How you can change the Pittsburgh region through journalism

Pittsburgh is accustomed to leading the way. Originally a vital trading post on the colonial frontier, our fires of industry created the arsenal of democracy — leading the way to victory in two world wars, only to be transformed again as “Robo-burgh,” the place where dreams of the future meet reality. Our strength comes from that shared sense of purpose: What we produce makes the world a better place.

Our cooperative successes are only possible because of the heart of our people. Pittsburghers, born of disparate cultures from as many nations, languages and traditions, unite to bleed black and yellow. Pittsburghers deserve journalism as authentic and innovative as the city we call home. In a time when the very notion of truth is under assault, the city of the future requires an informed electorate to celebrate, honor and mobilize for press freedom and good journalism.

PublicSource’s nonpartisan commitment to public-service journalism places us in a unique position to assume this mantle. Our mission and how we can serve you is further secured by a rigorous fact-checking practice and our adherence to editorial independence. We want you to know how we work and what we value because, as local journalists focused on Pittsburgh, the trust of our audience is everything. It is essential to creating a professionally sound and financially sustainable news organization. There is not a more clear cut expression of that trust than a community member giving money to support our cause, to tell the stories that make a better Pittsburgh.

And know that your support is fueling an enterprise that is, by all metrics, having an outsized impact.

In 2017, our eight-person editorial team, with help from freelancers, has published more than 180 stories. We also brought thousands of your neighbors into the conversation at our events, with attendance ranging from a dozen to more than 600 at a time. While we received ample recognition from our journalistic peers (winning five first-place and two second-place awards in regional and state competitions, and being named one of five finalists in an international contest recognizing overall excellence in online journalism), the real impact can’t be measured by accolades, but by making changes Pittsburghers and the readers of our region want to see in the communities we love:

  • Chatham University changed its honor code for the first time in nearly a decade to remove a policy that treated self-harm as a disciplinary matter. The change came at the recommendation of a task force the university formed following our story of students penalized for being in crisis.
  • Two Pittsburgh city leaders launched investigations following our stories about a no-bid deal for body cameras that found a police commander perhaps a little too cozy with the vendor. Mayor Bill Peduto’s administration is reviewing contract policies and a past investigation, and the City Controller launched an investigation.
  • The Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania and ACHIEVA phased out their sheltered workshops in response to outcry by disability advocates after a 2015 PublicSource investigation into subminimum wages paid to people with disabilities.
  • PublicSource intern Maia Ervin wrote a first-person essay for PublicSource about a culture of racism on her college campus. She was later invited to work within her college administration to advise on diversity/inclusion language and initiatives.
  • Carlow University offered Monet Spencer a scholarship and housing after our story on her life as a homeless student was published.
  • A creative writing class for undergraduate students at Chatham was assigned Voices Unlocked — our series profiling people whose lives have been affected by the penal system — as a part of their curriculum.
  • We led reporting on the dangers of partial lead line replacement prior to the Pittsburgh water authority stopping them; the county controller cited our analysis of blood lead data in children when calling out the health department for its response to the lead crisis.
  • Fenceline monitoring is being installed at the Shell ethane cracker plant in Beaver County. Area residents advocated for this measure to be taken, their efforts empowered by a PublicSource article that gave them the playbook to ask the right questions.
  • After our reporter pored over gun violence data and identified hotspots in Garfield, he raised concerns with a police commander about it. The commander was previously unaware of this trend and changed the bureau’s patrolling of those areas to better address the problems.

Add to this the power of transparency in exposing city and county salaries and conducting Facebook Live interviews with mayoral candidates and representatives in the education, health and environment sectors. We also pursued in-depth projects on issues that haven’t been covered substantively in our region, namely the “I am a black girl and…” series, “Small Town, Pennsylvania” and “Charter Effect.”

 

From all of our accomplishments and their outcomes, you get a sense of the momentum we have built this past year— and it is momentum that our readers’ support keeps alive.

Thank you for being a part of this movement. Together, we will ensure that the story of what Pittsburgh becomes never flinches from including the voices of the voiceless, but instead truly embraces the ALL in the motto, “If it’s not for all, it’s not for us.”