Harrisburg has a new watchdog – The Caucus, a new weekly political publication from LNP Media Group. With a strong focus on enterprise and investigative reporting, The Caucus is determined to make Harrisburg more transparent.
LNP Media Group pursued the creation of the weekly publication in an effort to cover events beyond the day-to-day, aiming to bring sunlight and transparency to state government.
“There are lots of talented reporters in Harrisburg,” LNP and The Caucus Editor Tom Murse said. “What we didn’t want to do is compete daily with all of the great reporters, but we wanted to find a team that focused solely on investigative reporting. We wanted to focus exclusively on enterprise reporting —whether it’s covering the House, the Senate, the Judiciary or the Executive branch.”
The idea for The Caucus started nearly three years ago after a 2014 study released by the Pew Research Center indicated the number of reporters covering statehouses was rapidly declining. According to the study, there were 1,592 journalists assigned to state capitol buildings at that time, with less than half of them providing full-time coverage.
Murse and others at LNP Media Group found the statistics concerning and began discussing how to cover the Pennsylvania Statehouse more effectively. Since then, LNP Media Group has been waiting for the right team to come along – and it did.
“We wanted to find three people who each had unique skills,” Murse said. “We wanted to find sort of the ‘bureau chief,’ the veteran who knows the ins and outs of Harrisburg. The two other reporters we were looking for were a data journalist, or someone who is great at getting and massaging and analyzing data, and somebody who is really knowledgeable about the Open Records Law and how to file effective requests.”
In a serendipitous way, Murse said, it all fell together rather quickly. Veteran Capitol Reporter Brad Bumsted was leaving his previous position, and so was his colleague Mike Wereschagin – a data journalist. Murse pitched the idea to Bumsted, who jumped on board immediately. The third member of the team was also a friend of Bumsted – former PNA Government Affairs Director Paula Knudsen, the person knowledgeable about the Open Records Law.
“To make the publication viable, we have to do stories that nobody else is doing. We have to make it exclusive,” Murse said.
The publication itself is as unique as its staff with weekly hard-hitting cover stories, Q&A sessions with legislators, key staffers or the governor, a light gossip-column, and a look back at Pennsylvania’s political history, among other standing features.
One feature that makes The Caucus stand out from the majority of new publications is its print-only format.
“LNP [Media Group] has had success in print,” Murse said. “Weekly papers are still successful for us. We decided to launch The Caucus in print because it’s what we know how to do well.”
With its first issue hitting newsstands Jan. 3, The Caucus is just getting started. Some goals for the next few months are to continue having at least one great enterprise story every week, Murse said. As The Caucus grows, Murse added he’d like to bring on more reporters and syndicate their content.
In the meantime, copies of The Caucus can be purchased on Wednesdays at Downtown News or Transit News in downtown Harrisburg. Subscriptions to The Caucus can also be purchased on lancasteronline.com.