It’s a battle of the birds in South Philly today as the Eagles host one of the NFL’s top teams in the Seattle Seahawks. The Eagles, sitting at 5-5, are on the outside of the playoff picture at the moment. But a win over the 8-2 Seahawks while dealing with several banged-up players could put them in a position to make an impact during the stretch run. Further below in our weekend Q&A, we’re talking with the editor of Spotlight PA, a collaborative investigative effort that aims to hold Pennsylvania’s state government more accountable for its actions.
The week ahead
If you haven’t started your Thanksgiving prep, it’s time. If you’ve got everything under control, we’d like to know your go-to last-minute Turkey Day recipes. Please, help a procrastinator out.
As the impeachment inquiry hearings involving President Trump’s investigation ask of Ukraine’s president continue down in Washington, D.C., Philly’s Ukrainians are noticing that “suddenly everybody knows about Ukraine.” Look for our story tomorrow.
This week’s most popular stories
Behind the story with
Each week we go behind the scenes with one of our reporters or editors to discuss their work and the challenges they face along the way. This week we chat with Chris Baxter, editor of Spotlight PA, a newsroom that’s dedicated to producing nonpartisan investigative journalism about our state’s government. People interested in supporting its work can make donations to Spotlight PA at spotlightpa.org/donate.
What is the purpose of Spotlight PA? And why should people consider supporting it with donations?
Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan investigative newsroom focused on restoring accountability to our state government with tough and insightful journalism. For too long, much of our sprawling and costly state government has gone without dedicated investigative journalists ensuring it’s running efficiently and in the best interest of the taxpayers, as opposed to powerful special interests. This kind of accountability is critical to driving change for the betterment of our state.
What have been some of the early reports your team has published?
We’ve hit the ground running calling out secrecy, revealing lavish spending, and prompting change. One of our first reports revealed the State Police had stopped collecting race data on drivers pulled over by troopers, making potential racial profiling difficult to detect. As a result, the agency said it would reverse course and resume the data collection. What’s more, our series of stories on millions of dollars in hidden campaign expenses reignited an effort in the legislature to tighten the rules. Just this past week, we wrote about how the process to fill judicial vacancies in the state is rife with politics and dealmaking.
What issues are currently on your radar and how does Spotlight PA plan to address them?
Our reporters are pursuing a number of short- and long-term stories. We’re laser focused on following taxpayer money and calling out areas where secrecy or a lack of transparency prevent the public from seeing how that money is being spent, including in the legislature. We’re pursuing stories about the business of drug addiction treatment across the state, particularly the state’s role in doling out financial support and acting as a watchdog. We want to know more about the effectiveness of some of the state’s grant programs. To be the first to know about any of our work, you can sign up for our newsletter.
What are some stories or issues that you think are underreported?
As the number of reporters in statehouses across the country has shrunk during the past decade, those who remain largely focus on the actions of the governor and legislature. And that’s a very important area of coverage. But we believe there’s a significant void in coverage of the rest of the state government, the many departments, agencies, boards and commissions that execute the laws, write the regulations, run the programs and spend the vast majority of the state’s multibillion-dollar budget. This vast part of the government significantly affects the lives of everyone in Pennsylvania, and yet, we rarely read about them.
Finally, what should people know if they want to contact Spotlight PA about a story idea or issue?
We’re eager to hear from folks who see or know of misconduct or wasteful spending or actions detrimental to the public and want to blow the whistle. And protecting our sources is of the utmost importance. To see the many ways to securely contact our newsroom, visit spotlightpa.org/tips. The most useful tips are specific, provide a means for a reporter to follow-up or verify the information, and, if possible, include documentation.
Through Your Eyes | #OurPhilly
The leaves are dropping rapidly. Winter is coming! Thanks for capturing the change in season, @selective_pressure.
Tag your Instagram posts or tweets with #OurPhilly and we’ll pick our favorite each day to feature in this newsletter and give you a shoutout!
#CuriousPhilly: Have a question about your community? Ask us!
Have you submitted a question to Curious Philly yet? Try us. We’re listening to our readers and doing our best to find answers to the things you’re curious about.
Our readers’ latest question: Why have so many acorns fallen this year?
The answer: We found several theories, including one that says the weather in earlier seasons can influence acorn production.
Searching: for easy recipes to cook. We’re looking for last-minute ideas for Thanksgiving procrastinators. Tell us your suggestion.
Drinking: Zazou, a variety of unsweetened herbal teas that can double as ready-made cocktail mixers.
Watching: Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project, a documentary that shows how Stokes left behind a massive archive of videotapes that had recordings of TV round-the-clock, starting in 1979.
Testing: a spin class that goes against the grain. Instead of playing upbeat pop music, this City Fitness gym plays Beethoven’s classics in early celebration of the 250th anniversary of his birth next year.
Comment of the week
Another vote to miss The Original Bookbinders, but more for the family memory — I wooed the woman who would eventually become my wife on her first trip to Philadelphia by taking her to The Original. — Gorowara, on long-gone Philadelphia restaurants that Craig LaBan (and our readers) still miss
Your Daily Dose of | The UpSide
Fire Capt. Kevin Lloyd was trying to console a 2-year-old girl who had been inside a car that had been involved in a minor rear-end accident. While trying to calm the child, he noticed she was holding nail polish. It sparked a creative idea, and solution, to steady her.