The Caucus, a watchdog publication
Overview of this campaign
All good newspapers aim to be watchdogs. It's part of the DNA of journalists to question authority and report back to their readers. We stand in the gap between governance and the governed. But when we looked at how state government was covered by journalists in Pennsylvania, we thought we could do better with a fresh idea. We assembled a team of seasoned investigative journalists and turned them loose. We told them not to worry about the daily grind of beating the competition on Twitter or Facebook. We told them that were OK with reporting that might take months -- if not years. We encouraged them to dig deep and write long. Our goal was simple. We wanted to create a newspaper with big impact. We wanted the best for the people of Pennsylvania.
To make the dream happen, we assembled a standout team of journalists. Brad Bumsted, a veteran jouranlist with well-known investigative credntials, leads our Harrisburg reporting team. We also bought a building in Harrisburg just steps away from the Capitol's front door and set up shop.
Rather than positioning The Caucus as a newspaper for political junkies or an added bonus for LNP readers in Lancaster County, we decided to walk the corridors of power we sought to shake. We wanted our investigative work to create change and make government more transparent. The Caucus has a targeted audience of powerful movers and shakers. Copies are delivered each Tuesday to the offices of the governor, row officers and state legislators -- about 400 copies in all. We also sell single copies just two Harrisburg locations. Our work is not online. We offer print subscriptions as a premium price to support the kind of solid investigative work we do. You need to get it to read it. And our audience wants to read it.
Results for this campaign
The Caucus has been met with trepidation in Pennsylvania’s political classes, an occasional threat of legal action from elected officials, curiosity among the Capitol press corps and glee among good-government advocates and reform-minded lawmakers. Its reporting has prompted legislative hearings, forced the public disclosure of once-hidden records and put one of the most corrupt legislatures in the United States on notice that investigative journalists – and the public – are watching their every move. More than one press secretary has called us in the hours leading up to publication hoping to ferret out whether the next issue will include any damaging information about their bosses.
Following a Caucus report on sexual harassment and a Capitol culture that promotes it, dozens of lawmakers were seen reading The Caucus on the floor of the House of Representatives; sources said they were looking for names. The Caucus’ reporting on an $800 million-plus police radio project that never worked was cited repeatedly in a Senate hearing on the issue.
Sen. Scott Wagner waved a copy of The Caucus before a rapt audience and panel of Pennsylvania State Police brass testifying before the committee. Said Wagner: “I’m sitting here reading this article and it’s like the information — there’s more information in this article than what I know as a senator. Which is amazing to me. It’s unfortunate when I kill myself to get elected and I have the responsibility of being a senator and there’s more information … here than what we know, than what we’re fed by the administration to our caucus.” The Republican gubernatorial hopeful added later: “I just would like to acknowledge The Caucus newspaper and the fine reporting they’ve been doing on hearings here. Actually, they are so thorough that actually this has become a resource for me now to, you know, learn about some of the issues that are out there. But what a fine newspaper.”