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Editor's Notes

Spotlight PA’s unique voter-first election coverage wins prestigious Public Service Award

by Christopher Baxter |

Spotlight PA won the prestigious Public Service Award for its voter-centric coverage of the 2022 gubernatorial election.

Spotlight PA’s unique commitment to voter-centric coverage of Pennsylvania’s 2022 gubernatorial race — including dozens of guides and explainers, expanded Spanish translations, and a new Election Center website — has earned one of the most prestigious statewide prizes in journalism.

In total, Spotlight PA was honored with 8 statewide awards by the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.

The election coverage, “One Vote, Two Pennsylvanias,” earned the Public Service Award — in competition with all other news organizations in the state — recognizing “a news company that has made a significant contribution to the betterment of its community through public service leadership.”

This is the third-straight year Spotlight PA has received this special award.

The “One Vote, Two Pennsylvanias” initiative was a groundbreaking effort to rewrite the script of local political reporting by refocusing all newsroom resources and editorial decisions around one question: How will this help a voter?

Spotlight PA sought to portray in stark contrast the vastly different visions for the state held by the Republican and Democratic candidates for governor, and the stakes of how people’s lives would be directly affected should either be elected.

In doing so, the news organization put voters first, eschewing the horse race and candidate messaging for a purely public service approach.

Spotlight PA was the only newsroom to examine candidate policy positions across eight complex and diverse issues, in addition to publishing the most comprehensive candidate guide, explainers to combat misinformation in real time, voter email alerts about key developments, and a new Election Center website.

The news organization also published voter guides on how elections in Pennsylvania are run, how to vet candidates, how to properly cast a ballot, how to get involved in the process, and how to interpret the results. Those were complemented by live virtual events held to answer voter questions about the candidates and process.

For the first time, all of our guides were fully translated into Spanish and shared via new partnerships with Latino Connection, a statewide Latino marketing firm, and other Spanish-language outlets.

The American Press Institute featured Spotlight PA’s approach to voter-centric coverage in an article called, “How to be different — and better — this election,” as did the Institute for Nonprofit News and Nieman Labs in a piece called, “‘Revolve around the voter’: How 3 newsrooms are covering elections differently.”

Other projects honored by the Keystone Media Awards include:

Additionally, Spotlight PA’s ongoing coverage of criminal justice issues, including Pennsylvania’s flawed police misconduct database, received two honorable mentions, as did reporting on redistricting and reporting on the state’s medical marijuana program.

Earlier this year, Spotlight PA received two National Headliner Awards, in the categories for best online investigative reporting (“Cannabis Card Game”) and best political coverage of money and influence in Pennsylvania. The newsroom was also recognized this year by the Association of Healthcare Journalists for its medical marijuana coverage.

Spotlight PA, the largest statewide news organization in Pennsylvania, produces investigative and public-service journalism about the state government and urgent statewide issues, and shares that work with more than 90 newsroom partners in an effort to ensure public access to vital information.

We provide all of our journalism at no cost thanks to the generosity of our supporters, including more than 4,000 individuals across Pennsylvania. Join us in celebrating these awards by making a tax-deductible donation today.

Christopher Baxter is the executive director and editor-in-chief of Spotlight PA. Spotlight PA is funded by foundations and readers like you who are committed to accountability journalism that gets results.

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