Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Wins 2008 Pulitzer Prize
MILWAUKEE, WI – April 7, 2008 – The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel announced today that Local Government Reporter David Umhoefer has received a 2008 Pulitzer Prize in the category of “Local Reporting” for a 2007 investigation of the Milwaukee County pension system. His stories uncovered a pension plan which allowed some veteran county employees to purchase additional years of service for time they spent as seasonal or part-time employees before joining the pension plan. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is published by Journal Sentinel Inc., a Journal Communications’ (NYSE:JRN) company.
In selecting Umhoefer, the Pulitzer Prize Committee cited his stories on the skirting of tax laws to pad pensions of county employees, prompting change and possible prosecution of key figures as distinguished examples of reporting on significant issues of local concern, demonstrating originality and community expertise.
It is the first Pulitzer ever awarded to a member of the staff of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which had been a finalist for the prize in 2003 and 2006. The predecessor Milwaukee Journal was awarded five Pulitzers, most recently in 1977.
Umhoefer’s six-month Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation found:
- - Hundreds of workers were able to convert decades-old seasonal and part-time work into pension credits. The "buybacks" are worth an estimated $50 million.
- - Prominent county officials and key players in the pension system benefited from the buybacks, which were mostly approved in private. Conflicts of interest and cronyism marked the program.
- - The buyback expansion broke county and federal rules. In response to Journal Sentinel inquiries, the county turned itself in to the Internal Revenue Service.
Journal Sentinel Editor Martin Kaiser commented, “It is particularly satisfying to win this Pulitzer Prize in the category of “Local Reporting,” which is exactly what our news coverage is all about. We strive to excel in reporting and writing about the news and information that matters most to our community. Our readers look to us for just this type of hard-hitting, relevant local journalism.”
“Essential local coverage such as David’s series is our highest responsibility,” said Elizabeth (Betsy) Brenner, publisher of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and president and chief operating officer of Journal Communications’ publishing group. “We’re gratified that the Pulitzer Board recognized his hard work and service to our readers and our community.”
Umhoefer is part of a 10-person Watchdog Team formed in 2007. He has covered public affairs and politics in a variety of positions over a 20-year career. As an editor at the Milwaukee Journal and later the Journal Sentinel, he supervised investigative projects and Capitol news. As a reporter, his assignments have included city and county government, the courts, elections and investigative reports specializing in computer-assisted reporting. The Wisconsin native is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison journalism school.
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About Journal Communications
Journal Communications, Inc., headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was founded in 1882. We are a diversified media company with operations in publishing, radio and television broadcasting, interactive media and printing services. We publish the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which serves as the only major daily newspaper for the Milwaukee metropolitan area, and 49 community newspapers and shoppers in Wisconsin and Florida. We own and operate 35 radio stations and 11 television stations in 12 states and operate an additional television station under a local marketing agreement. Our interactive media assets include 121 online enterprises that are associated with our daily and community newspapers and television and radio stations. We also provide a wide range of commercial printing services – including printing of publications, professional journals and documentation material – and operate a direct marketing services business.