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Our best stories of 2023

Plus: How public grant dollars and volunteers helped revitalize this Pennsylvania Wilds town

This is Talk of the Town, a free weekly newsletter delivering top news from State College and the surrounding region.

December 28, 2023
Inside this edition: The best stories of the year from our regional bureau, how grant dollars and volunteers revitalized a Pa. Wilds town, and events to ring in the new year! ❄️
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Proceeds benefit Spotlight PA’s nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism that gets results for Pennsylvania.

In the 18 months since Spotlight PA’s State College regional bureau launched, we’ve criss-crossed north-central Pennsylvania to tell vital, impactful stories.

As the year draws to a close, we want to share a few of our best stories of 2023.

Thank you for reading, and we wish you a happy, healthy new year!

Richest Little City

A massive corruption case brought by the state Office of Attorney General in March against suspended DuBois City Manager Herm Suplizio alleged that he shrewdly used his power, network of political connections, and control over local organizations and charities to line his own pockets for almost a decade. 

Suplizio remade the city into a destination for youth and collegiate sports during his tenure, but the scandal posed uncomfortable questions about his time as DuBois’ chief administrator: Do his achievements stand on their own, or were they only borne out of entrenched corruption? If so, how could such alleged crimes have gone unnoticed for so long?

Spotlight PA spent months following the development of the criminal case, which is now in the hands of federal authorities, and investigating the circumstances that led to the alleged corruption in this investigation.

Min Xian, local accountability reporter

Missed Conduct

In partnership with the Centre Daily Times, Spotlight PA spent a year investigating Penn State’s once-praised system of reforms implemented in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal a decade ago.

What started as a tip on potential misconduct in the very office created to root out such behavior expanded into a look at the web of compliance offices and oversight measures across the university. Our story offered a look inside Penn State when a system designed to encourage and protect whistleblowers stumbles over itself.

Wyatt Massey, Penn State investigative reporter

Help from Harrisburg

When new faces started representing Snow Shoe in Harrisburg, residents felt like their state lawmakers were prioritizing the rural community after years of hardship.

Our story details how state Sen. Cris Dush (R., Jefferson) and state Rep. Paul Takac (D., Centre) have worked to put partisanship aside to serve their constituents. The piece details ongoing efforts to meet residents where they are through office hours and engage with local officials to find a food source for the area. It demonstrates how lawmakers can use their position to secure state funding and development grants for improvements.

Marley Parish, rural affairs reporter

» Your support makes important public-service reporting like this possible. Help us continue it in 2024 by making a tax-deductible gift to Spotlight PA now. As a special bonus, all contributions will be DOUBLED.

More top stories from 2023

» Penn State, Pitt, and others get hundreds of millions in taxpayer funds. Tracking it is a challenge.

» Pa. leads the nation for Lyme disease cases. Development in forests boosts the risk.

» Spotlight PA sues Penn State trustees over alleged violations of Pennsylvania’s open meetings law

» A budget boost to payments for state-owned land will benefit rural Pa. counties

» Pa. voters play little role in choosing who fills vacant municipal offices

This is it — there are only three days left in 2023, and we still haven't quite crossed our fundraising finish line. We only have  $13,000 left to raise. Will you help us finish our year off strong?

It is vitally important that we reach our goals before the end of the year. The money raised in these last days will determine our ability to continue to provide this vital, hard-hitting journalism for Pennsylvania throughout 2024. Help us continue to serve our community through 2024 and beyond. Make a tax-deductible gift to Spotlight PA today and it will be DOUBLED thanks to a generous matching grant.

Thank you to the 1,567 people who have given so far, including Scott M., who said, “Investigative journalism is essential for a representative democracy to serve the people.”

Join Scott & make a tax-deductible gift now »

You can also give via PayPal or Venmo, or send a check to: Spotlight PA, PO Box 11728, Harrisburg, PA 17108.
» Pa. lawmakers’ base salary now tops $106K. Here’s what you need to know about their automatic pay raises.

» How public grant dollars and volunteers helped revitalize this Pennsylvania Wilds town

» Inside the Pa. court case pitting a genealogist against Ancestry.com

» Despite ethics concerns, Shapiro will keep accepting tickets from a group that gets state money
The News Lab at Penn State and Spotlight PA have partnered to launch Centre Documenters. 

Centre Documenters recruits, trains, and pays local documenters to attend and document government meetings in six undercovered townships across Centre County — Benner, College, Gregg, Halfmoon, Snow Shoe, and Spring.

Centre Documenters is part of a nationwide network, founded in 2018 by a community-based newsroom in Chicago. It is dedicated to building a corps of “curious citizens” equipped with the skills necessary to support local government transparency. 

Last week, Centre Documenters published its first newsletter, just one way to stay informed about meetings and the program’s work. In 2024, Centre Documenters will cover 30 meetings and publish two newsletters each month. 

You can find meeting notes at centredocumenters.org. Centre Documenters is also launching a texting service, allowing you to receive key takeaways and a link to meeting notes for a particular municipality or type of meeting. 

Read more about Centre Documenters here, and sign up for the newsletter here.
Holiday decorations at the Arboretum at Penn State in Centre County via @plumriverphoto.

Have a north-central Pennsylvania photo to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
Holiday decorations at The Arboretum at Penn State in Centre County
» Sun-Gazette: Williamsport mayor says state tax reform a necessity
» CDT: What will happen with these Centre Co. projects in 2024?
» WPSU: New Purple Lizard map focuses on all of Pa.
» Mirror: Blair Co. ratifies CYF labor contract
» Express: Mill Hall fire company faces decertification
Want us to list your event? Send it to us.

» Dec. 28: The Public Library for Union County in Lewisburg hosts Barbie Bash.

» Dec. 29: Four area comedians take the stage for “The Nightmare After Christmas” in Williamsport, Lycoming County. 

» Dec. 31: Ring in the new year at First Night State College in Centre County with performances, ice sculptures, the 5K resolution run, and more.

» Dec. 31: First Night Bradford, in McKean County, celebrates the new year through the arts.

» Jan. 1: Kick-start your new year with a guided hike in a state park or forest in north-central Pennsylvania.
An anagram is a word, phrase, or name formed by rearranging the letters of another. For example, “spotlight” also forms “stoplight.”

Decode the anagram and send your answer to talkofthetown@spotlightpa.org. We’ll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA State College swag.

Good luck!

Last week’s answer: Frost

There were no new winners this week. Send this newsletter to your friends so they get a shot at receiving Spotlight PA State College swag! Those who answered correctly: Kevin M., Don H., Elizabeth B., Rick W., Rena Z., Amy Z., Frederick H., Leslie B., and Leann T.
Do you have events, community shoutouts, questions about our region, or tips on stories that we should pursue? Email our team.
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Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan & nonprofit newsroom producing investigative and public-service journalism that holds the powerful to account and drives positive change in Pennsylvania.

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Spotlight PA
PO Box 11728
Harrisburg, PA 17108-1728


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