talk radio. Hosts at WISN 1130 routinely cite its work and describe it as a source they go to daily. They also use search engine optimization, a newsletter that goes to thousands, and social media expertise to gain audience. The significance of that is illustrated by the very high Alexa ranking of the WISN website in the category of traditional media. WISN, followed closely by the Wisconsin Business Journal, get the most Wisconsin hits. As would be expected, large media outlets, such as the Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin State Journal, get more traffic than the likes of Wisconsin Right Now and UrbanMilwaukee.

Less expected is that Wisconsin Right Now (and DrydenWire and UrbanMilwaukee) rank higher than daily newspapers in Appleton, Green Bay, Eau Claire, and Oshkosh, television stations in Eau Claire, Wausau, and LaCrosse, and Milwaukee Magazine. Among independently run online sites, the top five (DrydenWire, Wisconsin Right Now, WisPolitics, OnMiwaukee, and UrbanMilwaukee) rate substantially higher than the following, in order (partial list): Shepherd Express, Wisconsin Examiner, MacIver Institute, WisconsinWatch, and the Badger Institute.

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Dan Kelly Won’t Commit to Endorsing Jennifer Dorow if She Wins Supreme Court Primary

(The Center Square) – The harsh feelings over Wisconsin’s last race for Supreme Court are casting a shadow over the current race for the high court.

Former Justice Dan Kelly, who is running for the court, said Tuesday night that he won’t endorse Judge Jenifer Dorow if she wins the primary for Supreme Court in three weeks.

“Before I endorse, I need to see proof of what a person means when they say they are a judicial conservative,” Kelly said at a judicial forum hosted by the Republican Women in Greater Milwaukee. “I need to see it in writing, I need to see it in speeches, I need to see it in opinions, I need to see it somewhere. Because I am not going to endorse any more unless there is that proof.”

Kelly said his endorsement of Justice Brian Hagedorn has him taking such a strict stand now.

“I took a risk,” Kelly added. “I endorsed him, I campaigned for him, and I helped him get on the Supreme Court. And when he came, it turned out he really wasn’t [a judicial conservative.]”

Hagedorn has become the swing vote on the court, and has ruled with the court liberal members several times.

Kelly’s comments go along with a theme of this year’s race, that Dorow may be another non-conservative Republican judge.

Dorow said she was conservative enough for other conservatives to seek her endorsement.

“My background and my experience, apparently, was good enough for each of them to ask for my endorsement at one point. I didn’t always give it, but I was asked,” Dorow said. “And now, apparently, it’s not good enough to get the endorsement back.”

Kelly served four years on the Wisconsin Supreme Court before being defeated in 2020.

Dorow has spent her career as a prosecutor and a judge. She most famously presided over the Waukesha Christmas Parade killer’s trial.

Kelly said voters can judge him based on his years of rulings as a judge and Supreme Court justice. Dorrow doesn’t have the same history.

Dorrow said her focus is not on splitting the Republican or conservative base, and not allowing the Supreme Court to flip to a liberal majority.

“I’m not going to take a chance to take somebody out, so the Left can win this election," Dorow added. “We need to win this.”

Kelly brushed off that criticism.

“My commitment today is the same as it’s been my entire career, and always will be. I will promote judicial conservatism in every way that I can.”

Voters will choose between Kelly and Dorow, and two liberal judges Everett Mitchell and Janet Protasiewicz in the primary on Feb. 21. The top two vote getters will then face off in April.

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Biden’s Second Home Searched By FBI for Classified Documents

President Joe Biden's personal residence in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, was searched by the U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday as part of an ongoing probe into classified documents, according to a statement released by Biden's personal attorney.

"Today, with the President's full support and cooperation, the DOJ is conducting a planned search of his home in Rehoboth, Delaware," attorney Bob Bauer said in a statement. "Under DOJ's standard procedures, in the interests of operational security and integrity, it sought to do this work without advance public notice, and we agreed to cooperate."

Earlier this month, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Robert Hur as special counsel to lead the investigation into Biden after classified documents were found at Biden’s office at the Penn Biden Center and at his home in Delaware.

CBS has reported that investigators found classified documents at a former private office of Biden's in Washington, D.C. The Department of Justice did a search of the president's main residence in Wilmington, Delaware, as part of the probe.

RNC Research, run by the Republican National Committee, responded on Twitter to the search.

"On January 12, the White House said SIX TIMES the search for classified documents was 'complete.' The FBI is currently searching Biden's beach house," RNC Research tweeted.

Joyce Vance, a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, tweeted, "Being told, this was a preplanned, consensual search. This is not a search warrant that the FBI is executing. Big difference."

Vance compared the searches involving Biden for classified documents to that of former president Donald Trump.

"Biden let the FBI come in & search," Vance tweeted. "Prosecutors obtained a search warrant from a fed'l judge for Mar-a-Lago based on probable cause to believe evidence/fruits of a crime would be found on the premises."

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Milwaukee Police Breaking News – Wed, 1 Feb 2023

Milwaukee Police are investigating a non-fatal shooting that occurred on Tuesday, January 31, 2023, at approximately 11:51 p.m., on the 7600 block of W. Capitol Dr. The victim, a 40-year-old Milwaukee male, was conveyed to a local hospital for treatment. The investigation is ongoing. Milwaukee Police continue to seek unknown suspect(s).Anyone with any information is asked to contact Milwaukee Police at (414) 935-7360, or to remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at (414)224-Tips or P3 Tips. The City of Milwaukee is subject to Wisconsin Statutes related to public records. Unless otherwise exempted from the public records law, senders and receivers of City of Milwaukee e-mail should presume that e-mail is subject to release upon request, and is subject to state records retention requirements. See City of Milwaukee full e-mail disclaimer at
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Judicial Conduct Complaint Filed Against Protasiewicz For Prejudging Cases

(The Center Square) – There’s now a formal complaint over how one of the liberal candidates for the Wisconsin Supreme Court is campaigning. A western Wisconsin man, Randall Cook, filed the complaint Monday.

He said Judge Janet Protasiewicz has violated the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct by talking openly about how she’d rule on cases that will likely come before the Supreme Court. Specifically, the complaint says Protasiewicz has called Wisconsin’s political maps ‘"rigged," and has said she supports abortion and same sex marriage laws.

“Put simply Judge Protasiewicz is promising her vote on certain cases as a way to win over voters,” Cook said in his complaint. “This is completely unethical and cannot be condoned. As a result of her statements, there is no way Judge Protasiewicz can impartially participate in any future case involving Wisconsin’s current legislative maps or any legal challenge involving abortion law.”

Candidates for the court are not supposed to tip their hand about how they may rule.

Cook added that not only are Protasiewicz’s comments wrong, they hurt the reputation of the court itself.

“It is inappropriate for lower court judges to criticize judicial decisions of higher court judges. Such comments are out-of-bounds and undermine the public’s confidence in the judiciary,” Cook wrote.

Wisconsin’s Republican Party said the court should, at the very least, order Protasiewicz to recuse herself from any case that she’s talked about during the campaign.

“Janet Protasiewicz has decided to disregard her obligation to abide by the Code of Judicial Conduct in her pursuit of a place on the Supreme Court. The Judicial Commission must act and Protasiewicz clearly must recuse herself from participating in cases involving redistricting, abortion and Act 10 union reforms because she’s absolutely unwilling to hear them with an open mind,” Republican Party of Wisconsin Executive Director Mark Jefferson said. “A high court candidate has never taken such an extreme stand in defiance of her responsibility to remain unbiased or set aside her personal beliefs on cases set to come before the Court, and Wisconsin deserves much better than the liberal personal agenda of Janet Protasiewicz.”

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Milwaukee Police Breaking News – Tue, 31 Jan 2023

The Milwaukee Police Department is investigating a non-fatal shooting that occurred on 01/30/23 at about 10:10pm in the 4500 block of W. Fond Du Lac Ave. The 21-year-old Milwaukee man was conveyed to a local hospital and is in stable condition. The investigation is ongoing. Milwaukee Police continue to seek unknown suspects. Anyone with any information is asked to contact Milwaukee Police at (414) 935-7360, or to remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at (414)224-Tips or P3 Tips.Capt. Warren E. Allen Jr.Milwaukee Police DepartmentNight Watch Commander749 W. State StreetMilwaukee, WI 53233414-935-7313/ at aboutThe City of Milwaukee is subject to Wisconsin Statutes related to public records. Unless otherwise exempted from the public records law, senders and receivers of City of Milwaukee e-mail should presume that e-mail is subject to release upon request, and is subject to state records retention requirements. See City of Milwaukee full e-mail disclaimer at

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Speaker Robin Vos & Gov Evers Discuss Wisconsin Flat Tax Proposal

(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s governor says he will 100% veto a flat tax, and the top Republican in the State Assembly says he knows that.

Both Gov. Tony Evers and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos talked about the proposal to take Wisconsin to a 3.25% flat income tax during appearances on TV over the weekend.

The governor was on Capital City Sunday in Madison. He once again vowed to kill the flat tax proposal.

”The flat tax proposal, where it’s going to be equal across all parts of Wisconsin, is not in my bailiwick,” Evers said during the interview,

Evers has made it clear in the past that he doesn’t support the Republican’s flat tax proposal, but he said for the first time over the weekend that he may “possibly” veto the entire state budget to stop it from happening.

“[The flat tax] is a death nail for me,” the governor added. “I think our progressive tax system is a good one. And we don’t need to be spending our time and effort to provide the wealthiest of Wisconsinites with an extraordinarily large tax cut.”

Meanwhile Vos was on UPFRONT on Milwaukee TV, talking about the flat tax as well.

“I think we need to have significant tax reform to be able to make sure that Wisconsin remains competitive,” Vos said.

Vos said that may or may not include a 3.25% flat tax.

“That would be my preference. But again, I understand that Gov. Evers has concerns with that,” Vos added. “The most important thing for us to do, is we have to make big efforts toward reducing our tax burden. A flat tax would be ideal. But if we can’t get to ideal, there are other ways to get there.”

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, who introduced the flat tax proposal this month, has said the flat tax proposal currently up for debate may not be the final plan that reaches the governor’s desk.

Gov. Evers will deliver his budget speech next month, and the Republican-controlled legislature will then write the state’s new two-year spending plan.

Evers said on Capital City Sunday that his ideas, even in a Republican budget, “never go away.”

In addition to tax reform, this year’s budget will likely include something new on shared revenue of local governments, school funding, and other plans on how to spend or return Wisconsin’s record $7.1 billion surplus to taxpayers.

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New Marquette Law School Poll: Trump, Biden Would Tie in 2024 Match-up

(The Center Square) – While Joe Biden and Donald Trump remain very popular with their respective bases, nearly half of voters in their own parties don’t want them to run for president again.

The latest Marquette Law School Poll, released Thursday, shows that 48% of registered Republicans don’t want Trump on the ticket next year. Among Democrats, the poll says 51% of voters don’t want to see Biden run for reelection.

“In the case of the former president and the current president, their parties are pretty divided over them as candidates even though the parties have pretty positive views of them individually,” MU lead pollster Charles Franklin said.

Trump is viewed favorably by 70% of Republican voters. Biden is viewed favorably by 83% of Democrats.

The poll also shows that Trump and Biden would tie in a 2024 head-to-head match-up.

“We see a tie between Biden and Trump, 40% for each of them,” Franklin explained. “That’s an improvement for Trump. In November Biden led 44-34, a 10-point lead.”

The new MU Poll did not ask about a head-to-head between Biden and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, but those results may be different.

Republican voters told pollsters that they have an even more favorable view of DeSantis than Trump, with 71% of voters liking DeSantis compared to 70% for Trump.

Biden is the most popular Democrat with the support of 83% of Democrats, Bernie Sanders is second at 75%. Interestingly, the poll says Vice President Kamala Harris is the third most popular Democrat with a 67% favorability rating, while also being the most unpopular Democrat with a 23% unfavorable rating according to the poll.

The most unpopular Republican, according to the poll, is former Vice President Mike Pence. Thirty-three percent of Republicans have an unfavorable view of him, compared to the 28% unfavorable rating for Trump.

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