BEHIND FAME15 :: Allentown, Part 2: Public Source
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by LAURA EARLY
This week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Mila Sanina, Executive Director of Public Source, to gain perspective on their positioning in our neighborhood. Public Source is an investigative news organization providing Pittsburghers with in-depth reporting on the environment, education, economic development and social justice. I was inspired to feature Public Source as my first Allentown business profile because of their strong connection to community and their desire to tell the true and untold stories of our neighborhoods.
What was the inspiration behind Public Source and how have you seen this come to light since the start of your organization?
Public Source was created to inform and engage communities through public interest stories while tapping into the issues that truly affect individuals lives. Our stories dive deep and have a true sense of mission, true journalism. The early days of Public Source had originally focused on a broader geographic scope of Pennsylvania, however over the past years we have shifted that focus to our own geographic region of Pittsburgh. As many of us know we are not like the state of Texas we call ourselves Pittsburghers - not Pennsylvanians. This has transformed our content to truly be on demand community coverage.
When choosing where you would place your physical footprint within the landscape of our great Pittsburgh communities what neighborhoods did you look at?
Public Source established their early roots in Oakland, in the Pittsburgh Filmmakers building. When the time came to grow and establish new roots the obvious neighborhoods were looked at including East Liberty. There were initial reservations when the organization started to look at Allentown, however upon final decision we are very pleased with the outcome.
How did you arrive on the decision to settle in Allentown?
As mentioned earlier there were initial reservations about the neighborhood, skepticism on Allentown being a violent and unsafe community. After the team had toured the neighborhood their eyes widened to see what a true sense of community that this small Pittsburgh neighborhood has to offer. Now, we truly have integrated with the residents and businesses. We have an open door policy and often our story ideas will begin to develop from someone simply walking in our doors with an idea or a newsworthy topic that is not currently being told. These are the stories that make Public Source what it is to our readers.
What does it mean to your brand and your perception that you are a part of the Allentown business community?
Our stories come from the streets, the city neighborhoods and the residents experiences of social injustices. Allentown is a walk and talk type of neighborhood that allows us to engage and interact on the street level. We are invested and our neighbors are invested in learning and reading about things that matter to them, such as street and sidewalk accessibility, job training and where the educational resources are. We feel that our addition to the community has furthered our mission of giving a voice to the voiceless and holding those in power accountable.
Do you have any planned initiatives for helping to further the social and economic development of our neighborhood, and if so what are they?
Public Source is an advocate for every neighborhood of Pittsburgh. We search to speak the truth to the greater community while highlighting upward development. Our stories are focused on the good of the Pittsburgh area.
Can you tell us more about your bigger picture initiatives such as Pittsburgh’s lead problem?
One area that we are going to be focusing is on the inequity of black girls and women in Allegheny County. We will be looking at discrimination and discipline problems on a school level, general access to physical activities for black girls, affordable housing and more. When we look at the Pittsburgh media market we see a hole to tell the stories that the other outlets are not telling and to take more of an individual approach to our story telling. We will also be taking a look at the question of choice and relationship between public schools and charter schools. Our efforts will also continue to focus on social injustice, the LGBT community, refugees in our communities and the like.
How can your readers further engage with your messaging and efforts to help support your growth that will help you to continue to thrive in our currently underserved communities?
We hope that our audience continues to read our content and care about our stories with the end result of them asking themselves, “What can I do about it?” This engagement and knowledge of the community is how we look to further our message. Public Source also looks to our readers for individual donations to help continue our day to day efforts.
Can you tell us about a few of your upcoming events and how you chose these events and the neighborhoods you host them in?
Our events are designed to further the experience behind the message. We host a variety of speakers including our most recent White House reporter, April Ryan. We also have plans for an event titled, Voices Unlocked - to take place at Alloy 26, where our speakers will share their experiences behind bars and what is what like for them to give birth, overcome addiction and to find themselves, and what inspires them to thrive. It is also our mission to offer smaller, more community focused events like our upcoming Citizen's Toolkit where we will help residents to navigate public data and teach them how to access information they are entitled to. The events crafted through Public Source are also a resource for financial growth that will help to support and continue our mission of serving the public's interest.
Check out Public Source's website here.
Mila Sanina is the executive director of PublicSource.
Mila was previously the deputy managing editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where she led innovation in storytelling and integration of print and online operations. Before joining the Post-Gazette, Mila worked at The PBS Newshour and CNN International.
Mila is originally from Almaty, Kazakhstan, but Pittsburgh owns her heart.
She has a master's degree from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh.