Ashad Hajela covers rural affairs for Spotlight PA, a collaborative nonprofit newsroom that reports stories across Pennsylvania. Prior to this, Hajela was a Stabile Investigative Fellow at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where he investigated how parolees’ complaints are handled by the New York corrections system. Hajela started his career at The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina, covering protests following George Floyd’s killing, and the pandemic’s impact on jails and prisons. His reporting on Raleigh’s high-crime motels earned a top award from the North Carolina Press Association. Hajela also speaks Hindi and Spanish, and when he’s not working you’ll find him out trying new restaurants or taking dance classes.
Beat: Rural issues in Centre County
Centre County, home to Penn State University, is nearly the size of Rhode Island in terms of land mass, and this multimedia reporter digs into rural issues in the county and north of it, as communities grapple with similar issues: the opioid epidemic, the dairy farming crisis, lack of broadband access, food deserts, water quality concerns and small-town blight.