Why was PublicSource created?

PublicSource was formed in 2011 at a time when people were realizing just how troubled the journalism industry is. With the drop in advertising dollars and shrinking newspapers, in-depth and investigative journalism in Pittsburgh was shrinking, too. PublicSource, a nonprofit newsroom, was created to fill this gap. We strive to be the essential public source of information for Pittsburghers seeking to solve challenges in their lives and improve their communities. 

Our reporting takes a public-service view and focuses on civic issues and solutions. While we won’t likely cover an isolated crime, a weather event or a high school sports championship, we will report on public safety trends, climate change and access to extracurricular activities.

At PublicSource, we produce independent, ambitious, high-impact local journalism by covering the most important stories in the Pittsburgh region. Without PublicSource, many Pittsburgh stories would go untold. 

What is public-service journalism?

Public-service journalism is the type of journalism that believes the mission is to serve the public with meaningful stories, not clickbait. It is inclusive journalism with a focus on holding officials accountable to the public. It provides members of the public with ways to take action and share stories independent of their race, class, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and abilities.

Public-service journalism is the bedrock of our democracy because it challenges the status quo and our work inspires change for the better.

How do you choose what you write about?

When we choose anything from our daily stories to our in-depth projects, we always keep our readers in mind. With the start of each story, we think about whose voices are represented in the stories and how policies we cover or measures being taken affect people of various identities and experiences.

We work outside of the traditional news cycle, which gives us the buffer to think critically about the stories affecting our city and region that are otherwise going overlooked. A lens we typically apply is: Could this story inspire change? Does this story invite voices of the people who often aren’t being heard?

Who writes for PublicSource?

Here’s our staff page. Our newsroom regularly wins regional, state and national awards. Most notably, in 2020 and in 2021, we received the prestigious award for general excellence in online journalism in an international contest.

We bolster our storytelling efforts by working closely with talented freelance journalists in the Pittsburgh area. We also bring in three intern classes a year and train them in our brand of public-service journalism.But you don’t have to be a journalist to write for PublicSource. We solicit — and pay for — stories from community storytellers. We have a pitch form on our website to begin the process, and we provide editorial support along the way. To learn more about working with PublicSource, our fee structure and processes, please visit this page.

What is PublicSource’s policy on corrections and clarifications?

The PublicSource team goes to great lengths to publish fair and accurate stories. Our journalists act with integrity and diligence throughout the process, from reporting and writing to editing and fact-checking.
We deal with errors proactively and transparently. If you believe you have found an error in something we have published, please reach out to the reporter(s) or to editors.

When information is proven to be factually inaccurate, we update the story with correct information and add correction text at the bottom of the story. The correction text is dated and does not repeat the error. When language is factually correct but unclear, we clarify the story text and append a clarification.
We don’t have a print product of our own, but when other news outlets republish our stories, we make every attempt to inform them of corrections or clarifications that need to be made.

Our fact-checking process is intended to avoid inaccuracies and ensure needed context in our stories. Every story produced by PublicSource goes through a fact-checking process. We employ three levels of fact-checking based on details of the story, like timeliness and sensitivity. At minimum, a story is fact-checked by the reporter(s) and editors. In most cases, our reporters are providing source material to editors and/or an independent fact-checker to verify many or all of the facts in a story. To learn more about how and why we fact-check, read this post.

Who funds you?

PublicSource is primarily funded through the support of Pittsburgh’s generous foundation community and individual donors. Like PublicSource, these people and organizations share the goal of making Pittsburgh a better, smarter place, and they recognize how essential quality local journalism is to this pursuit. You can learn more at our donation/membership FAQ page, or visit our ‘Who Supports Us?’ page for more details. We have a growing community of individual members — readers like you, who similarly recognize the vital work of PublicSource and have made a commitment to the future by funding our work. As local journalists focused on Pittsburgh, the trust of our audience is essential to creating a sustainable news organization.  

Finally, we work with corporate sponsors and advertisers who are interested in supporting our mission and also connecting with the PublicSource audience. These groups underwrite our operations, sponsor our events and help us to better serve our mission. Reach out to our director of revenue and operations Jennie Liska at jennie@publicsource.org if your business believes in meaningful local journalism and may be interested in joining our supporters and reaching our readers.

How do you control for bias?

PublicSource adheres to the editorial standards set forth by both the Society of Professional Journalists [SPJ] and the Institute for Nonprofit News [INN]. We have no hidden agenda and no shareholders to satisfy. When we accept donations and foundation grants, it is with the explicit understanding that our editorial process cannot be influenced and needs to remain independent. Sometimes we agree to cover specific topic areas, like health or higher education, but we never agree to tackle these issues from a specific lens other than our own. For the full SPJ and INN policies, visit here and here.

What kind of events do you hold?

In past years, we brought thousands of your neighbors into the conversation at our events, with attendance ranging from a dozen to more than 600 at a time.

These events have been in large, lecture-hall formats with the likes of authors J.D. Vance, Cathy O’Neill and Jonathan Allen, as well as White House Correspondent April Ryan.

We’ve also held smaller, more intimate community events, offering a platform to the people who have shared their stories with PublicSource and with you.

During the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve shifted to a virtual event format. We’ve hosted virtual panels that bring the voices from our reporting directly to our readers, and we’ve hosted media literacy classes and writing sessions.Our Citizen’s Toolkit classes have shifted to an online format and are another way we interact with our community. In area libraries and schools, our team members teach classes on fake news & information literacy, how to be an engaged citizen and accessing public records through public records training. Our reporters and editors frequently speak about their work and PublicSource to book clubs, citizen groups in our region, students at local universities and Osher classes at Pitt and CMU. If your organization is interested in inviting us, please get in touch with us at info@publicsource.org or email an individual directly. (You can find our contact information on the staff page.)

How can I support PublicSource’s mission?

  • Support our work with a donation by becoming a PublicSource member if you are able. Good journalism is expensive to produce, and we rely on supporters like you to keep going. 
  • Subscribe to our email newsletters. If you haven’t already, enter your email and get our stories and event announcements in your inbox.
  • Attend our events. Be it the Citizen’s Toolkit classes on detecting fake news or how to find public records or our larger scale events with authors and newsmakers, readers like you are regularly invited to engage firsthand with our guests and our team.
  • Listen to our podcast. “From the Source” launched in 2020 and covers stories of the people that bring Pittsburgh to life. 
  • Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Comment on and share stories that resonate with you.
  • Pitch us a story! We’re always on the lookout for story ideas, and innovative approaches are welcome. What keeps you awake at night? What kind of a community do you want to live in? Tell us.
  • If you have general feedback about our work, potential sponsorships, events or anything that we haven’t addressed here, always feel free to email any one of us. If it’s sensitive information you’d like to share, please visit our ‘Leak to us’ page for instructions on secure communication with our team.