2018 General Excellence in Online Journalism, Micro Newsroom finalist


We tell stories for a better PIttsburgh


About the Project

Outside of major events such as war, it is local political decisions that matter most in people’s lives. And we take it seriously at PublicSource. When people in Pittsburgh are looking to get in-depth coverage of important issues in the community, hear from marginalized voices or dive into an investigative series exploring challenges and opportunities in our region, they turn to PublicSource.

Have our local political leaders properly protected our drinking water from lead? What have they promised to Amazon to lure its HQ2 to Pittsburgh? And why has the city not implemented meaningful policies to address the lack of affordable housing?

These questions need to be debated openly and honestly in the public square. At PublicSource, we believe these questions need to be debated with transparency.

So, when the mayor’s office recently complained that PublicSource is “abusing the Right-to-Know Law“ by filing an overwhelming number of open record requests (we filed only 98 in the past year!), we, at PublicSource, took it as a sign of the weakening state of local journalism. Are we indeed the only newsroom that files records requests consistently? If so, it’s troublesome. If there are no investigative reporters asking questions, requesting records, using the Freedom of Information Act and calling around to look into city hall, who will?

That’s one of many reasons we’re proud to nominate PublicSource in the general excellence category. Yes, we are small. But we know that us playing small does not serve our region. So, our mission is to deliver public-service reporting & analysis and convene communities of shared interests in the Pittsburgh region.

Below are some of the projects we are most proud of:

1) A PublicSource investigation into the Pittsburgh Police Bureau’s relationship with an IT vendor created so much pressure within the police bureau that it resulted in a federal whistleblower lawsuit; the scrutiny drew the ire of the city’s mayor. As a result of the investigation, the city has spearheaded a policy reform for a more thorough screening of the third-party vendors.

2) “The Charter Effect” teased out the root of the tension between charters and other public schools. This series exposed and explained the data and records behind the charter schools operating in Allegheny County, how they are financed and held accountable.

3) “Three Rivers Rising” deconstructed Pittsburgh’s Climate Action plan and explored if the goals the city has set to combat climate change are realistic. Will the city and its residents rise to the challenge? And what would it take?

4) Our stories drive change. One salient example followed a series of stories on a Chatham University policy that treated self-harm as a disciplinary matter. As a result, the university changed its honor code to remove the policy.

5) “Let’s Talk about Race” is a groundbreaking community-driven journalism project inspired by multiple conversations with Pittsburgh residents. What is one issue Pittsburghers are most uncomfortable discussing? Race. We tackled the issue through curating compelling first-person narratives, video, photos and continue reporting on the matter.