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WITF: 2018 Overall Excellence

Written by Tim Lambert, WITF Multimedia News Director | Jan 28, 2019 11:17 AM

Pennsylvania found itself in the national spotlight on a few occasions in 2018. The two big issues were over the release of grand jury report over clergy abuse and a redistricting ruling, while others included the continuing attempts to stem the opioid epidemic, the shooting death of a deputy U.S. Marshall and the election.

While WITF reported on every day developments, we also devoted resources to dig deeper. We worked to provide the proper context, perspectives and underreported elements in each story, while staying true to the facts.  Examples include how our journalists investigated the lack of funding for public defenders across the state, looked at why the state stopped paying for home inspections to find sources of lead poisoning, and told the stories of people from Puerto Rico who settled in central PA after fleeing the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

WITF also brought very personal stories to our listeners. One of our journalists looked back at the more than decade long effort to complete the Flight 93 National Memorial. Another introduced our listeners to the owners of what's believed to be the first African-American-owned craft brewery in the state. We also met a man who co-founded a start-up to help athletes identify and recover from their brain injuries. Plus, we continued to spotlight central Pennsylvania musicians who were working on making a name for themselves.

At the heart of our work is a goal of strengthening our communities by connecting our communities. 

"The following stories have been edited.*


Track 1:

In August, the Pennsylvania Attorney General released a grand jury report detailing how bishops and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in six of the state's eight dioceses covered up child sexual abuse by more than 300 clergy over a 70-year period. WITF collaborated with other public media organizations to cover the story. This excerpt consists of our initial report and interview with a group of sisters who had been abused. 

Track 2:

Pennsylvania has one of the highest opioid overdose death rates in the nation -- with nearly 13 people dying everyday. In 2018, Governor Tom Wolf declared the opioid addiction epidemic a "disaster emergency," counties began suing pharmaceutical companies, prosecutors began using the charge, "drug delivery resulting in death," more and more and communities and families looked for ways to help. WITF spent much of the year chronicling these efforts, while telling the stories of people impacted the most.

Track 3: 

Weeks after a Florida school shooting claimed 17 lives, Pennsylvania police and school districts changed how they respond to threats made on social media. WITF's Brett Sholtis reports, schools have closed and charges have been filed against teens who posted online.

Track 4:

Forty-nine states allocate state funds for public defenders. The odd one out? Pennsylvania. For years, criminal justice advocates have said this is a major problem. But public defense in Pennsylvania remains a patchwork system that can have dire consequences for the most vulnerable people in the state. WITF's Keystone Crossroads reporter Emily Previti worked for several months to compile data on the issue. WHYY's Keystone Crossroads reporter Lindsay Lazarski contributed to this report.

Track 5:

Concussions in sports have been getting a lot of attention in recent years, as evidence grew that they could cause damage that can last a lifetime. When Matt Roda of Lancaster County was in high school, he discovered just how frustrating recovering from a severe concussion can be. As part of our Innovation U project, WITF's Rachel McDevitt looks at how Roda co-founded a start-up aiming to help athletes identify and recover from these brain injuries.  

Track 6:

Pittsburgh hosted the first festival of black craft beer brewers from around the country. Among their ranks was Harris Family Brewery -- believed to be Pennsylvania's first African-American-owned craft brewery. Officially established in 2014, the brewery started gaining attention this year after securing space for a brewpub in Harrisburg's Allison Hill neighborhood. WITF's Rachel McDevitt introduces the men behind the beer and visits the site of their future tap room.

Track 7:

Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, leading thousands of people to flee stateside in search of a better life. After arriving in central Pennsylvania, the found themselves facing their own challenges. As part of our series of stories -- STARTING OVER: Life in the Midstate After Hurricane Maria, WITF's Rachel McDevitt visited with some of them.  Here is one installment of a three-part series.

Track 8:

Early in 2018, Pennsylvania's congressional map was ruled a "voter proof" gerrymander in favor of Republicans. So, the state Supreme Court ordered a new map to be drawn. When it was completed, Democrats saw an opportunity to flip a 13-5 GOP advantage in the PA congressional delegation. WITF again worked with its fellow public media organization to cover developments. This excerpt highlights what our journalists contributed.

Track 9:

On the morning of January 18th, 2018, Deputy U.S. Marshal Christopher Hill was killed in the line of duty, while serving a warrant in Harrisburg. He was the first U.S. Marshal killed in the line of duty in Pennsylvania since 1851. 

Track 10:

This year marked 17 years since United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in a remote, Somerset County field. WITF's Katie Meyer report, the memorial honoring the 40 passengers and crew who lost their lives on September 11th, 2001, is finally finished. 

Track 11:

Late in 2018, WITF's Transforming Health project launched the "Through the Cracks" series, a months-long project that will draw on experts and first-hand accounts to target problems and break down stigma associated with mental health. 

Track 12: 

The 2018 election Pennsylvania included key races for governor, U.S. Senate and U.S. House. Throw in a new congressional map and a highly-motivated electorate and the Keystone State once again found itself attracting national attention. 

Track 13:

The state has stopped paying for home inspections to find sources of lead poisoning -- something it used to pay for when a child on medicaid tests positive for lead exposure.
Now, the commonwealth says Medicaid insurers need to foot the bill.  That's changing how home lead inspections are getting done.  WITF's Transforming Health reporter Brett Sholtis reports, it's keeping long-time lead inspectors from getting paid -- while Medicaid insurers give most of the work to one compan

Track 14:

The WITF Music series profiles musicians and bands from central Pennsylvania. They stop by our performance studio to play and chat with WITF's Joe Ulrich about music, songrwriting, life and whatever else comes up. 

Track 15:

This WITF newscast, which aired on November 7, 2018, features the following stories: 1. WITF's Katie Meyer recaps the gubernatorial election in Pennsylvania. 2. A look at the result of the commonwealth's U.S. Senate race. 3. A quick recap of Democrats' flipping several seats in PA's congressional delegation. 4. WITF's Marie Cusick looks at the re-election of GOP Congressman Lloyd Smucker in central Pennsylvania. 5. Weather forecast.  

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