Billy Penn is joining the WHYY family

Philly has new partners in member-supported local journalism.

Mark Henninger

Some good news about local news: Billy Penn is joining the WHYY family.

This is an exciting milestone for our organization, which launched in Philadelphia as a startup in late 2014 with Chris Krewson at the helm. Earlier this year, Spirited Media, the parent company that formed around Billy Penn and grew to include newsrooms in Pittsburgh and Denver, announced it was selling the three sites.

“We’re thrilled to have found a new home that is also a member-supported newsroom,” said Billy Penn Editor Danya Henninger. “One whose strengths are perfectly complementary to ours.”

Billy Penn has been around just under half a decade, while WHYY’s tenure stretches back more than half a century. With a 50-person news staff and an entire building that includes a broadcast studio, one of the nation’s largest public media companies will provide Billy Penn’s tiny team access to many more resources than before. In return, we hope to provide a jolt of freshness and fun.

“Strong local news is the heart of what we do at WHYY and Billy Penn with its punchy, engaging brand fortifies our already thriving collaborative newsroom,” said Sandra Clark, WHYY’s Vice President for News and Civic Dialogue. “Combining the best of both newsrooms and organizations is a win-win for expanding our coverage and impact, growing and diversifying our audiences and members, and serving communities better.”

WHYY President and CEO Bill Marrazzo said, “With the addition of Billy Penn we’ve taken yet another step to grow our next generation of public media consumers.”

Taking a path similar to Billy Penn’s, Denverite became part of Colorado Public Radio in early March, while Pittsburgh’s The Incline joined at the end of the month. Exact terms were not disclosed for any of the deals.

“Billy Penn was Spirited Media’s first site, and it set the tone for everything that came after it,” said Spirited Media CEO Jim Brady. “So, personally, there’s a certain symmetry to it being the last site out, but that doesn’t make it any less bittersweet. It does make me incredibly happy that a brand as iconic as WHYY saw the value that we’ve worked so hard to create for almost five years, and I can’t wait to see where they take Billy Penn.”

What does all this mean for you, dear readers? You shouldn’t notice any changes, especially at first.

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

We’ll still be operating independently within the larger WHYY structure, i.e. Billy Penn stories will still be Billy Penn stories. They’ll be edited by the same editors and written by the same reporters — Michaela Winberg and Max Marin — whom you’ve come to know. (There is one change: reporter Mónica Zorrilla has moved to Minneapolis, where we wish her much success.)

Billy Penn will still publish original articles daily, about everything from soda tax backlash to Gritty’s latest obsession. We’ll still send out our morning newsletter. We’ll still host Quizzo nights and networking happy hours. We’ll still tweet jokes, showcase Instagrams of the Day, post Facebook Live videos, and generally get all up in your internets.

This is an opportunity for us to do more — in the newsroom and outside of it. Stay tuned for info about a new event we’re putting on this summer (it’s gonna be big, it’s gonna be fun, we’re excited).

You can also expect innovations on the reporting side. We already know collaborating with WHYY News and PlanPhilly staff leads to good things, since we’ve been working together for over a year on Broke in Philly, the project run by nationally renowned solutions journalism collaborative Resolve Philadelphia.

Billy Penn will continue to be member-supported, and while being owned by WHYY means more stability, we still have to work toward building up membership to cover our journalists’ salaries.

If you’re excited about Billy Penn’s new home, the best way to show it is by setting up a recurring membership donation right here.

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