PA Post merges with Spotlight PA to create largest statewide news organization in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Two independent, non-partisan news organizations in Pennsylvania — PA Post and Spotlight PA — are combining to become a single, statewide newsroom, building on a shared mission to hold the powerful to account.

PA Post, a project of WITF Public Media based in Pennsylvania’s state capital of Harrisburg, launched in September 2018 in collaboration with public and commercial media partners and affiliates throughout the state. Spotlight PA is a statewide collaboration that launched in September 2019 and is led by The Philadelphia Inquirer, PennLive/The Patriot-News and Triblive/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Spotlight PA currently provides high-quality journalism to 48 newsroom partners across the state.

PA Post will merge into Spotlight PA effective August 17, 2020. 

The merger solidifies an already strong editorial and fundraising partnership between the two organizations, which are each funded by foundation grants and individual donations.

“PA Post and Spotlight PA share a mission of public service,” said Ron Hetrick, president and CEO of WITF. “Whereas PA Post focuses on multimedia statehouse and policy coverage and Spotlight PA focuses on strong accountability and investigative reporting, our combined news organization will bring the strengths of our capabilities together for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians. Our merger also will unify efforts to partner with other media in the state and solicit philanthropic support.”

Christopher Baxter, founding editor of Spotlight PA, said, “From their inception, Spotlight PA and PA Post each sought to fulfill a vision of connecting Pennsylvanians to their state, and to each other, through accountability journalism. We are excited to transform our existing collaboration into a stronger, more efficient, and centralized newsroom to report on state government and urgent statewide issues. Public-service journalism is needed now more than ever to cover one of the largest, costliest and most opaque state governments in the nation.”

Baxter will lead the combined newsroom which, after the merger, will include a dozen reporters and editors plus technology, fundraising and community engagement staff. The merger solidifies Spotlight PA as the largest newsroom dedicated to covering the Capitol and urgent statewide issues. The newsroom also will launch a Race and Criminal Justice reporting initiative to focus on the intersection of local, regional and statewide law enforcement and the disproportionate impact of the criminal justice system on communities of color. Additionally, the newsroom will add a Capitol beat reporter focused on policies and issues of importance to Western Pennsylvania.

“This merger makes an already strong Spotlight newsroom even stronger, ” said Gabriel Escobar, Inquirer editor and vice president. “We are delighted to have PA Post join this innovative reporting team.”

The combined news organization will continue to fulfill the objectives that each newsroom had separately. It will serve as a collaborator to newsrooms throughout the state to help uncover and enhance stories of statewide importance that otherwise would go unnoticed or untold. It will continue to provide content free of charge to newsrooms to help bolster local media ecosystems and better inform the public. And it will share resources and expertise, strive to reach underserved communities and be a model of partnership that can be replicated elsewhere in the United States.

“PennLive and The Patriot-News have been partnering with Spotlight for a year and even longer with PA Post. We’ve valued these relationships and the great content they provide for our readers,” said Cate Barron, president of PA Media Group, publisher of PennLive and The Patriot-News. “It only makes sense to combine the firepower of these non-profit newsrooms with such similar missions. We’ll look forward to sharing even stronger journalism from them in the future.”

In addition to publishing stories at spotlightpa.org, the combined organization will produce two free newsletters: “PA Post” and “The Investigator.” The “PA Post” is a daily newsletter that PA Post formerly published under the name “The Context.” “The Investigator,” a weekly newsletter produced by Spotlight PA, will continue to publish on Thursdays under its current name.

“Watchdog journalism stands at the very heart of what we as news organizations do day in and day out, ” said Sue McFarland, executive editor of Triblive/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “This partnership between Spotlight PA and PA Post brings incredible strength, vision and commitment to this critical mission.”

PA Post creator WITF will become a founding partner of Spotlight PA. The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, a major financial supporter of both PA Post and Spotlight PA, will continue to serve in its existing leadership role as Spotlight PA’s chief proponent and advocate.

“Local news serves a vital role in our democracy, in Pennsylvania, and nationwide,” said Jim Friedlich, executive director and CEO of The Lenfest Institute. “The new Spotlight PA is now the largest news enterprise focused solely on Pennsylvania state government and statewide issues. This is a big win for local news and for the people of Pennsylvania.”

The news organization’s editors and reporters operate independently of their funders and maintain editorial control over all of the content they produce. Funders do not have input into the selection of which stories are pursued or the reporting process. Anonymous donations are not accepted.

Individuals interested in supporting Spotlight PA can make donations online at spotlightpa.org/donate. Philanthropic organizations interested in learning more may contact Spotlight PA Development Director Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein at [email protected].

About Spotlight PA

Spotlight PA is a collaborative newsroom dedicated to producing investigative journalism for all of Pennsylvania. Spotlight PA’s mission is to hold powerful private and public forces — especially governments, businesses and special interests — to account through urgent and compelling investigative journalism that drives change. Spotlight PA combines the strengths of The Philadelphia Inquirer, PennLive/The Patriot-News and Triblive/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in a commitment to investigative reporting on state government and beyond. Spotlight PA provides its content free of charge to 48 newsrooms across the state to bolster local media and better inform the public.

About WITF Public Media

WITF Public Media is a trusted provider of public media news and programming for approximately 2.3 million people in 19 counties of south central Pennsylvania. A member station of NPR and PBS, WITF’s media and educational services include public television (WITF TV); two public radio services (WITF 89.5 and WYPM 93.3 Chambersburg); social media presences on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; and a production services division (Media Solutions). WITF is the founder of, and was previously fiscal agent for, PA Post, a statewide non-profit, non-partisan news organization reporting on policy and issues that affect all Pennsylvanians. For more information, visit witf.org.

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