Newspaper expands environmental coverage with Report for America


When you picture Wisconsin, putting aside our sports teams, you probably see green and blue.

Green as in fields and forests, from the Driftless region of western Wisconsin to the towering pines of the Up North. Blue like the waters of our Great Lakes, but also the skies over thousands of inland lakes, rivers and streams.

Greg Borowski is Associate Editor - News for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.

From camping to hunting, hiking to canoeing, we know the environment plays a key role in the lives of state residents, who want coverage of where to go and what to do, but also want to know environmental threats, from nuisance PFAS chemicals to algal blooms in Green Bay to invasive species in Lake Michigan.

And, of course, they want to know what the government and other groups are doing to address these concerns.

This is where our journalists come in.

As part of the national Report for America program, we welcomed two new journalists in June, both specializing in the environment: Madeline Heim focuses particularly on the Mississippi Basin, while Caitlin Looby focuses on the Great Lakes.

They join Laura Schulte, who from our Madison office covers a myriad of environmental issues and the Department of Natural Resources, among other state departments.

Report for America places talented emerging journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-reported issues and communities. It’s hard to overstate the positive difference Report for America has made in helping to strengthen local news coverage, an essential part of the foundation of democracy in this country.

In Milwaukee, it helped us improve our coverage of underserved communities two years ago when we brought in Jessica Rodriguez and Sarah Volpenhein. The two joined an expanded Justice & Equity team, now under the leadership of Chris Ramirez.

With the latest additions, we have been able to regain our strength and focus on the environment, a vital subject for our readers and an area where we have a legacy of great reporting, especially on threats to the Great Lakes. Former reporter Dan Egan used his special reporting for the Journal Sentinel to write his bestseller: “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes.

Heim came to us from the Post-Crescent in Appleton, where she covered health and science and was an anchor for our COVID-19 coverage. She is one of a cohort of RFA journalists focused on the Mississippi River Basin, a setting that allows stories to be shared between news outlets up and down the river.

Madeline Heim is an environmental reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel who focuses on the Mississippi watershed as part of the Report for America program.

She wrote about how watershed has long lacked the organized support that the Great Lakes have hadabout international park project “dark sky” in the Driftless region and how Wisconsin cities are part of an international effort to rank heat waves by risk.

Looby is a former freelance journalist with a doctorate in biology from the University of California at Irvine.

Caitlin Looby is an environmental reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel who focuses on the Great Lakes as part of the Report for America program.

She worked on the History of the Mississippi River vs. the Great Lakesas well as parts on what algal blooms in cold Lake Superior tell ushow there is more support for fighting climate change than people thinkand the voice behind lake superior (or at least the lake’s Twitter account).

Community support needed for these positions

One of Report for America’s requirements is that host newsrooms raise local funds to match its donation as part of a partnership that funds reporters’ salaries. This is an opportunity for readers who wish to directly support this quality local journalism. The community has been wonderfully generous in supporting and expanding this work.

At Journal Sentinel, this support has allowed us to fully integrate Volpenhein into our team and support Rodriguez, Heim and Looby.

There are three other Report for America reporters in USA TODAY NETWORK’s Wisconsin newsrooms: Frank Vaisvilaswhich covers Indigenous communities in the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Madison Lambertwhich covers early childhood education and child care in Wisconsin at Post-Crescent in Appleton, and Danielle Du Closwhich covers K-12 education for the Press-Gazette.

AFTER: Make a tax-deductible donation for members of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Corps

AFTER: Make a Tax-Deductible Donation for the Post-Crescent Corps Member

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Your tax-deductible donations are made through Report for America and directly support the salaries of our corps members. It’s another way for subscribers to help us keep these stories going at a time when the economics of the news industry continue to struggle.

Thank you for your continued support and feedback.

You can support the Journal Sentinel environmental team and Report for America’s global effort on

To contribute to efforts elsewhere in our network in the state, go to for the post-croissant and for the Press Gazette.

Do you prefer mail? Make your check payable to The GroundTruth Project. Note in the subject line whether it is the Report for America Journal Sentinel campaign or the Appleton or Green Bay campaigns. Address: The GroundTruth Project, Lockbox Services, 9450 SW Gemini Dr, PMB 46837, Beaverton, Oregon 97008-7105.

Greg Borowski is associate news editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin, which includes newsrooms in Green Bay, Appleton and eight other communities across the state. You can contact him at 414-224-2252 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @GregJBorowski.


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