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Spotlight PA creates high-quality investigative and accountability reporting for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians.
The Lenfest Institute for Journalism co-founded and launched Spotlight PA in 2019 as a central pillar of its comment to build solutions for the next era of local news. The Lenfest Institute continues to be a significant donor and key advisor to Spotlight PA. Both organizations remain closely linked as the Institute provides regular guidance and support to Spotlight PA’s leaders as they develop sustainable models to pursue its mission of producing high-quality investigative and accountability journalism.
Spotlight PA provides its reporting free-of-charge to more than 90 newspapers, public radio stations, and websites throughout Pennsylvania.
Spotlight PA’s mission is to hold powerful private and public forces across Pennsylvania — especially governments, businesses and special interests — to account through urgent and compelling investigative journalism that drives change and strengthens our democracy, the state, and all who live here.
As an independent watchdog that fights for the truth, takes on the powerful to expose wrongdoing, and spurs meaningful reforms, Spotlight PA has produced a number of notable investigations and stories since its founding in 2019.
Spotlight PA and the Centre Daily Times conducted a yearlong investigation into Penn State’s once-praised system of compliance offices and reforms implemented in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
In “Missed Conduct,” the newsrooms found deep-rooted flaws — distrust is rampant and many fear retaliation if they speak up. For nearly two years, the unit Penn State created to hold itself to the highest ethical standards struggled to handle behavior it was designed to prevent.
In a 2021 investigation, Spotlight PA uncovered that Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor overcharged unemployed Pennsylvanians millions of dollars for a decade. In direct response to this reporting, the state refunded $19 million to 109,000 people.
After the report’s release, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration concluded the issue was due to “human error” and lack of oversight.
A 2019 investigation into the Pennsylvania State Police found that the department stopped collecting data on the race of drivers its troopers pull over, making it difficult to detect instances of racial profiling. The department stopped collecting this data in 2012 and failed to notify the public, nor did it plan to reinstitute the practice in response to nationwide attention on race and policing in recent years.
Only after Spotlight PA’s report went public did the Pennsylvania State Police announce it would resume the practice.
Spotlight PA distributes its journalism to more than 90 partner organizations around Pennsylvania and it frequently collaborates directly with local and national publications, strengthening its work and boosting its reach.
In 2021, Spotlight PA partnered with NBC News on an investigation into the State Police shooting of Christian Hall, a Chinese American teenager in the Poconos. Spotlight PA obtained unredacted video for the first time — showing the teen had his hands up when fatally shot — which has prompted a new wave of attention on the case. The story was picked up by The Washington Post and USA Today, and the Monroe County NAACP has called for an independent investigation.
In June 2022, Spotlight PA launched its first regional reporting bureau in State College, PA focusing on State College, Centre County, north-central Pennsylvania, and the Northern Tier.
As part of this initiative, Spotlight PA hired a team of four journalists dedicated to the community — a significant increase in local reporting resources — to continue delivering high-quality, nonpartisan investigative and public-service journalism.
The bureau publishes via Spotlight PA’s extensive distribution network, elevating issues of regional importance to a statewide audience, while also fostering mutual understanding among all Pennsylvanians.
The State College regional team is employed by Spotlight PA and receives organizational support from the statewide newsroom, including management and editing — thus avoiding the significant start-up costs associated with launching a brand-new, nonprofit news outlet. The Lenfest Institute supports Spotlight PA and the State College bureau.
In advance of the newsroom’s launch, Spotlight PA conducted community listening sessions to determine the region’s most urgent information needs. Initial stories included a report water contamination in Benner Township, an investigation into Penn State’s handling of a sexual extortion case involving student athletes, and an in-depth look at Centre County’s salary data and use of taxpayer funds.