A grant from the UW-Extension’s Innovation Investment Fund brought the partners together, combining the journalism prowess of WPR and WPT with the field experience and research expertise of Cooperative Extension in a new, digital service.
“Cooperative Extension has been offering expert advice to our audiences almost since our founding in 1917, but this is something new,” said WPR Director of Content, Michael Arnold. “We’re now approaching stories together in a digital-first world, using the knowledge and experiences of radio and television journalists along with extension researchers and experts to offer the people of Wisconsin more information and deeper context on the issues affecting the state.”
The WisContext staff includes three team members embedded with the partners who share research, writing and editorial duties. The site includes long-form journalism, field reports from educators, and audio and video from WPR and WPT that is updated on a regular basis. According to WisContext Managing Editor Kristian Knutsen, the focus on Wisconsin is part of what makes the site of particular value to the people of the state.
“WisContext is looking at urgent and emerging issues from a Wisconsin-oriented perspective. Whether it’s original local reporting or providing context on bigger national or global matters, our audience will understand how those issues will affect the place they call home,” said Knutsen.
WisContext features stories on a diverse range of topics in science, technology, health, money, environment, agriculture and food. Curious about the invasive brown marmorated stink bug? WisContext has a series of articles about it, including a piece by an entomologist researching the species. Wondering about the quality of your drinking water? WisContext has you covered with more than a dozen articles, including advice on testing your well water, an overview of how drinking water is sourced, and more in their multi-part series. Looking for the facts about the outbreak of Elizabethkingia infections in Wisconsin? WisContext presented a special series on the recent infections and potential impact to public health.
“Our commitment to serving the entire state is at the center of this collaboration,” said Pamela Seelman, Cooperative Extension Communications and Marketing Manager. “A headline like ‘Water Contamination in Flint’ takes on a very different meaning when you examine the Flint issues from a Wisconsin perspective. While national outlets are covering the politics and finger-pointing in Michigan, we’re looking at data and the implications for Wisconsin’s water supply.”
“We’re excited to be launching a mobile-first model for news and information,” added WPT’s Chief Operating Officer Kathy Bissen. “We want to make sure valuable news and information is available whenever and wherever people need it.”