Jessica Arp named 2019 Distinguished Wisconsin Watchdog

Jessica Arp, the assistant news director and chief political reporter for WISC-TV and, has been named the 2019 recipient of the Distinguished Wisconsin Watchdog Award.

The award recognizes an individual’s extraordinary contributions to open government or investigative journalism in Wisconsin and is a highlight of the ninth annual Wisconsin Watchdog Awards reception and dinner, set for April 16.

Jessica Arp interviews Hillary Clinton in this 2016 file photo. Arp has been named the 2019 Distinguished Wisconsin Watchdog, an award that recognizes an individual’s extraordinary contributions to open government or investigative journalism in Wisconsin. (photo courtesy of Jessica Arp)

Arp has reported on Wisconsin politics for WISC-TV in Madison since 2007 and has received Edward R. Murrow, Wisconsin Broadcasters Association and Emmy awards for her coverage of Wisconsin elections. In addition to her reporting duties, Arp has been involved in leading efforts in investigative techniques, innovation and social media among the staff to help build the WISC-TV digital brand.

“For more than a decade Jessica Arp has been holding public servants accountable,” Tom Bier, former vice president and general manager at WISC-TV, wrote in his nomination letter.

“It’s a consistent record of strong investigative stories based in research, data use, strong visuals and easy-to-understand language. Jessica has carved a path and shown that investigative reporting is not only important but can be made relevant to news consumers.”

Arp has fact-checked more than 100 claims made by politicians, including in political commercials, in WISC-TV’s ongoing Reality Check series.

Her reporting uncovered problems with the oversight of limousine companies following a deadly 2016 crash. The report documented flaws in the current system, while exploring potential solutions and informing consumers of steps to take to keep themselves safe.

Arp’s most recent investigative work detailed problems with completing a multi-million dollar computer upgrade of the state online benefits system.

Arp, along with the recipients of this year’s Openness Awards, will be honored at the Wisconsin Watchdog Awards reception and dinner, scheduled for April 16 at The Madison Club, 5 E. Wilson St. The reception begins at 5 p.m. and dinner at 6 p.m.

The Distinguished Wisconsin Watchdog Award is presented jointly by the
Wisconsin Newspaper Association, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, the Madison Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional JournalistsWisconsin Broadcasters Association and University of Madison-Wisconsin School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Dave Zweifel, editor emeritus of The Capital Times and a founder of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, was named the inaugural Distinguished Wisconsin Watchdog Award winner in 2011 and serves on the award selection committee. The late Dick Wheeler, founder of the Wheeler Report and an advocate for public access to the workings of state government, was honored in 2012. In 2013, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman, the chief author of Wisconsin’s Open Records Law and a strong advocate of the Open Meetings Law, received the award.

The 2014 recipient was Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigative reporter Dave Umhoefer. In 2015, Journal Sentinel investigative health reporter Meg Kissinger received the honor for tirelessly exposing flaws in the mental health system. In 2016, attorney Robert J. Dreps was honored for being a champion of open government and representing news organizations in groundbreaking cases for three decades. The 2017 recipient was Gilman Halsted, a retired Wisconsin Public Radio reporter who produced award-winning examinations of the state’s criminal justice system. In 2018, Raquel Rutledge, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter at the Journal Sentinel, received the award.