Spotlight PA to launch first-ever regional reporting bureau based in State College

During the past two years, with the enduring and generous support of Pennsylvanians across the state, we have built Spotlight PA into one of the most successful local journalism endeavors in the United States. But the challenges before us are immense, and we cannot rest.

That’s why, a year ago, I began discussions with a group of residents and stakeholders in State College about extending Spotlight PA’s journalism to bolster reporting in the region.

As part of this initiative, Spotlight PA will be hiring a team of four journalists dedicated to the community — a significant increase in local reporting resources — committed to the same high-quality, nonpartisan investigative and public-service journalism you’ve come to support.

Consistent with our member-funded, public-service mission, all of this high-quality journalism will be made available at no cost to our media partners — led by the Centre Daily Times and others in the region — and to the public through spotlightpa.org/statecollege.

The bureau will publish 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 bureau will focus on State College, Centre County, north-central Pennsylvania, and the northern tier.

In advance of our anticipated launch in July 2022, we’re conducting community listening sessions to determine the region’s most urgent information needs. Initial plans for coverage include an investigative reporter assigned to Penn State University, as well as a rural affairs reporter in partnership with Report for America.

The State College regional team will be employed by Spotlight PA and receive 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.

This new bureau will cost approximately $500,000 a year to sustain at its proposed size, and its future will depend on local support from the community. To encourage founding donors to join the effort, The Lenfest Institute for Journalism is offering to match all contributions up to $200,000 this year.

“Spotlight PA provides essential public-service journalism by combining best-of-breed digital journalism with the trust and reach of its network of legacy news partners,” said Lenfest Institute Executive Director & CEO Jim Friedlich. “We’re excited to see this model expand to State College to support critical reporting for the residents of the region and to serve as a replicable business model for statewide news coverage across the United States.”

In addition, the American Journalism Project — one of the leading supporters of independent and nonprofit news in the country — has invested $1 million in expanding the business and operational capacity of Spotlight PA to allow it to support this and future bureaus.

“We are starting to see promising signs that state-wide journalism models can be potential launchpads for more hyperlocal coverage in regions and markets within or around their state, said Anna Nirmala, vice president of portfolio success for the American Journalism Project. “With Spotlight PA’s expansion into State College, we’re looking forward to seeing what lessons are learned, and how more of Pennsylvania can get the news coverage that’s desperately needed, especially in rural areas and non-major markets.”

We’re in uncharted territory, and the continued decline in local journalism in Pennsylvania demands big ideas and bold solutions. I’m proud Spotlight PA is leading the way with ambitious, collaborative initiatives to reinvigorate local news and preserve democracy — but it all depends on your support.

You can support this special effort by clicking here, or to learn more about getting involved, you can email Spotlight PA Major Gifts Advisor Kathleen Pavelko at [email protected]. Spotlight PA is funded by foundations and readers like you who are committed to accountability journalism that gets results.

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