American Journalism Project and Lenfest Institute announce grants to Spotlight PA

January 11, 2022

The American Journalism Project today announced it is awarding a three-year, $1 million grant to Spotlight PA, the statewide newsroom founded by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and other partners across Pennsylvania. The Lenfest Institute is matching the grant, bringing a total of $2 million into the newsroom to fund its expansion. 

The grants offer a foundation for expansion and provide the business and operations capacity necessary to grow revenue and expand the size of Spotlight PA’s news enterprise, which was founded in 2019.

“In such uncertain times — amid a deeply fragmented and severely diminished media ecosystem in our state — I’m so proud that Spotlight PA can grow its vital non-partisan reporting and continue fighting for accountability and transparency, for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians,” said Christopher Baxter, Spotlight PA’s executive director and editor in chief. 

Spotlight PA shares its reporting as a free public service with 79 Pennsylvania media outlets — including print, digital, and radio — reaching a digital audience of more  than 35 million people with important stories on state government and urgent statewide issues. Its founding partners are The Philadelphia Inquirer, PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune Review, and WITF Public Media.

Spotlight PA also publishes on a national scale, collaborating with outlets like NBC News and ProPublica.

The American Journalism Project’s grants focus on supporting news organizations’ business operations, and Spotlight PA plans to use the funding to add four new positions: an audience director, a major gifts director, a membership director, and an advertising and sponsorship coordinator, each intended to increase revenue to help fund news coverage. 

To further address the diminished media ecosystem within Pennsylvania, Spotlight PA is planning to expand its news operations through bureaus and partnerships focusing on local coverage in communities throughout the state. Spotlight PA will launch a pilot news bureau in State College in 2022 that will support expanded local news reporting, connect communities to one another, and elevate issues of local importance to a statewide audience, including policymakers.

Spotlight PA will work closely with local communities throughout its expansion, consulting and partnering with existing local media outlets and other stakeholders. The organization will also conduct community listening efforts to better understand local information needs and what issues residents would like to see covered.

“By combining the nimble, audience-first skills of a digital startup and the reach and institutional knowledge of legacy news publishers, Spotlight PA has established a national model for redefining statewide journalism,” said Lenfest Institute Executive Director & CEO Jim Friedlich. “These grants will allow Spotlight PA to continue to grow and serve all Pennsylvanians — from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia and everywhere in between.”

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