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Rural Issues

Meet Ashad Hajela, rural affairs reporter for Spotlight PA State College

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This story was produced by the State College regional bureau of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom dedicated to investigative and public-service journalism for Pennsylvania. Sign up for our regional newsletter, Talk of the Town.

Hey y’all! I’m Ashad Hajela, and I’m covering rural affairs across north-central Pennsylvania for Spotlight PA’s State College regional bureau.

I’ve joined the bureau thanks to Spotlight PA’s first-ever partnership with Report for America, a service program that sends journalists to newsrooms across the country to help cover topics that otherwise aren’t getting proper attention. I’ll also be working on a service project in the region that will help make news more accessible.

I’m from a little bit of a lot of places. I was born in the United States but lived in India for 11 years, where I did most of my schooling. I came back to the United States to attend New York University, where I decided to become a journalist after I saw its power to elevate voices and hold people in power to account.

I moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, after college, where I wrote for The News & Observer. I covered crime and criminal justice, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the protests following the police killing of George Floyd. During my time there, I won a statewide award for my reporting on crime at motels in Raleigh.

Two years after I started working in Raleigh, I decided to attend Columbia Journalism School, where I wrote about the parole system in New York, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, and healthcare. I graduated in May with a master’s degree in investigative journalism.

What kinds of stories will you see from me? I plan to dig into a broad range of topics, including agriculture, climate change, broadband, utilities, housing, healthcare, criminal justice, and education.

The best way for us to tell stories about the region is to hear from the community. While I plan to travel around the region to talk to community leaders, I’m also accessible via phone (215-581-1271) and email (ahajela@spotlightpa.org). If there is anything you would like to see reported, feel free to email or call me.

I’m looking forward to traveling around Pennsylvania, visiting state parks and riverside towns, and getting to know some of y’all! Find me at a local bar for trivia or karaoke or at a climbing gym. I hope to see you around town soon.

— Ashad

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