A massive Pennsylvania project on staffing of the state General Assembly -- produced as part of the AP-APME Broken Budgets initiative -- is the April winner of APME’s Innovator of the Month contest.
The project, which was published in papers across Pennsylvania on three Sundays in April, drew 33 member participants to detail the spending of the 253-member legislature, which employs 3,000 staffers who work in more than 400 district offices in addition to the state Capitol. In all, the legislature’s operations cost $300 million annually.
Mark Scolforo, AP correspondent in Harrisburg, obtained work force data for the House and Senate and shared it with participating reporters and editors, who localized the stories to fit their needs or wrote their own.
"Our Capitol Hill reporter, Kari Andren, put together a package evaluating the staff size and salaries of our midstate lawmakers to run with AP's Broken Budgets stories. The combined fire power resulted in a powerful - and very local - package three weeks in a row. I'm hoping for more of these collaborations in the future," said Cate Barron, executive editor of The Patriot-News in Harrisburg.
Pennsylvania papers had joined forces on other statewide projects over the years. but this one drew the most participation by far.
APME's Innovator of the Year, now in its fifth year, is expanding in 2011 by naming an innovation of the month. Each monthly winner will be invited to enter the annual contest, which is open to all newspapers in the U.S. and Canada and is awarded at the APME conference Sept. 14-16 at the Embassy Suites in Denver.
"The unprecedented collaboration among Pennsylvania's newspapers and the Associated Press is the kind of innovation we need to keep doing important watchdog journalism in an era of shrinking newsroom resources,” said Kathy Best, managing editor/digital news and innovation at Seattle Times, one of the APME judges.
"Broken Budgets: Collaborative, interactive and will likely result in meaningful change for the state. My top choice.” said another APME judge, Jon BroadbooksBroadrooks, executive editor of the Springfield Journal-Register
AP Pennsylvania news editor Matt Moore and Scolforo regularly updated reporters and editors on the status of the statewide project. For more on the Broken Budgets initiative nationally visit apme.com. If you have an idea for a statewide project contact your AP bureau chief.
Applications for APME's Innovator of the Year are accepted until May 16 at http://www.apme.com/. The annual award winner, as determined by editors attending the APME conference in Denver, will receive $2,000 courtesy of sponsors GateHouse Media Inc. and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute.
Links to the three main Pennsylvania Broken Budgets stories: