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Spotlight PA ensures Pennsylvania government remains accountable to residents

Our state and local governments exist to serve our communities. We pay taxes every year, but in return, we taxpayers know what our government is doing, how we are spending our money, and whether we are getting the services we deserve. You have the right to know.

But there are fewer and fewer journalists on the frontlines keeping governments honest. If government officials are not regularly confronted with questions and requests for public records, they increasingly lean toward secrecy over transparency.

Worse, state and local governments have far more resources than the general public, so they are well aware that most requesters cannot afford to fight back (taxpayers’ money ) can be used to defend a request for information in court.

We all know what happens when governments let themselves be. That’s why Spotlight PA and many of our partner newsrooms are building creative solutions to shift the balance of power back in favor of taxpayers.

But we need your support to keep fighting.

This week is Sunshine Week, an annual nationwide effort to draw attention to the importance of government transparency and access to public records. These are the two core principles of the mission of Spotlight PA, the statewide newsroom I lead.

Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan newsroom covering pressing issues for the Harrisburg State Capitol and statewide. We share all your journalism for free with over 90 news outlets across the state.

And we are working to unite our partners to fight for transparency.

Here are just a few of last year’s wins.

  • In July, Spotlight PA, along with the Center Daily Times and WJAC-TV, successfully petitioned Center County Court to release records related to a sexual extortion case that a Penn State attorney had hidden from the public. bottom.
  • In August, a state federal court ruled in favor of Spotlight PA and against the state health department. The state health department sued us for trying to block access to de-identified data on the number of people using medical marijuana in each Pennsylvania state.
  • In October, Spotlight PA, along with The York Dispatch, LNP Media Group, and WITF Public Media, in an effort led by the York Daily Record, worked with York County Court Clerks to provide more information to criminal court records after the news. You have successfully requested good access. The organization has filed lawsuits alleging numerous violations of law.

In all three of these cases, and many more across the state last year, the Newsroom was represented without charge by Paula Knudsen Burke, Pennsylvania attorney for the Press Freedom of the Press. . In her 2020, the Commission launched a new Local Legal Initiative to provide journalists with a wide range of legal assistance.

“It is always concerning that public officials and institutions tend to value confidentiality over transparency, but this is especially true in courts, where journalists oppose the troubling erosion of access to basic information. I’ve been watching and supporting,” Burke said in an interview. .

Every day, Spotlight PA reporters across the state are fighting big and small to keep track of taxes and understand what the government is doing. How do you find the time and resources to do such important work?

It’s all thanks to you.

The future of our journalism and Spotlight PA depends on your support.Make tax-deductible gifts of any amount at spotlightpa.org/donateand as a special bonus, all donations are doubled thanks to a matching gift from Pittsburgh’s Venter Foundation, which is committed to ensuring an honest and ethical government.

We appreciate your support as Spotlight PA continues to work with our newsroom partners in the fight for government transparency. Consider a gift now. spotlightpa.org/donateIf you would like to donate by check, please send it to Spotlight PA, 228 Walnut St., #11728, Harrisburg, PA 17108-1728.

Christopher Baxter is executive director and editor-in-chief of Spotlight PA, a nonpartisan independent newsroom based in Harrisburg. Email cbaxter@spotlightpa.org. Spotlight PA is funded by foundations and readers like you who are committed to accountability journalism that produces results.

https://www.mcall.com/2023/03/14/your-view-secrecy-is-too-often-the-norm-in-pennsylvania-state-and-local-governments/ Spotlight PA ensures Pennsylvania government remains accountable to residents

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