John McCracken

Environmental, culture, and rural issues journalist

United States

Hi, I'm John.

I'm a journalist with an eye for environmental stories, ranging from the effect of climate change on agriculture to investigations into groundwater pollution. I am the Fall 2022 Midwest Reporting Fellow for Grist, a national, nonprofit environmental newsroom.

My work has appeared in the Sierra Magazine, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, Great Lakes Now - Detroit Public Television, UpNorthNews, Bandcamp Daily, Loudwire, In These Times, The Capital Times, The Press Times, Tone Madison, Belt Magazine, Milwaukee Record, Stained Pages News, and more. My work has been republished in Michigan Public Radio, MSN, Mother Jones, and WIRED, and more.

I was awarded a 2022 Wisconsin Newspaper Association investigative reporting award for a report about rural development and infrastructure in Brown County, Wisconsin and was nominated for a Society of Environmental Journalists award for a long-form report on decades-long drinking water pollution in Northern Wisconsin.

Portfolio

Environmental reporting

Grist
09/23/2022
The Corn Belt will get hotter. Farmers will have to adapt.

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.

Grist
11/01/2022
A new tax credit for biogas could be a boon to factory farms

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.

Grist
10/26/2022
As drought chokes Mississippi River, barges carrying grain shipments have nowhere to go

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.

Great Lakes Now
08/06/2021
Is indoor fish farming a viable way of tackling declining fish populations?

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.

Tone Madison
03/22/2022
Tracking the hazy air quality at "hotspots" in southern Wisconsin and beyond - Tone Madison

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.

The Press Times
12/10/2020
Suamico's last dairy farmer 'burnt out'

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.

Green Bay City Pages
11/11/2021
A more resilient river

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

Grist
10/03/2022
Will the Farm Bill be the next big climate package? It depends on the midterm elections.

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.

Grist
11/04/2022
These 3 governor's races could determine whether the Midwest reaches its climate goals

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.

Tone Madison
08/17/2020
No more Kwikies

As Wisconsin's right-wing convenience store empire expands, what happens to contraception access?

The Press Times
02/25/2021
Brown County buffering on rural broadband need

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.

The Press Times
01/28/2021
A mess of maps: Legislative redistricting effort faces challenges

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

Wisconsin People & Ideas Magazine
05/04/2022
Booyah: A Noun, A Verb, An Exclamation!

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.

The Denmark News
03/26/2022
Getting a grip on sheepshead, a life-long Denmark pastime

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.

Belt Magazine
The Legend of "Ski Green Bay"

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.

Stained Pages News
02/18/2022
A Cookbook for Prisoners, by Prisoners

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...

Bandcamp Daily
02/23/2021
Cybergrind: Having Fun on the Internet (With Blast Beats)

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.

Tone Madison
12/04/2020
When the J-card is a diary

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.

Belt Magazine
12/18/2020
Wisconsin's Pandemic Winter

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.

Podcast interviews

Fundraising and audience engagement

Mailchimp- Tone Madison
Dear Reader

Is it ok if I call you that? To Tone Madison, you are so much more. You're an inquisitor, listener, audience member, mourning show-goer, art-lover, public-commenter, thought-provoker, brick-thrower, gut-buster, retweeter, whistleblower, cheerleader, and that's not even the half of it. To us, you are a lifeline. You are a source of love and sustainability.

MailChimp-Tone Madison
Reflecting on our top stories of 2020 so far

Just for Tone Madison Sustainers, here's a look behind the scenes with the authors. These were gathered together to showcase the variety of perspectives involved in Tone Madison and the care that we take when reporting on the Madison community.

The River Food Pantry
07/22/2020
Dear Friend, Your Second Gift is Needed

Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, all gifts in support of FAM received by September 1 will be matched up to $25,000! Would you consider making your second gift today?

Mailchimp- Tone Madison
Tone Madison Listening Party 2019

Email marketing piece sent to promote an annual fundraising and music event for an independent, local news outlet in Madison, WI.