WI Voices, Inc., with the website WIvoices.org, is a nonpartisan and nonprofit entity of citizen journalists incorporated in January 2012. Funds are being raised by the WI Voices Fund committee on behalf of the St. Croix Valley Foundation, donations are tax-exempt.
Our mission is to provide a stage for regular people to tell their stories about how they are affected by public policy choices.
People are given a forum to explain the real life impact of policy choices on their lives. It also provides a crucial opportunity for the public to hear the perspective of an ordinary person. When we are heard, frustration decreases and empowerment increases. WI Voices provides information required by a healthy democracy—but that is largely unavailable in our communities.
We have amassed a living library of voices, as WI Voices stories have explored issues in BadgerCare; child protection; domestic abuse; family farm preservation; frac sand mining; hunger; homelessness; iron mining; labor relations and collective bargaining in public employment; pension systems; public education funding; Tribal rights; immigrant and inner city issues; health care funding; and voter rights. We continually strive to represent the diversity and magnitude of the human experience.
WI Voices’ stories have been picked up locally and nationally – by Hudson Patch, Forum Communications, Pioneer Press, WisPolitics, Open Salon, Huffington Post, MSNBC and others. WI Voices stories have garnered more than 80,000 hits.
WI Voices gives voice to the voiceless, and shares the diversity of human experiences in our communities. WI Voices furthers education and the open exchange of views on issues of broad civic concern.
WI Voices increases civic engagement and aids the functioning of democracy in our communities.
We believe that by understanding the impact of policy on its citizens, a society is better equipped to make choices that ensure opportunities for all. A healthy democracy contains informed citizens and our goal is to help meet the information needs of our communities in a way that is accessible, reliable and relevant.
WI Voices is a group of citizen journalists who have joined their skills in interviewing, videography, research, writing, and web-based communications, and provide reliable and relevant information about Wisconsin government to people.
WI Voices interviews people throughout the year, at locations throughout Wisconsin. The WI Voices team conducts and video records interviews, performs research and fact checking, and prepares interviews for publication. Each person is provided an opportunity to review his or her story for approval before it is published online at WIvoices.org, to help ensure that the true sentiment was captured.
WI Voices honors people and their lives—people share their own stories in the richness of their own words. These are the stories and voices that we need to hear. They tell us what is happening to our families, neighbors, and communities. Hearing these stories and voices moves us to join in the democratic process.
Heidi Herron, Executive Director
Heidi began collecting the stories of people around her when she was a child, intrigued by how other people experienced the world. This led her to interview and record her grandfather’s WWII experiences and her grandmother’s tales as a teacher in a rural, one-room school-house. In early 2011, Heidi began interviewing people about how their lives were affected by public policy choices and started publishing the interviews online. For WI Voices, Heidi is also the interviewer and producer.
Before coming home to Wisconsin, Heidi taught in environmental education programs set in the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Rocky Mountains of Montana. Heidi has a B.A. in Native American Studies, and is a certified teacher in Broad Field Social Studies including political science, economics, history, psychology, geography, and sociology. She owns and operates a tutoring business in the western Wisconsin community where she lives with her husband and sons.
Art Juchno, Videographer/video editor
Art began his award-winning career in video and television in 1974, and has earned multiple Emmys, as well as honors from the New York and Chicago International Film Festivals and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. For WI Voices, Art does photography, videography, video editing, and helps manage the website
Art is experienced in media project management and educational multi-media production, and worked as a Senior Producer/Director for Wisconsin Public Television and at the University Wisconsin–Stout. Art has an M.S. in Media Technology, and a B.A. in Psychology. Now Art is semi-retired, choosing to remain involved with public affairs and arts related productions that pique his interest.
Ramona Gunter, Researcher
Ramona first developed an interest in how social and political forces shape peoples’ lives when taking an undergraduate political science course. This interest deepened with later experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Apartheid Southern Africa, a teacher in a prison-based college program, and a volunteer at a food shelf. For WI Voices, Ramona provides context and background information through research on topics that inform the individual lives which are given a voice through WI Voices.
Ramona has a B.S. in Mathematics and Physics, an M.A. in Cultural Anthropology, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Educational Policy Studies. Her research on how structural and sociocultural factors shape students’ educational experiences has been published in peer-reviewed journals. Ramona has worked on community-based research projects for UW-River Falls Survey Research Center where she also works as a math lecturer. Ramona lives in River Falls, WI with her husband and son.
Mania Moore, President, board of directors
Mania is a lifetime resident of western Wisconsin. She received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Speech Pathology from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Mania was employed with the New Richmond School District as a Speech Pathologist working with children with mild to severe articulation and speech delays, specializing in multiply handicapped and Autistic children. Upon retirement Mania was a board member of the Chiropractic Examining Board for the Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing from 2007-2013. Mania also served as a volunteer for the ADRC [Aging and Disability Resource Center], and a member of the Wesfields Hospital Patient and Family Advisory Council. Mania volunteers at the New Richmond Schools and is active in the United Methodist Church. Mania has two grown sons and lives with her husband in New Richmond, WI.
Barb Arnst, Secretary, board of directors
Barb’s earliest memories involve her love of education. In fact, her early childhood teachers inspired her career as a School Media Specialist. Barb received her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in Elementary Education and her M.S. in Media Technology from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Barb’s background in literature and media coupled with her interest in biographies lead her to become involved with WI Voices. In addition, her interest in public policy at the local level has inspired Barb to participate in events and activities about particular topics and to share information with family and friends. Barb is also an active volunteer in many community organizations including serving as a media specialist for her church. Now retired, Barb has a daughter and 3 grandchildren and lives with her husband in New Richmond, WI.
Kay Brooks, Treasurer, board of directors
Kay grew up in the world of journalism. Her father was a reporter/photographer for Madison Newspapers in Madison, WI. Early in life, Kay developed an interest in people, preservation of the environment, and the importance of communication. Throughout high school and college she worked on school newspaper staffs and was involved in student government. Kay received a B.A. in Special Education at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a M.S. in Education at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She has worked with special needs children for over 25 years. Now retired, Kay uses her experience in Special Education as the director of a Salvation Army tutoring program for at risk children. She also volunteers with a Christmas toy distribution program for needy children, local food bank, and is active in her church. Kay has 2 children, 4 grandchildren and lives in western Wisconsin with her husband.
WI Voices History
WI Voices began in early 2011 with one woman’s frustration that the effects of policy choices on regular people – such as her friends and family – were going largely unreported in the media. So, equipped with a note pad, camera, and an old tape recorder, she started documenting the lives of the people she saw around her.
She was soon joined by others involved in grassroots democracy – who combined their skills in interviewing, videography, photography, research, writing, networking, and web-based communications, and began providing reliable, personal, and relevant information about Wisconsin government to people in their communities. Other community members provided crucial support such as a local law firm who helped file the Articles of Incorporation creating WI Voices, Inc. in January 2012. Then in August 2012, a local accounting firm advised them in filing the federal forms necessary to gain tax-exempt status.
What began as a small idea, collaboratively grew into an organization of many citizens working together in order to provide crucial information to their communities.