Suzanne Behnke joined IowaWatch in August 2019 as executive director and editor before the position was redefined as editor. She previously served as editor of the Des Moines Business Record, where she had been an editor and contributor since May 2017. She also is a journalism and communications instructor at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, and adviser for the student news organization, The Trumpet and Knight Wire, in Waverly, Iowa. Behnke, a native Iowan, has a long and rich news reporting and editing history in Iowa. She was a reporter, copy editor and page designer at The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier from 1997 to 2000 before joining The Des Moines Register staff. In two stints, from 2000 to 2008 and again from 2012 to 2017, Behnke served The Register in vital management roles, including as front page editor, state editor and an online editor. Behnke earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Wartburg College in 1997 and a master’s degree in public administration from Drake University in 2010. E-mail: email@example.com. Phone: 515-556-7892.
Business Development Director
Mary Ungs-Sogaard has been IowaWatch’s business development director since September 2021. She manages efforts to establish and maintain relationships with funders who have an interest in IowaWatch’s nonprofit journalism. Before taking this position, she was regional publisher and sales manager with Woodward Communications, Inc. from November 2001 to May 2021. She led eight community locations with 12 regular publications in Eastern Iowa, working with local staff, organizations and businesses. Ungs-Sogaard served as president of the Iowa Newspaper Association in 2010 and was named Master Editor Publisher by the association in 2012. She served on the Iowa Public Information Board from 2016 to 2020, as board chair for two years. Ungs-Sogaard was a founding board member of IowaWatch in 2010, continuing in this role for 10 years. She has served on a variety of other non-profit boards, including the Dyersville Area Community Foundation, the Woodward Foundation and the Iowa Newspaper Association Foundation. As part of the community foundation in Dyersville, she helped build and establish a non-profit community child care center that continues to be successful after 25 years. Ungs-Sogaard is a graduate of the University of Iowa journalism and English programs.
Silvia Oakland, a 2021 Wartburg College graduate and recipient of the Pat Pisarik Journalist of the Year award, joined IowaWatch to focus coverage on social justice issues. She says she wants to gain new skills for her love of investigative journalism. She was editor-in-chief of The Trumpet, Wartburg’s student-run newspaper and a multiple Iowa College Media Association news contest winner during the 2020-21 school year. She also participated in the college’s student-run livestream network, Knight Vision.
Danielle Gehr is a freelance photographer, reporter and writer for IowaWatch. Gehr is also a beat reporter at the Ames Tribune. She worked as a summer reporting intern for IowaWatch in 2020, covering topics such as implicit bias training for Iowa law enforcement and the June primary and access to voting amid a pandemic. She previously worked as a breaking news reporting intern at The Des Moines Register. Gehr is a 2020 graduate of Iowa State University.
Rick Jost is a freelance reporter and writer for IowaWatch. He previously worked as the editor of Our Iowa magazine, a copy editor and business editor for The Des Moines Register, and a senior editor at Meredith Corp. He also was a reporter at the Quad City Times. He earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Iowa State University.
John Naughton is a former Des Moines Register reporter. He served as a sportswriter for 31 years, winning a number of Iowa writing awards. He lives in the Des Moines area, where he does freelance writing, shovels snow and collects hats.
Kate Hayden is a freelance reporter and writer for IowaWatch. She is a strategic communications coordinator at Ethnic Minorities Of Burma Advocacy And Resource Center in Des Moines. Hayden previously worked as a reporter at the Business Record in Des Moines and Charles City Press. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Simpson College.
Lindsey Darland is a freelance graphic designer for IowaWatch. She is the creative director for Atlas Community Studios and previously worked for Alchemy Community Design and as a creative associate at Business Publications Corp. in Des Moines. Darland earned a bachelor’s degree in advertising, event management, marketing and psychology from Iowa State University.
Leah McBride Mensching is a freelance reporter for IowaWatch. She has worked as a reporter, editor, photographer and media researcher over the past 15 years, both as an independent journalist and as an editorial manager for WAN-IFRA, the global organization of the world’s press. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Iowa State University and a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University.
Pat Kinney is a freelance reporter, writer and photographer for IowaWatch. He works as the director of institutional advancement for the Grout Museum in Waterloo, Iowa, where he worked for several decades as an editor and reporter at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. He earned a degree in journalism from Iowa State University.
Nicole Grundmeier is a freelance reporter and writer for IowaWatch. She previously worked as a reporter and copy editor at The Des Moines Register. Grundmeier graduated with a degree in journalism and mass communication from Iowa State University and earned a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University.
Board of Directors
Jim Malewitz is the board president. He is the investigations editor at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Reporting, where he edits, managing fellows and interns, and facilitates cross-newsroom collaborations and investigative reporting. Here formerly was an environmental reporter at Bridge Magazine in Michigan. He is a founding IowaWatch staff member and former assistant editor who graduated from the University of Iowa with a master of arts-professional in journalism degree in May 2011. His May 29, 2010, investigation “When Students Go Missing”, was IowaWatch’s first published story and was instrumental in building IowaWatch’s reputation as a trusted investigative news source. Jim earned his undergraduate degree from Grinnell College in 2009, where he majored in political science with a concentration in global development studies. He also served stints as an energy reporter at The Texas Tribune and energy and environmental issues reporter at Stateline, in Washington, D.C. His term as director ends in 2022.
Erin Jordan is the board’s past president. She is an award-winning investigative reporter for The Gazette in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, Iowa, where she covers topics that include tax breaks, business incentives, state bonuses and food waste. She was a 2018-19 O’Brien Fellow In Public Service Journalism at Marquette University. Her other honors included being a recipient of the Iowa Newspaper Foundation’s Harrison “Skip” Weber Investigative Reporting Award. Before joining The Gazette, Erin was the Iowa City Bureau reporter for the Des Moines Register from 2003 to 2009. She has also taught at the University of Iowa’s Summer Journalism Workshop and Iowa Young Writer’s Studio. Erin has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Iowa State University. Her term as director ends in 2023.
Andy Hall is founder and executive director of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, WisconsinWatch.org, in Madison, Wisconsin. A former Investigative Reporters and Editors board member, he has won dozens of awards for his reporting over the past 26 years at the Wisconsin State Journal and The Arizona Republic. He began his career in 1982 as a copyboy at The New York Times. At The Republic, Andy helped break the “Keating Five” scandal involving Sen. John McCain. At the State Journal, Hall’s stories held government and the powerful accountable and protected the vulnerable through coverage that addressed the racial achievement gap in public schools and helped spark the creation of the nationally noted Schools of Hope volunteer tutoring program, revealed NCAA violations by University of Wisconsin athletes, and exposed appalling conditions in neglected neighborhoods such as Allied Drive and Worthington Park. Andy won a first-place award in 2008 for beat reporting from the Education Writers Association. He also has received National Headliner, Gerald Loeb, James K. Batten and Inland Press Association awards for investigative, financial, deadline and civic journalism coverage. Hall has served for nine years as a mentor to the staff of La Comunidad, a Spanish-language newspaper in Madison. He has taught numerous courses at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism & Mass Communication. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University. His term as director ends in 2024.
Daniel Lathrop is the board’s treasurer. He an investigative reporter at The Des Moines Register. His previous work includes teaching as assistant professor of journalism and mass communication at the University of Iowa, doing computer assisted reporting at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and co-founding the non-profit news organization Investigate West. He also was news applications editor and then projects data editor at the Dallas Morning News before moving to Iowa in fall 2015, database editor at the Center for Public Integrity, where he worked on several award-winning projects, and a reporter at the Daytona Beach News-Journal and Ames Tribune. He has advised and assisted IowaWatch with data-based reporting. His term ends in 2024.
Katelynn McCollough is a litigation attorney at the Davis Brown Law Firm. She works with companies defending against labor and employment, business and commercial litigation matters and also advises employers on how changing marijuana laws impact their businesses. During her undergraduate studies at Iowa State University, Katelynn interned with IowaWatch as a reporter and was Editor-in-Chief of the Iowa State Daily. She was also Senior Associate Editor of the Journal of Corporation Law at the University of Iowa Law School. Her term ends in 2022.
Lyle Muller was the center’s first full-time executive director-editor from May 2012 until retiring from that position in August 2019. He continues to help the center with education programming and reporting. Before joining IowaWatch, he held several reporting and editing positions during 25 years at The Gazette, (Cedar Rapids, IA), among them being editor of the Iowa City Gazette in 1999-2003 and The Gazette in 2009-12, but also leading investigative and special projects, and serving as a senior editor on a team of editors that directed coverage of an Iowa flooding disaster, which won The Gazette the Society of Professional Journalists’ national Sigma Delta Chi award for deadline reporting in 2008. A 1992 Council for the Advancement of Science Writing national fellow, his focus as a reporter was on health, science and higher education. He is the reporting coach for The Daily Iowan’s Ethics and Politics Initiative journalism project; professional adviser for Grinnell College’s student-run Scarlet & Black newspaper; Iowa editor for PolitiFact; and a member of the Iowa High School Press Association Board of Directors. He is a former member of the Iowa Newspaper Foundation board of directors. He has taught political reporting and editing at the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication as an adjunct faculty member and served on Pulitzer Prize juries that selected finalists for investigative reporting for 2017 and commentary for 2018. His reporting experience included working as a staff reporter at the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Daily Iowan and in radio and television news. He is a University of Iowa graduate with a major in communication studies. His term as director ends in 2022.
Rose Rennekamp is a retired marketing and communications professional who now serves as a community volunteer. The first half of her career was in the major appliance industry. With bachelors and masters degrees in textiles from Iowa State University she began her career designing laundry equipment with Whirlpool Corporation. She then earned her MBA from The University of Iowa and became product manager for Radarange® microwave ovens for Amana/Raytheon. She was the first Raytheon female vice president when she was became Vice President of Product Marketing and Planning. She subsequently served as Vice President of Corporate Strategy and then Vice President and General Manager of the Industrial Microwave Division. The second half of Rennekamp’s career focused on higher education. She taught marketing, new product development and strategy classes in the Executive MBA program at The University of Iowa. She also marketed the research assets of the university. In 1997, ACT recruited her to become its vice president of communications. Responsible for the Publications, Media Relations, Information Resources and Web teams, she led ACT’s first ventures into Internet marketing, its first website and its first online apps. She also developed a syndicated newspaper column, College and Career Corner, which appeared in more than 250 of the country’s leading newspapers. In retirement, Rennekamp focuses on the intersection of three vectors: strategic planning, higher education, and communication. She spent three years researching and writing Cut College Costs: How to Get Your Degree without Drowning in Debt. She also served as a director and president of the Iowa College Access Network. She now serves on the boards of directors for the Kirkwood Community College Foundation, The Heritage Center on Aging, Kirkwood Community College and The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism. Her term ends in 2023.
Steve Ridge, chief operating officer of Frank N. Magid Associates Inc., is a leading national media expert who frequently is quoted in publications including The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, TV Guide, Reuters, and Forbes Magazine while appearing on Fox Business News, Bloomberg Television, NBC News and CNBC. His interest in politics and communications led to a diverse career as an early achiever. After interning with former President Dwight Eisenhower at the age of 15, Ridge had his own commercial radio segment while still in high school. He completed his senior year at the University of Iowa as the youngest congressional campaign manager in the country in 1974. After graduating he honed his investigative reporting skills in radio and television in Iowa, becoming a national award-winning investigative television journalist and the youngest president-elect of the Iowa Broadcast News Association after championing numerous Freedom of Information challenges in local government. Ridge was a television news manager in Alabama and New York state until 1983, when he joined Magid, the nation’s leading audience research-based television and radio consulting firm. He co-led a company initiative to successfully acquire one of the country’s leading print media research firms in the mid-1990s and has led the diversification and expansion of the company in media, entertainment, electronic gaming, consumer-packaged goods, retail, financial services, quick-serve restaurants, travel, leisure and hospitality. Ridge and his family continue to make Iowa their home, despite the move of corporate headquarters to Minneapolis and the largest offices being based on Broadway in New York and near Hollywood on the west coast. His term as director ends in 2023.
Heather Spangler is the board secretary, and a lecturer and event planning certificate coordinator at the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Her interests are helping brands of all types meet their goals through strategic communications, especially through events, social media and written communications. She periodically helps IowaWatch plan and hold events. Heather was a newspaper reporter with the Iowa City Press-Citizen and The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, IA) before spending a decade working in strategic communications, event planning and alumni relations in higher education. Her roles included serving as external relations writer and director of alumni relations at the University of Iowa College of Education before accepting her current position on the School of Journalism and Mass Communication faculty. She advises and assists IowaWatch with event planning. Her term as director ends in 2024.
Our co-founder, retired board member, inspiration
Stephen J. Berry, co-founder, former interim executive director-editor, became a journalism professor emeritus at The University of Iowa after joining the faculty in fall 2003 and retiring in summer 2015. He served on the IowaWatch board until December 2019. In 2009, he published “Watchdog Journalism: The Art of Investigative Reporting” (Oxford, 2009). Drawing on archival research and interviews with Pulitzer Prize winning journalists from across the country, the book reveals the drama of the job and the passion of its practitioners as it tells the back stories of six investigative projects that earned the crafts most coveted honor. Before coming to the UI in August 2003, Steve was a journalist at the Los Angeles Times for seven years, most of which was as an investigative reporter. He has more than 30 years of experience as a journalist. In 1993, while at the Orlando Sentinel, Steve and his reporting partner won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. The four-part project – “Tainted Cash or Easy Money?” exposed abuses of power and racial targeting by an elite squad of deputies of the sheriff in Volusia County, Florida. Steve holds an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Montevallo in Montevallo, Alabama. His master’s degree is in American history from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He taught introductory, intermediate and investigative reporting and writing to undergraduates while at the University of Iowa.
–Contributing Consultants and Reporters
Brian Steffen, professor and head of Simpson College’s Department of Multimedia Communication, is working with his students on special reporting projects for IowaWatch. He is a former Associated Press and Ames Daily Tribune reporter and twice the winner of Simpson’s Distinguished Teaching Award. He was named Small Program Teacher of the Year by the national Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in 2009.
Former Members of our Team
Robert Gutsche, Jr., co-founder, helped organize IowaWatch, beginning in November 2009 and served on the Board of Directors as Treasurer until 2011. He is in a senior lecturer/associate professor at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom.
Lauren Mills Shotwell was IowaWatch’s first full-time, staff data analyst/reporter, and also served as assistant editor during her time with the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism in January 2013-August 2016. She also was among the students who helped establish and grow IowaWatch when she studied at the University of Iowa.
Lauren Wade was an IowaWatch reporter in 2017-19, first as a student intern and then as a staff reporter who also assisted with story presentation at IowaWatch.org/. She was the 2018 IowaWatch/Fotini Perlmutter Undergraduate Student Award recipient.
Linh Ta is a reporter with Axios Iowa. IowaWatch’s first University of Northern Iowa student, she was a reporter in 2013-14 and a board member in 2019.
Mike Anderson is a Rapid City Journal reporter. He was with IowaWatch from fall 2010 through January 2012 and again in August and September 2015.
Lily Bohlke, with IowaWatch in 2018-19, is a reporter for Public News Service.
Maria Curi, a spring 2018 intern and IowaWatch/Fotini Perlmutter Undergraduate Student Award winner, is a cybersecurity, telecommunications and FCC reporter for Bloomberg Law.
Sarah Hadley, a two-time winner of the IowaWatch/Fotini Perlmutter Undergraduate Student Award, is a sales and content marketing producer at KCTV5 News in Kansas City, Missouri.
Emily Hoerner is a reporter for Injustice Watch. She was with IowaWatch in 2011 and 2012.
Krista Johnson is a reporter with the Louisville Courier-Journal. She was an IowaWatch reporter from 2015-17.
MacKenzie Elmer, one of IowaWatch’s first reporters, is a reporter at Voice of San Diego in San Diego, California.
Sarah (Fields) Wilson, director of public relations and marketing during her time with IowaWatch in 2017-18, is a marketing specialist at Midwest Heritage, a Hy-Vee company.
Stephen Gruber-Miller, with IowaWatch from 2013-15, is a reporter at the Des Moines Register.
Meghan Horihan is a digital marketing specialist at Charter Cities Institute in the Washington, D.C., area. She was an IowaWatch public relations specialist and then a reporter in 2012-15.
Molly Hunter, an IowaWatch reporter in 2018-19, is a reporter at the David City Banner-Press in Nebraska.
Tyler McClelland is associate director of digital activation at OMD USA in Brooklyn, New York. He was a public relations director at IowaWatch.
Taylor Odekirk, a former director of marketing and public relations at IowaWatch, is public relations manager at Walker Sands Communications in Chicago.
K. Rambo, a spring 2019 reporting intern at IowaWatch, is a Zuhl editing fellow at Streetroots, a nonprofit news outlet in Oregon.
Hayley Bruce, an assistant IowaWatch editor in 2012-13, is University of Iowa News Services writer.
Laura Arny, a former public information officer for IowaWatch, works in operations at Printfection.
Katherine Wilcox is an executive producer for news investigations at KPNX television in Phoenix. She was a multimedia reporter with IowaWatch in 2013-14.
Ben Moore, an IowaWatch reporter in 2012 and 2013, is a Los Angeles-area freelance writer.
Robert Maharry, an IowaWatch in 2012-13, is the managing editor at the Marshalltown Times-Republican.
Libby Collins, an IowaWatch staff reporter in 2013-14, is a senior publicist at Macmillan publishing in New York City.
Donna Schill Cleveland, with IowaWatch in 2010-11, is editor of iPhone Life magazine in Fairfield, Iowa.
Mariah Prendergast, a former director of public relations and marketing, is a paralegal whose worked as an actress and model in Los Angeles.
Lu Shen, an IowaWatch staffer in 2014, is a reporter with Magnify Money, a personal finance news site.
Lamia Zia, who focused on documentary and multimedia journalism in spring 2013 at IowaWatch, is an adjunct journalism professor at Texas Tech University.
Rebekah Hoeger, with IowaWatch in 2011 and 2012, is a reporter and anchor at KKTV 11 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Gabriel Gao, a medical affairs reporter from fall 2010 through January 2012, is an emergency medicine physician at Providence, Rhode Island, at Rhode Island Hospital-Brown University.
Ryan Roccafort, a former public information officer for IowaWatch, is an account director at SideCar PR.