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.
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.
The leaves are dropping rapidly. Winter is coming! Thanks for capturing the change in season, @selective_pressure.
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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