Spotlight PA is an independent newsroom that produces accountability journalism for Pennsylvanians about one of the country’s most opaque and powerful statehouses and urgent statewide issues. Based in Harrisburg, Spotlight PA is the most ambitious and impactful collaborative journalism project in Pennsylvania today, marrying the strengths of legacy news operations, non-profit mission and news innovation.
Since its launch in September 2019, Spotlight PA aimed to not only produce hard-hitting accountability journalism, but also to distribute it as widely as possible across Pennsylvania. With a simple MOU, we began to offer our work for republication – and at no cost. Only a year after launching, Spotlight PA has more than 50 distribution partners: radio, TV, hyperlocal outlets and legacy newspapers in rural, urban and suburban communities all over Pennsylvania.
Once we convinced partners to join, our editor in chief began sharing Spotlight PA’s work via a tedious process of manually copy-pasting text and artwork into an email for each story as it arose. We knew we needed something better to support this fast-growing collaborative network.
The Spotlight PA Almanack solves a simple but central problem: How do we share stories and updates with around 100 editors in more than 50 newsrooms in real time? This is not a problem most CMS’s are designed to solve.
Over the past ten months, Spotlight PA’s tech director has been custom-building a CMS that allows us to share embargoed stories with partners before they can be published, send alerts and updates, share photos, videos, graphics, embeds and more. Now, our partners can log into Spotlight PA’s system and copy rich text or HTML versions of articles for use in their own CMS’s. Sue Cross, the head of the Institute for Nonprofit News, recently remarked that the Almanack system could be a replicable model for nonprofit newsrooms across the U.S.
In fact, all of the code is available for free at github.com/spotlightpa, so statehouse and statewide newsrooms elsewhere can follow Spotlight PA’s example.