Pennsylvania’s leading newspapers announce
groundbreaking statehouse watchdog reporting partnership
HARRISBURG (Oct. 2, 2018) — Three of Pennsylvania’s leading newspapers today announced the launch of Spotlight PA, an unprecedented public-service journalism collaborative designed to increase the amount of investigative and explanatory coverage of the state capital at a time of dwindling journalistic resources in Harrisburg and nationwide.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and the LNP Media Group (Lancaster, Pa.) are collaborating to launch the investigative news organization with the mission of building a sustainable, replicable model for data-driven accountability journalism in the state capital.
Spotlight PA will also work with students and professional staff at Temple University’s Klein College of Media and Communication under the direction of Aron Pilhofer, the James B. Steele Chair in Journalism Innovation.
Spotlight PA will build a diverse team of more than a dozen multiplatform journalists that can report, code, analyze data, and map trends. The journalists will scour for public documents, build sources across the political spectrum, and follow the money to shed light on the inner workings of one of the largest and most expensive state governing bodies in the United States. In addition to its investigative work, the team will provide a strong mix of explanatory journalism and major breaking news coverage to help Pennsylvania residents better understand and participate in their state government.
“It’s no secret that Pennsylvania’s sunshine laws are some of the weakest in America,” said Philadelphia Inquirer Executive Editor and Senior Vice President Stan Wischnowski, referring to the state’s public disclosure laws. “With that in mind, it takes more journalists’ feet on the ground to ensure that citizens are truly represented. There needs to be more transparency, and one of the primary goals of Spotlight PA is to provide more sunlight for the entire commonwealth.”
Spotlight PA will also partner with PA Post, a new policy and civic engagement-focused news enterprise led by Harrisburg’s WITF Public Media. PA Post has assembled commercial and non-commercial media organizations, including Philadelphia’s WHYY, into a network to both create and deliver multimedia digital news coverage. PA Post and Spotlight PA will collaborate on some reporting, and they will co-produce public events across Pennsylvania with the ultimate goal of ensuring that all Pennsylvanians are more informed about the policies that affect their lives.
“In an era when so many important developments are occurring in the states, it is more vital than ever that we understand what is happening in these laboratories of democracy,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Executive Editor David Shribman said. “This is not one small step but a giant leap — representing not a small increment but a giant investment in our commitment.”
Spotlight PA has secured commitments of more than $1 million toward a three-year goal of $2 million, and fundraising is ongoing. Initial commitments for Spotlight PA come from The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, The Nicholas B. Ottaway Foundation, The Philadelphia Foundation, Poor Richard’s Charitable Trust, and The Wyncote Foundation.
“Collaborative reporting initiatives like Spotlight PA help local news organizations maximize resources and expand coverage at a time when many are cutting back or eliminating beats,” said Jim Friedlich, executive director of The Lenfest Institute.“Through dedicated enterprise and investigative reporting, Spotlight PA will provide a tremendous service to citizens across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,”
Spotlight PA has begun its search for an independent editor-in-chief, who will then recruit a team focused on investigations, enterprise journalism, and data analysis. The team will also hire a head of technology and a development officer focused on securing funding opportunities, building audiences, and organizing partnerships to share coverage with other outlets throughout Pennsylvania.
This team will work in conjunction with journalists from The Philadelphia Inquirer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Lancaster’s LNP Media Group, which publishes the state-government watchdog publication The Caucus, to provide more robust accountability journalism about Pennsylvania state government. With a team of more than a dozen editors and reporters, Spotlight PA will be the largest state-house news enterprise in Pennsylvania.
“LNP Media Group is honored to join forces with two outstanding news organizations that are equally committed to exposing waste and fraud in the capital. This partnership brings together Pennsylvania’s premier investigative journalists for that common goal,” said Robert M. Krasne, CEO of the Lancaster, Pa.-based company.