IowaWatch, or the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, has named Suzanne Behnke as its new editor, marking a transition for Behnke from executive director to a new role focused on developing high-impact investigative news and fostering collaborations.
IowaWatch also has hired Mary Ungs-Sogaard, a proven fundraiser and long-time newspaper publisher in Eastern Iowa, as the news nonprofit’s business developer.
The leaders will boost IowaWatch’s capacity to provide high-quality public affairs news and information that improves civic life and public policy outcomes across Iowa.
“I am grateful to have a role with IowaWatch that allows me to focus on in-depth journalism and working with talented reporters and writers,” said Behnke. “This change plays to my strengths and to Mary’s. I expect we will be great partners in this effort.”
Added Ungs-Sogaard: “I am very excited to join the IowaWatch team, helping grow nonprofit journalism in our state. Being able to assist for-profit journalism with free use of good content, while working with and training professional journalists is one of the reasons I came to support IowaWatch from its start. It’s a great asset for Iowa!”
Among the goals of Behnke, Ungs-Sogaard and the IowaWatch board: Enhancing rural and agricultural coverage statewide, including reporting on renewable fuels, farming practices, trade, climate change, water quality and rural life, among other topics.
IowaWatch will be fundraising to expand its reach and pursue more collaborations. To make a tax-deductible donation toward agricultural reporting in Iowa or other explanatory and investigative news stories, go to http://www.iowawatch.org/donate-2/
About Behnke and Ungs-Sogaard
Behnke served as IowaWatch’s executive director-editor from August 2019 to August 2021. She came to the organization from the Des Moines Business Record, where she was an editor and contributor since May 2017. She was named a part of the Emerging Leader Council in 2020 by the Institute for Nonprofit News. She also is a journalism and communications instructor at Simpson College in Indianola and Wartburg College 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. She serves on boards for the Urbandale Food Pantry, Endow Urbandale and Wartburg College’s Journalism and Communication National Advisory Board.
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.
Ungs-Sogaard has been regional publisher and sales manager with Woodward Communications, Inc. from November 2001 to May 2021. She led eight community locations with twelve 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 this role for ten 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.
IowaWatch is the state’s leading collaborative investigative nonprofit news organization. Founded in 2010, IowaWatch’s mission is to maintain an independent, non-partisan journalistic program dedicated to producing and encouraging explanatory and investigative journalism in Iowa, engaging in collaborative reporting with Iowa and national news organizations and educating journalism students. IowaWatch publishes stories at IowaWatch.org.