PublicSource, an investigative journalism organization that received seed funding as a Knight Community Information Challenge winner, launched Sunday with a report that college lands in Pennsylvania may be leased for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking – a controversial method of extracting natural gas from rock.
“Our goal is to become a trusted source of in-depth and enterprise news and investigations. At a time when there’s more information than ever available to you, we want to prove our value as a reliable authority on issues of importance,” Editor Sharon Walsh said in announcing the launch. “We are a non-profit, public service website that will take the complex questions facing the region, put them in context and shine a light on parts of the story that may not have been told elsewhere.”
PublicSource is funded by The Pittsburgh Foundation with a matching grant from Knight and additional support from The Heinz Endowments. It is housed at Pittsburgh Filmmakers, a nonprofit organization that promotes media arts.
Walsh said many of PublicSource's investigations will be produced in partnership with other local news organizations. For example, PublicSource collaborated with the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and The Allegheny Front to produce Sunday’s story about Pennsylvania and West Virginia colleges and universities and their relationships with companies drilling in the Marcellus Shale. PublicSource also will produce original reporting using its own reporters, and these stories will be distributed through partner organizations.
“We are experimenting with a new, collaborative model for news and information that supports the region’s tradition of journalistic excellence. We’ll share information and stories on many platforms – print, online, radio and television – and engage the community on issues they feel strongly about,” Walsh said. “In addition, we’ll do original in-depth reporting.”
PublicSource will expand its operations throughout the coming year, hiring two full-time reporters. It will also launch two Digital Journalism Fellowships to train young reporters in investigative reporting techniques and support the development of digital and multimedia reporting skills.
The site also aggregates regional news and has a feature “Inside Our Newsroom,” that keeps readers up to date on its efforts.