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Editor’s Notes

Spotlight PA wins prestigious Public Service Award for 4th-straight year for its betterment of Pennsylvania

by Spotlight PA Staff |

Spotlight PA staffers outside the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, PA in 2023.
Dani Fresh/For Spotlight PA

Spotlight PA’s unique, voter-centric coverage of Pennsylvania’s 2023 judicial elections — focused on helping people understand how and why these races affect the real, day-to-day issues they care about most — has earned the prestigious statewide Public Service Award.

The coverage, “Why Judges Matter,” encompassed dozens of stories, including candidate guides, explainers of how the courts and judges work, virtual events, extensive Spanish translations, and an interactive online tool showing how court decisions shape important policy matters from abortion to gun rights.

In total, Spotlight PA was honored with 6 statewide awards by the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.

The “Why Judges Matter” reporting effort earned the award in competition with all other news organizations in the state, several far larger, recognizing “a news company that has made a significant contribution to the betterment of its community through public service leadership.” The staff-wide effort was led by Spotlight PA’s Democracy Editor, Elizabeth Estrada.

This is the fourth-straight year Spotlight PA has received this honor. The newsroom was previously recognized for its efforts to encourage more diversified sourcing in reporting across Pennsylvania, its unrivaled coverage of redistricting, and the 2022 gubernatorial election.

The newsroom also received the prestigious John V.R. Bull Freedom of Information Award for “Richest Little City,” an investigation into how the manager of a small Pennsylvania city landed at the center of one of the most sweeping political corruption cases in the state in recent years.

Through dozens of interviews and public record requests, as well as data analysis, reporters Min Xian and Angela Couloumbis found the former city manager of DuBois, Herm Suplizio, capitalized on powers from key positions he held, a network of unlikely political connections, and the trust he amassed in his community to gain near-unfettered access to taxpayer and nonprofit funds. Suplizio’s case is pending in federal court, and he has pleaded not guilty.

The special prize is awarded to one newsroom of any size in Pennsylvania each year for “exceptional work advancing or upholding the cause of Freedom of Information during the past year.” This is the third time Spotlight PA has received the honor.

“Since the day we launched in 2019, our goal has been to restore the role of journalism in our state as a fearless check on the powerful, and to inspire people to get involved and drive real, positive change for the future,” said Spotlight PA CEO & President Christopher Baxter. “These awards embody all that Spotlight PA was created to be, and every reader and supporter should take immense pride in helping build and sustain the journalism our state deserves.”

Other honors for the annual Keystone Media Awards include:

On the national level, Spotlight PA also received high-profile recognition for its journalism this year— named a finalist by Investigative Reporters and Editors for the special Freedom of Information Award for a year-long investigation into Pennsylvania’s often secretive medical marijuana program.

The newsroom also received third place in the education category from the National Headliner Awards for Wyatt Massey’s coverage of Penn State University. Most recently, Spotlight PA and WESA took second place in the Public Media Journalists Association’s Collaborative Effort category for their joint efforts to track the state’s spending of opioid settlement money.

In other state contests, Spotlight PA received four first-place and three finalist Golden Quill Awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania.

Spotlight PA — an independent, nonprofit, and nonpartisan newsroom — produces investigative and public-service journalism about the state government and urgent statewide issues, and shares that work with more than 120 newsroom partners to ensure public access to vital information.

Spotlight PA provides all of its journalism at no cost thanks to the generosity of its supporters, including more than 5,000 individuals across Pennsylvania. Join in sustaining this vital journalism by making a tax-deductible donation today.

Spotlight PA is funded by foundations and readers like you who are committed to accountability journalism that gets results.

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