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UW-Madison journalism school celebrates alumni achievements

April 2, 2014

The winners of this year’s University of Wisconsin–Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s alumni awards demonstrate the many ways the school’s graduates translate their skills to a range of careers.

The distinguished service award winners this year include Chris Peacock, former vice president and executive editor of; U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, who represents the 2nd Congressional District of Wisconsin; George Stanley, managing editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; and Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson.

“Our alumni never cease to amaze me with the variety of their accomplishments, and I always enjoy having the opportunity to celebrate the work they do in the world,” says Greg Downey, director of the school. “An education in the UW–Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication delivers a set of skills that can be used in all kinds of interesting and important areas, including traditional journalism, as well as emerging new media, communication scholarship and public service.”

Peacock, who graduated from UW–Madison in 1986 with degrees in journalism and political science, has spent a career as a pioneer in digital journalism. In a decade at, Peacock more than doubled traffic to the website, oversaw the launch of video, and introduced new forms of storytelling and presenting data to readers. Peacock also spent time editing and managing content at FORTUNE Group Online and

Pocan, a small business owner who graduated from the school with a bachelor’s degree in 1986, spent 14 years in the Wisconsin State Assembly. He was elected in 2012 to represent south central Wisconsin in Congress, where he serves on the Budget Committee and the Committee on Education and the Workforce.

“Our alumni never cease to amaze me with the variety of their accomplishments, and I always enjoy having the opportunity to celebrate the work they do in the world.”

Greg Downey

Stanley, a 1979 graduate of the school, has been managing editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel since 1997, directing the operations of all areas of the newsroom except editorial/opinions. Under his leadership, the paper has built a world-class investigative unit and has placed greater emphasis than ever on in-depth journalism. The Journal Sentinel has won three Pulitzer Prizes since 2008 and has been a Pulitzer finalist five additional times. Stanley also has served on the school’s Board of Visitors.

Swanson, who graduated from UW–Madison in 1989 with degrees in journalism and political science, became Minnesota’s first female attorney general in 2006. Named one of the top 10 attorneys in the U.S. in 2009 by Lawyers USA, Swanson also served as Minnesota’s solicitor general and deputy attorney general. She has been recognized by the National Consumer Law Center for her work protecting consumers.

Jessica Arp, political reporter for WISC-TV in Madison, is this year’s recipient of the school’s Ralph O. Nafziger Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement within 10 years of graduation.

Arp started with WISC as an intern following her graduation from the school in 2004, and she became the station’s political reporter in 2007. During the state Capitol protests in 2011, Arp established herself as one to follow on social media for the latest updates on events in the Capitol, and she gained recognition for her reporting on the 2012 elections, including the selection of Wisconsin’s U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan as the vice presidential nominee.

The Harold L. Nelson award for achievement in mass communication research will be awarded to Charles T. Salmon, acting chair of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Salmon was an assistant professor in SJMC in the 1980s, then spent 17 years at Michigan State University as the Ellis N. Brandt Professor of Public Relations and, eventually, dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. Salmon studies the intersection of public communication, public opinion and public health.

Students Jane Chapman, Steven Horn, Liam Kane-Grade, Sean Kirkby and Emilie Poplett are also being recognized with senior achievement awards.

The winners will be honored at a banquet on Friday, April 4. For more information, click here.