Wisconsin Watch’s “The Color of Money” series wins honorable mention Eppy Award

The Color of Money banner showing stick figures in a gradient of skin colors
The Color of Money series is a collaboration between Wisconsin Watch and students in Journalism 420: Investigative Reporting. Image courtesy of Wisconsin Watch.

By Emily Knepple

The Color of Money series, a collaboration between the UW-Madison School of Journalism & Mass Communication and Wisconsin Watch was awarded an honorable mention award at the 2021 Eppy Awards. 

The Eppy Awards are run by Editor & Publisher and recognize the work of college students, as well as professionals. This year, they received over 400 entries nationally “across more than 40 diverse categories.” 

The Color of Money was produced by students in the spring 2021 J420: Investigative Reporting class, which is taught by Dee Hall. Hall is the managing editor and co-founder of Wisconsin Watch, “a nonprofit newsroom that focuses on government integrity and quality of life issues.” Through this collaboration students gain valuable, real-life experience and could potentially be hired as interns or freelancers at the end of the semester. 

In the past, Wisconsin Watch and students at the SJMC have produced stories on Wisconsin whistleblowers and their experiences with retaliation, the money and politics behind marijuana legalization and the ethics behind voting and elections in Wisconsin.  

The Color of Money examines why Black residents of Wisconsin earn less, owe more and own less than white residents.” Stories in the series cover topics like the homeownership gap for people of color in Wisconsin to student debt that Black students face across the state. 

Dee J. Hall, managing editor and co-founder of Wisconsin Watch.

“I am very honored to accept this award on behalf of the students from J420 Investigative Reporting who worked so hard to report this series,” Hall said. “They tackled a very complex and fraught topic — racial income and wealth disparity — exploring the problem from a wide variety of angles: The lived experience of people of color in Wisconsin, historical causes, expert analysis and robust data. Wisconsin Watch’s The Color of Money series has been one of our most widely published, shining a light on a problem that has plagued Wisconsin for generations and offering possible solutions.” 

The stories included in The Color of Money contribute to the “high-quality, impactful stories” that J420 has continued to produce, which comprise one-fourth of all the projects published by Wisconsin Watch every year. 

Thanks to their mutually beneficial arrangement, those at the SJMC and Wisconsin Watch can continue to tell important stories, while teaching young journalists key skills and offering them effective exposure.