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

“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 with Spotlight PA effective August 17 and will be known as Spotlight PA.

“The merger of these two statewide news organizations makes a lot of sense as they look for ways to maximize resources and provide enterprising news coverage across the commonwealth,” said Andrew Conte, media columnist for NEXTpittsburgh and director of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University. “Just as we are seeing local news organizations looking to collaborate, this shift will allow journalists to spend more time telling original stories and less time dealing with the challenges of running a business.”

Conte noted that that Spotlight PA recently took on Trib Total Media as its western partner after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette pulled out.

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

“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.

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.

And the group will add a Capitol beat reporter focused on policies and issues of importance to Western Pennsylvania.

“Additionally, Spotlight PA is leading the creation of a diverse source database — a directory of at least 100 experts of color across Pennsylvania — to improve representation in our own coverage, and to provide a resource to help other newsrooms do the same,” writes Baxter on his site.

“In total, our combined newsroom will now include 14 reporters and editors in addition to technology and fundraising staff. We will continue to publish all stories at spotlightpa.org and across our partner network. We will also continue to offer our free weekly newsletter, The Investigator, as well as our new weekly coronavirus alerts, customized by county, to provide more localized data to keep you informed and safe,” he adds.

“Finally, Spotlight PA will take over production of PA Post’s free daily newsletter, The Context, and examine how to continue to serve its engaged readers with unique content and curation they won’t get anywhere else in the state.”

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 U.S.

“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.”