When members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly returned to Harrisburg last January, a brand new print publication was waiting for them on their desks.
The Caucus, a weekly newspaper published by LNP Media Group, was formally launched on Jan. 3 to act as a watchdog of the state’s government through longform investigative reporting and analysis. The team of reporters include veteran journalist and bureau chief Brad Bumsted, data journalist Mike Wereschagin and investigative reporter Paula Knudsen.
“The content strategy of The Caucus really dictates the medium. We’re not trying to compete with the Capitol press corps on the daily, process-type stories,” said Tom Murse, editor of The Caucus. “We want to free up our three reporters from the daily grind and instead allow them to dig and push for the big and insightful story every week.”
The Caucus is distributed to all 253 members of the state House and Senate, the governor, row officers and other key decision makers involved with state government, including the top committee staffers. Each edition is 16 pages, though Murse said he expects the page count to grow in volume as the subscriber and advertising base increases as well. More than 425 copies of the sixth edition of the paper were delivered to lawmakers and subscribers.
“Our content and content distribution plan provides a vehicle for advocacy groups and special-interest groups who are looking for ways to get their message to policymakers,” Murse said. “We’ve had some early success with those groups, but we’re certainly looking to continue to build the ad revenue.”
So far, the team has covered a wide range of overlooked issues such as how the state Supreme Court quietly adopted a rule that allowed hearsay at preliminary hearings in Pennsylvania and why state employees who have been convicted of serious crimes, including homicide, are still collecting their pensions. A focal point will be placed on transparency and how taxpayer money is being spent.
“Our team is lean and mean, and we’re going for impact,” Murse said. “We intentionally did not create a team to feed a digital audience every five minutes.”
Despite its infancy, The Caucus has already made a lasting impression on some of the most important figures in Pennsylvania.
“One lawmaker asked for a framed copy while the governor sat down with our reporters for the first issue and granted us a big chunk of time,” Murse said. “They’re reading it and talking about the issues we’re raising. We are gratified by the impact we see this is having.”