PennLive opinion editor, former Morning Call reporter hired to lead state government news outlet

A well-known political columnist and longtime statehouse reporter has been tapped to lead a new state government news outlet in Harrisburg.

John Micek, opinion editor at PennLive for the past six years, has been hired as editor-in-chief of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, an online media operation that will cover Pennsylvania’s state government. The Capital-Star is part of The Newsroom, a project of the Hopewell Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit.

The Newsroom has opened similar news groups in nine other states. The Pennsylvania operation is expected to launch sometime in the first quarter, said Micek, who hopes to hire a team of three reporters. 

The Capital-Star will be doing a mix of breaking news and deeper dive stories, he said, along with staff-written and contributed commentary from a progressive perspective. Micek has developed a loyal following for his The Morning Coffee feature, a roundup of the day’s top headlines, stories to monitor and music recommendations.

The 13-year-old feature is coming with him to his new gig.

Micek, who spent 12 years covering the statehouse for The Morning Call in Allentown before joining PennLive in 2013, said it was time for a new challenge. His last day at PennLive is Jan. 18.

“It’s been a great six years, and I probably have one of the best jobs in Pennsylvania journalism,” Micek said. “I get a lot of support and freedom to do my job, but this was the right job at the right time.”

The Capital-Star debuts as coverage of the statehouse in Harrisburg by newspapers and other media companies has been changing. As media companies consolidated over the years, the number of reporters declined 

But new journalism projects have emerged over the last two years, including The Caucus, owned by LNP Media, which launched in 2017, and PA Post, a digital-first organization launched this past fall by WITF Public Media.

The Caucus, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also have announced a joint effort, Spotlight PA, to expand coverage of state government. And longtime television anchor Flora Posteraro recently joined forces with Nell McCormack Abom, owner of public relations firm Nell McCormack Abom Communications, to launch a new weekly podcast series.

Dubbed PA PoliChicks,the podcast debuted last month on the nonpartisan online news site PennWatch.org.

“Changes in the Capitol pressroom have reflected changes in the industry,” Micek said. “You have to mutate in this (digital) landscape or die. You have to try to stay ahead.”

He believes PennLive has adapted well and he hopes to do the same in his new role. Once the Capital-Star is up and running downtown, Micek said he plans to add a podcast.

“Are we going to be competing for scoops?” he said. “Sure, but the more the merrier. This is such a huge institution that needs to be covered so thoroughly.”

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