John McCracken is a former Midwest Reporting Fellow for Grist.org and winner of a 2022 SEAL Environmental Journalism Award. He reports on industrial pollution and how climate change is impacting agriculture, culture, and rural life in the Midwest and beyond.
He has been published in the Sierra Magazine, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, Great Lakes Now - Detroit Public Television, Bandcamp Daily, In These Times, The Capital Times, Tone Madison, Belt Magazine, Milwaukee Record, Stained Pages News, and more.
His work has been republished in Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, Wisconsin State Journal, Wisconsin Public Media, Michigan Public Radio, MSN, Mother Jones, and WIRED
In 2022, he won a Wisconsin Newspaper Association investigative reporting award.
The corn on Zack Smith's 1,200 acres is not his future. Smith, a fifth-generation farmer working the land near Buffalo Center, Iowa, a town of almost 900 near the Minnesota border, knows the climate is changing and, in the future, it will be too hot and dry for a crop like corn.
When Maria Payan's son was screened for cancer, she knew he had to leave home. The Payan family lived in Delta, Pennsylvania, a rural community of fewer than 1,000 people near the southern edge of the state, bordering Maryland.
On any given Friday night in Wisconsin, you're probably eating fish. A weekly offering of fried fish stands out as a cultural institution in a state known for its beer, football, and cheese.
Nearly 60 Kentucky residents have filed a lawsuit against neighboring coal companies, alleging negligent practices that contributed to recent historic flooding.
This story is part of the Grist series Parched , an in-depth look at how climate change-fueled drought is reshaping communities, economies, and ecosystems. Harvest time has come, but ongoing droughts have left farmers with nowhere to send their grain. The Mississippi River, which carries 60 percent of the country's grain exports, has reached historically low water levels.
In less than a decade, Joliet, Illinois, could run out of water. The city of 150,000 people, roughly 45 minutes southwest of Chicago, is facing a looming water crisis as the patchwork of underground wells and aquifers it currently uses for municipal water is drying up.
For years, researchers have warned that land warped by mountaintop removal may be more prone to flooding due to the resulting lack of vegetation to prevent increased runoff.
Craig Koller grew up splashing through backyard creeks and biking gravel trails, sometimes through the Johnson Controls International Fire Technology Center. Black smoke wafted overhead as it conducted controlled burns to test firefighting foam, producing a dangerous "forever chemical" known as PFAS.
María Hernández, a University of Chicago graduate student studying microbial ecology, was both nervous and eager to traverse a frozen Green Bay. Being sure to walk slowly and carefully, she assisted fellow researchers in extracting samples of ice-cold freshwater.
A Wisconsin State Park bordering the shoreline of Lake Michigan is teeming with dunes, preserved wetlands and protected plant species. It's a great view - making it an ideal neighbor for a new golf resort that one of the state's manufacturing giants has been fighting for years to build.
For decades, Green Bay Wisconsin National Guardsmen stored munitions and trained new recruits in a stucco-clad, Chicago Street building built in 1918. Now, the building is home to hundreds of fish babies. The Farmory, an urban farming nonprofit, is the only indoor fish hatchery in Wisconsin.
On first attempt to reach Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Research Biologist David Fielder, he wasn't monitoring fish populations or water quality. He was busy with a perch basket lunch.
Evonik Materials Corp. in Milton ranks second among the company's U.S. operations in terms of the cancer risks ProPublica found. The company's Goose Creek, South Carolina silica production facility, with a three times increased risk rate, comes in third. The Janesville facility is fourth. The Milton and Janesville plants have a long history.
Randy Styczynski inherited a few young calves from his grandparents when he was a junior at Green Bay Southwest High School in 1979. His grandparents sold off their milking herd and Styczysnki began to purchase more cattle. He took over operations and was milking a small head of eight dairy cows in the following spring. Come early 2021, Styczynski is retiring as the last operating dairy farm in the Village of Suamico.
Collaborative efforts across municipalities and citizen groups aim to share plans and solutions in the face of past and future East River flooding
Politics, business, community issues reporting
This year's midterm elections will decide the direction of a massive legislative package meant to tackle the nation's agricultural problems. Republican Senate and House members are already vowing they won't pack it with climate "buzzwords." Roughly every five years, lawmakers pass The Farm Bill, a spending bill that addresses the agriculture industry, food systems, nutrition programs, and more.
Some Midwest states want to decarbonize by 2050. This year's midterm elections could throw a wrench into these goals. Next week, voters in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin will go to the polls and cast their vote for governor. All three states have incumbent Democratic governors who have enacted clean energy plans for the state within the last three years.
Restaurants have been juggling how to respond to disturbances on top of the added stress of sanitization to slow the spread of COVID-19.
As Wisconsin's right-wing convenience store empire expands, what happens to contraception access?
From conception to estimated completion, the South Bridge Connector project in De Pere will take upwards of 64 years to finish, and at this point in time there are questions still to be answered.
When rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, military veterans, government officials, and law enforcement were among those seen on display in videos and photos circulating across social media. The insurrection called attention to the presence of right wing extremism in government.
With $2 million in ARPA funding allotted, the Green Bay police department eyes high-tech answers to public safety problems
The plan for a new distribution center imperils the future of Milwaukee Street, just as the retail giant's labor practices reach new lows.
BROWN COUNTY - In November, Pieter deHart and his family moved a couple of miles south from New Franken to a home on Bellevue's far-east side. The only thing they didn't bring with them was high-speed broadband.
UW-Madison students in search of affordable housing have occupied the stout Zoe Bayliss Cooperative building at the corner of West Johson and North Park Streets since 1955. As the 2021-22 school year nears its end, next year's occupants could be the co-op's last.
Anti-carceral activists turn their attention to the state's long-running "Prison Industries" program.
BROWN COUNTY - In the past, district maps described as a “squid with lots of tentacles” would be easily identifiable as gerrymandered. “It used to be ‘I know gerrymandering when I see it,’” said Jonathon Dunbar, an associate professor of mathematics at St. Norbert College. Given the complexity of map drawing, Dunbar said shape is not always a good indicator for malfeasance. “There may be a very good reason why a district is drawn to have these tentacles,” he said.
Music, art, culture reporting
It's a noun, a verb, an exclamation, and a hot bowl of everything but the kitchen sink. Booyah, a regional soup, holds a firm grip over the people of Green Bay and northeast Wisconsin at large.
Every Tuesday, a storied group of Denmark area residents gathers together at the Denmark Community Activity Center to shuffle 32 cards, score some tricks and take each other’s money, one nickel at a time.
There are various versions of the story. Some people say it happened during a 4th of July parade so the police would be preoccupied. Some people say it was done after a few too many beers. Others say it happened because the men behind it needed some quick cash.
Cooking in prison as an incarcerated individual is not easy. Depending on the institution, ingredients are limited to whatever the cafeteria is serving and what is available for purchase (at a steep cost) in the prison’s canteen. Some Wisconsin institutions limit incarcerated individuals' access to heat sources down to just hot water, no microwave or hotplate to be found. Canteen Cuisine was created in 2019 by Wisconsin Books to Prisoners, a volunteer-run community group that connects...
Zombie shark, bubblegum octopus, data pagan—the names of cybergrind artists could easily be characters from a now-defunct Konami or Square Enix franchise. Cybergrind, a wild mix of squealing digital production paired with guttural vocals from fleshy humans, is just as rooted in the work of ‘90s electro-grinders like Agoraphobic Nosebleed, The Berzerker, Catasexual Urge Motivation, and The Locust, as it is the colorful world of old-school video games.
The Madison band talks with us about "Imposter Syndrome," released on June 4.
Stalwart Wisconsin DIY musician Amos Pitsch (best known for his work in Tenement and Dusk and more recently his solo records) finds that the personal remnants of used media allow him to peer deep into former owners’ psyches.
An end to the pandemic is within sight, but in the meantime, cold weather, isolation, and already-strained public health infrastructure will converge in the state this winter.
The love language of food perseveres in a crisis.
The author joins us to discuss and read from her debut novel, "Mostly Dead Things."
The fiction writer and current UW-Madison fellow discusses her work and reads from a new short story.
The Madison-based writer joins us to discuss her new book, "The Immortalists."
The poet discusses his work in an interview co-produced with The Adroit Journal.
The Madison-based author discusses her multi-faceted writing life and reads from her novel "Bread And Butter."
The Madison-based poet discusses and reads from his debut collection, "Trouble The Water."