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Meet our team

When the citizens of Pennsylvania pay their taxes, need help in a tough time, or vote a politician into office, we'll be there to make sure they get what they deserve.

Spotlight PA is the largest newsroom in Pennsylvania dedicated to holding the Pennsylvania state government to account. Our team of a dozen investigative reporters and editors based in the capital are working every day to keep track of taxpayer dollars and ensure the government is working for the people — and no one else. Contact our reporters using the emails below, or see how to send us tips more securely.


  • Photo of Stephen Caruso

    The Capitol

    Stephen Caruso

    Capitol Reporter

    (267) 846-9034

    Focus: Governor’s office, legislature

    Pennsylvania’s governor and 253-member General Assembly drive decision making in Harrisburg. Their often closed-door dealings dictate how billions in taxpayer dollars are spent each year. They also make public policy decisions on issues from energy and criminal justice to naming an official state amphibian. Caruso analyzes what gets done and why, and holds lawmakers accountable for what lingers on Harrisburg’s agenda.

    A New York native, Caruso attended the University of Pittsburgh, where he learned how to report at his student newspaper, The Pitt News. After graduating, he moved to Harrisburg in March 2018, where he has covered state government and politics, in particular the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

  • Photo of Angela Couloumbis

    money In Government And Politics

    Angela Couloumbis

    Investigative Reporter

    (717) 350-3339

    Focus: Campaign finance, lobbying, departments of Revenue, State, General Services

    Behind the legislation that gets considered in the Pennsylvania Capitol, there are special interests trying to influence the process. Couloumbis tracks the lobbyists with access to top elected officials and the money that sometimes shapes which policies are prioritized in state government. Her stories have illustrated the nexus between politics and policy and traced how Pennsylvania’s weak campaign finance laws have allowed elected officials to shirk transparency.

    Before joining Spotlight PA, Couloumbis worked at The Philadelphia Inquirer, where she wrote about local and state governments, politics, courts, and crime in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

  • Photo of Ashad Hajela

    Rural Affairs

    Ashad Hajela

    Rural Affairs Reporter

    (215) 581-1271

    Focus: Agriculture/environment, broadband, criminal justice, education, healthcare, government spending, and housing

    Ashad Hajela is a Report for America corps member at Spotlight PA’s State College Bureau. He follows the impact of issues like broadband, education and healthcare on the fast-evolving rural central and northern Pennsylvania.

    As a former Stabile Fellow at Columbia Journalism School, he investigated the parole system in New York and problematic hospitals and nursing homes in North Carolina and New Hampshire. He previously worked at The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina where he covered crime and criminal justice.

  • Photo of Kate Huangpu

    State Government

    Kate Huangpu

    Government Reporter

    (267) 995-2177

    Focus: Governor’s office, legislature

    Huangpu follows how and why the state government works the way it does, paying special attention to how the structure of our government expands or excludes who can participate in democracy. Huangpu also tracks major legislation and the impact that it has on communities across the state.

    A graduate of the Columbia Journalism School’s data journalism program, Huangpu got her start reporting on police accountability and social services for survivors of domestic violence in New York City. She previously worked at ABC’s World News Tonight and MSNBC.

  • Photo of Charlotte Keith

    Economic Development

    Charlotte Keith

    Investigative Reporter

    (717) 836-6560

    Focus: Department of Community and Economic Development, Independent Fiscal Office, Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority, Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency

    Keith follows the money to understand how your tax dollars are being spent. She reports on the systems and policies that drive — or delay — economic development and holds officials accountable for financial decisions that affect Pennsylvanians.

    Before joining Spotlight PA, Keith covered local and state government for a small nonprofit newsroom in Buffalo, NY. She is originally from London.

  • Photo of Ed Mahon

    Human Services

    Ed Mahon

    Investigative Reporter

    (717) 421-2518

    Focus: Departments of Drug and Alcohol Programs, Human Services; Pennsylvania Governor’s Commission on Children and Families, addiction treatment, the opioid epidemic, medical cannabis, and child care

    Mahon reports on addiction treatment and the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania, which has one of the highest fatal drug overdose rates in the country. He also covers social service programs and reports on what happens when the government fails the people it’s supposed to help: children who need care, families in poverty, and those with disabilities.

    A native of Delaware County, Mahon worked in newsrooms across Pennsylvania before joining Spotlight PA. His reporting has earned national recognition, including a 2018 finalist slot for the Livingston Awards for Young Journalists and a 2021 investigative award from the Institute for Nonprofit News.

  • Photo of Wyatt Massey

    Penn State University

    Wyatt Massey

    Investigative Reporter


    Focus: Penn State University

    Massey investigates how Penn State University operates, including its influence in the region and state. The university receives more than $300 million in funding from the state but evades most transparency measures under Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law. Massey scrutinizes the main University Park campus as well as the university’s 19 additional branch campuses.

    A native of rural Wisconsin, Massey previously covered faith and religion for the Chattanooga Times Free Press in Southeast Tennessee.

  • Photo of Katie Meyer


    Katie Meyer

    Government Editor/Reporter

    Focus: Governor’s office, legislature, elections

    Meyer covers government and elections, with a focus on the money and powerful interests that can shape policy decisions, and the ways those decisions affect Pennsylvanians. She also plans coverage and edits Spotlight’s government team.

    Previously, Meyer was political reporter for WHYY Public Radio in Philadelphia, and covered state politics and government for WITF Public Radio in Harrisburg. She lives in South Philly.

  • Photo of Danielle Ohl

    Justice System

    Danielle Ohl

    Investigative Reporter


    Focus: Pennsylvania State Police, Department of Corrections, courts, judicial system

    The institutions that comprise Pennsylvania’s justice system hold extraordinary power over the lives of residents. Ohl holds those institutions accountable and examines what it means to pursue justice in Pennsylvania, even when the systems work as intended.

    Ohl previously covered the state Capitol for Spotlight PA. She spent four years covering Annapolis for the Capital Gazette, where she earned a Pulitzer Prize special citation with her newsroom for covering the mass shooting of her own colleagues.

  • Photo of Min Xian


    Min Xian

    Local Accountability Reporter

    (267) 618-6677

    Focus: Local government accountability

    Central and northern Pennsylvania is home to vast natural beauty, historic towns with changing economies, and a diverse mix of social-political values. Xian reports on how local governments are run and how public dollars are spent, with a focus on how public and private forces shape ordinary life in this region.

    Before joining Spotlight PA, Xian covered local government and rural issues for the region’s NPR affiliate, WPSU. Originally from southern China, she has called State College home since 2013.


  • Photo of Christopher Baxter

    Christopher Baxter

    Executive Director & Editor in Chief

    Christopher Baxter is the executive director and founding editor in chief of Spotlight PA, and oversees all aspects of the organization. His work as an investigative reporter and editor has regularly prompted meaningful change in the form of new laws and regulations, criminal investigations, resignations, legislative hearings, and more. Most recently, he was the editor for data and investigations at NJ Advance Media (NJ.com & The Star-Ledger), where he led the newsroom’s highest-level investigative projects with a digital-first approach and an emphasis on journalism that gets results. Previously, he was the Mike Wallace Fellow in Investigative Reporting with the Knight-Wallace Fellowships at the University of Michigan and, before that, worked for four years as a statehouse investigative reporter in The Star-Ledger’s Trenton Bureau. He began his career as a local reporter for The Morning Call in Allentown, Pa. His work has garnered numerous state and national awards, including the 2014 Livingston Award in Local Reporting, the 2018 Investigative Reporters & Editors Freedom of Information Award, as well as the 2019 Knight Award for Public Service and the 2019 Investigative Data Journalism Award from the Online News Association.
  • Photo of Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein

    Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein

    Deputy Director

    Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein joined Spotlight PA in 2019, and has led myriad initiatives since the newsroom’s launch, from effectively building local and national support for Spotlight PA’s public-service journalism, to expanding the newsroom’s partnerships and creating its civic events program. She currently leads Spotlight PA’s fundraising team. Joanna received her B.A. from Columbia University and also has a master’s degree from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, where she was a Stabile Investigative Fellow. She worked as a foreign correspondent in Mexico City for Reuters and she was part of a team at the Miami Herald chosen as a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Local Reporting. She has also held fundraising and communications roles at nonprofit organizations in Mexico City, New York, and Chicago.
  • Photo of Skyler Cruz

    Skyler Cruz

    Operations Manager

    Skyler Cruz is Spotlight PA’s first Operations Manager, a role made possible by the American Journalism Project. She manages administrative projects and builds organizational capacity, in addition to strengthening partner relationships. Skyler returns to the media industry after years as an Admissions Officer in graduate management education with the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University. A native Floridian, Skyler holds a bachelor’s degree in English and Philosophy from Stetson University. While at Stetson, she served as Editor-In-Chief of The Reporter, the campus news magazine.
  • Photo of Colin Deppen

    Colin Deppen

    Newsletter Editor

    Colin Deppen is a newsletter editor/reporter with Spotlight PA. He crafts and grows the site’s daily and weekly newsletters, while contributing to the organization’s mission of producing journalism that serves readers and holds powerful people to account. He came to Spotlight PA from The Incline, a digital news outlet in Pittsburgh, where he served as director and author of a daily newsletter hyper-focused on the city and region. Colin has worked at newspapers and outlets across Pennsylvania during his 10-year career — from the Northern Tier to the south. This includes PennLive/The Patriot-News, where he won statewide awards for written features, personality profiles, and political coverage. He is a native of New York City with deep family ties in Pennsylvania and has been a longtime resident of the commonwealth. He still refuses to try scrapple.
  • Photo of Sarah Anne Hughes

    Sarah Anne Hughes

    Deputy Editor

    Sarah Anne Hughes is a deputy editor for Spotlight PA, helping oversee day-to-day news operations. She is a native Pennsylvanian who has helped lead newsrooms in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C. She was previously associate editor of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star and a Report for America fellow with Billy Penn and The Incline covering the state legislature. Before returning to her home state, Sarah was managing editor of Washington City Paper, editor of DCist, and a reporter for The Washington Post. She is a 2019 National Fellow with the Center for Health Journalism, focusing on the decline of cash welfare for families in poverty.
  • Photo of Carl Johnson

    Carl Johnson

    Technology Director

    Carl Johnson is the Technology Director for Spotlight PA. Prior to joining the Spotlight PA team, Carl worked as a Newsroom Product Engineer at The Baltimore Sun for Tribune Publishing, a Tech Lead for PBS, a web developer for The Atlantic, and the webmaster for his high school underground lit mag. Carl has a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Hawaii and is interested in looking at online publishing and full stack development from a critical perspective. Before becoming a software engineer, he worked as an educator for 9 years, and he now teaches interactive design for journalists at the University of Maryland. He lives in Baltimore with his wife and children.
  • Photo of Stephen Kearse

    Stephen Kearse

    Assistant Editor

    Stephen Kearse is the assistant editor of Spotlight PA. He previously worked as the copy editor of Stateline, and has contributed arts criticism and reporting to The Nation, The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Pitchfork, among other outlets.
  • Photo of Michelle Mertz

    Michelle Mertz

    Director of Individual and Corporate Giving

    Michelle Mertz joined the team of Spotlight PA in June 2022 as the organization’s first Director of Major Gifts. She brings over 25 years of experience as a non-profit development leader. Michelle previously served in advancement roles at WITF Inc., Bucknell University, Easter Seals, and Central Penn College. She also worked in marketing for Sunbury Broadcasting Corp. for 5 years.
  • Photo of Yaasmeen Piper

    Yaasmeen Piper

    Events Coordinator

    Yaasmeen Piper is a recent graduate of East Stroudsburg University with a degree in English and concentration in digital and professional media writing. She served as Editor-in-Chief of the Stroud Courier, East Stroudsburg University’s student newspaper for two years. Over the past four years, she has worked as an intern and freelance writer with a focus in arts, culture, news, and social issues. Her work is featured in TheBurg Magazine, Central Penn Business Journal, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and more. She won first place in the 2020 Professional Keystone Media Awards in the DV diversity category.
  • Photo of Sarah Rafacz

    Sarah Rafacz

    State College Editor

    Sarah Rafacz is the editor of Spotlight PA’s State College bureau. Before joining Spotlight PA to help launch its first regional bureau, she was the editor of State College Magazine. Prior to that, Rafacz was a reporter at the Centre Daily Times, covering Penn State, local government and development. Rafacz, a native of Centre County, has bachelor’s degrees in journalism and English from Penn State.
  • Photo of Jeff Rummel

    Jeff Rummel

    News Developer

    Jeff Rummel works as a News Developer for Spotlight PA. He joined Spotlight PA after a decade of building websites and digital tools. Jeff led teams, created workflows, and produced award-winning sites for organizations like The Teamsters and Ocean Conservancy. Before building websites, Jeff did everything from refinishing antique furniture to cooking in the World’s smallest kitchen. He lives with his wife and child in Lancaster, PA.