Spotlight PA State College

Spotlight PA launches first-ever regional bureau based in State College

by Sarah Rafacz of Spotlight PA State College |

We're rebuilding and revitalizing local news in north-central Pennsylvania, but we can't do it without you.
Abby Drey / Centre Daily Times

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.

The middle of the Keystone State doesn’t lack much in the way of natural beauty, charming towns, and fascinating people. This region is home to the darkest skies east of the Mississippi; tons of hiking trails and scenic views; and Penn State University, one of the largest and most influential employers in the commonwealth.

But what it does lack is sufficient independent investigative and public-service journalism, which is why Spotlight PA has been working for more than a year on a historic effort to rebuild local news here.

Today, I’m proud to announce the launch of our first regional news bureau — based in State College and reporting on northern and central Pennsylvania. And we’re already out of the gate with a vital, in-depth story about drinking water contamination in Benner Township.

When we set out to build the bureau, we knew our communities needed more reporters on the ground. After all, independent, nonpartisan journalism is essential to the health of our region and our democracy. So we brought together a team with a mix of local experience and outside perspective, varying skill sets, and, most importantly, a commitment to high-quality public-service journalism.

Our team of four journalists will have the time, resources, and mandate to dig deep into the issues of the region — and we can do that because of reader support. Help us take the first step toward a new future for journalism in Pennsylvania and make this first regional bureau a success by becoming a founding donor now at spotlightpa.org/statecollege.

As a special bonus, all founding donor gifts will be doubled up to $200,000 thanks to a generous matching gift from the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.

When you support our journalism, you’re directly empowering our team of journalists on the ground fighting every day for information and accountability.

Rural affairs reporter Ashad Hajela joins the bureau thanks to Spotlight PA’s first-ever partnership with Report for America (RFA). Ashad covers everyday issues that affect the communities of rural north-central Pennsylvania — including agriculture, climate change, housing, health care, utilities, criminal justice, and education.

Wyatt Massey, an investigative reporter focused on Penn State, previously worked in the Bible Belt as the religion reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press through RFA. Wyatt plans to focus on Penn State’s influence on the region and how the university operates internally.

Local accountability reporter Min Xian has covered state and local government, changing communities, and rural issues in central and northern Pennsylvania for the past five years as a reporter with WPSU. For the bureau, Min is focused on issues like how our tax dollars are spent and how our towns are run.

And I’m Sarah Rafacz, bureau editor and a native of Centre County. I’ve worked in local news in State College for the past seven years, most recently as the editor of State College Magazine.

We recognize the important responsibility we have as journalists to shine a light on the issues our region faces and to cover those issues with care and determination through a lens of equity.

Whether you live on a farm or in a village, in a college town or a city, you are entitled to reliable information about your community. Everyone should see their lives, triumphs, and challenges reflected in the news. And everyone deserves to be served by a trustworthy watchdog unafraid to expose wrongdoing by people and institutions with influence.

All of our work is available at no cost to our media partners across the state — led by the Centre Daily Times and others in the north-central Pennsylvania region. Plus, we have launched this new website dedicated to the region.

Sign up for our regional newsletter, Talk of the Town, to get all of our local reporting plus the top news and notes from our communities.

SUPPORT THIS JOURNALISM and help us save local news in State College and north-central Pennsylvania at spotlightpa.org/statecollege. Spotlight PA is funded by foundations and readers like you who are committed to accountability and public-service journalism that gets results.

Help raise $125,000 in support of Spotlight PA's vital investigative journalism for Pennsylvania as part of our end-of-year fundraising campaign.