We’ll be huddling later this week with journalists from WITF and PA Post to brainstorm potential news projects. We’ve been content sharing partners with the local public broadcaster for more than a year and are eager to explore topics for joint coverage in 2020.
Today, we talk with Russ Walker, PA Post’s first executive editor.
How does PA Post differentiate itself from what other news organizations are doing in the region?
Walker: The way I explain it is that PA Post is not so much focused on covering the latest developments in the capitol. Yes, politics in Harrisburg have a direct effect on what we cover. But our goal is to report from outside the capitol, to look at how communities across the state are responding to decisions made by the state’s elected leaders. And more importantly, PA Post wants to highlight how communities are determining their own futures without waiting for the state or federal governments to step in.
We’re also developing some very specific beats. One is voting. Nothing is more essential to our democracy than the vote. Pennsylvania is in the middle of two big changes to how we vote — the replacement of every county’s voting machines, and the expansion of absentee voting. Those will have significant effects on the 2020 elections, and PA Post reporter Emily Previti is covering the issue closely.
Another is gun violence. Ed Mahon is looking at how local law enforcement and prosecutors are working to get guns out of the hands of abusive individuals. It’s a gun control effort that has strong bipartisan support, but how it is carried out at the local level is very complex.
The 2020 Census will be another major focus for us in the new year since it will determine the balance of power in Harrisburg and DC.
You have a deep background in political reporting and editing. How will you apply that to PA Post coverage?
Walker: PA Post won’t try to cover the day-to-day (presidential) campaign. There are so many talented journalists doing that, so our work would be repetitive. Instead, PA Post will continue to focus on the issues on the minds of voters. Not “what do you think of the president’s latest tweet,” but “how have changes in your community’s economy affected how you see your own future, or your children’s future.”
The 2020 election is very likely to be a referendum on President Trump. But the presidential race isn’t the only thing voters are thinking about, nor is it necessarily the most important topic in politics to be tracking. We have the entire state House of Representatives up for reelection next year, and the fight over control of the legislature will be driven by local and state issues, not the endless mess in the nation’s capital.
Reporting is expensive work. Where does PA Post get its funding?
Walker: PA Post is proud to be completely transparent about our funding. Readers can see for themselves by going to our website – papost.org – and clicking the “About” tab at the upper right. That will bring up a menu of options, one of which is titled “Who funds us?”
Most of our funding for our first two years comes from foundations in Pennsylvania, including the Lenfest Institute, the Wyncote Foundation, and many of the community foundations active across the state.
Just last week, we learned that PA Post will be a host newsroom next year for Report for America, a national program focused on boosting the number of reporters working in under-served areas. RFA will fund half of a reporter’s salary, and we’ll be actively looking to recruit funding for the other half.
How can the public support your efforts?
We are building an individual donor program. Through the end of December, PA Post is part of the annual NewsMatch campaign. Every contribution is matched by three organizations – quadrupling the initial gift.That’s right. A $10 contribution from a reader becomes $40 for PA Post. Just as PennLive needs subscribers to continue its work, PA Post needs active members. Here’s where you can go online to make a contribution: support.papost.org.
Thank you, Russ. We’re looking forward to working together in 2020. And you’re right, PennLive and The Patriot-News rely on loyal print and digital subscribers to help power our journalism. We’re thankful for your invaluable support.
All the best,
President, PennLive & The Patriot-News