Mountain State Spotlight is thrilled to announce our team is expanding yet again.

Starting June 1, two new reporters will join the staff of our nonprofit civic newsroom through Report for America. Report for America is a “national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities.”

“The crisis in our democracy, disinformation and polarization, is in many ways a result of the collapse of local news,” said Steven Waldman, co-founder and president of Report for America. “We have a unique opportunity to reverse this decline by filling newsrooms with talented journalists who not only view journalism as a public service, but who can make trusted connections with the communities they serve.”

Starting June 1, Emily Allen and Ian Karbal will join the Mountain State Spotlight team as a community and state government watchdog, respectively.

Emily Allen will be Mountain State Spotlight’s community watchdog reporter. In this role, she will write watchdog stories from communities around the state, working to engage people in the process of telling their stories and providing them with information they need to make their communities and our state stronger. 

This will be Emily’s third year in the Report for America program; for the past two years she’s been reporting on West Virginia’s state government and the southern coalfields for West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Among other notable stories, recently she produced an in-depth examination of the city of Bluefield’s failure to institute promised reforms after police broke the neck of a Black man during an arrest nearly 20 years ago. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

Ian Karbal will be Mountain State Spotlight’s state government watchdog reporter. In this position, he’ll keep an eye on West Virginia’s elected officials — from the governor to the state legislature to the Congressional delegation — and use public records and data to explain the far-reaching consequences of political decisions and legislation on ordinary West Virginians. 

Most recently, Ian has been a fellow at the Columbia Journalism Review. He has previously interned at the Pinckneyville Press in Illinois and the Center for Responsive Politics and freelanced for websites including The Trace. One of his recent pieces there, an investigation into the practices gun shops and ammunition manufacturers use to market to far-right extremist groups, was listed as one of the site’s best stories of the year. He holds a master’s degree from Columbia University’s investigative journalism program and a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College Chicago.

“We are so excited to add Emily and Ian to our team so that Mountain State Spotlight can keep a better watch on state government and so we can expand our coverage of communities across our state and of issues that really affect West Virginians,” said Mountain State Spotlight co-founder Ken Ward Jr. 

In addition to Emily and Ian, three of Mountain State Spotlight’s current Report for America corps members will stay with the organization for another year.

Amelia Ferrell Knisely covers poverty for Mountain State Spotlight, and over the past year has focused on topics including child hunger and the foster care system. Her reporting was selected by the National Press Foundation for recognition in March. 

Lauren Peace covers public health for Mountain State Spotlight, and has covered topics ranging from the HIV outbreak in Charleston to the lack of mental health care in Fairmont and Wheeling. 

Douglas Soule is currently a watchdog reporter whose work includes examination of CARES Act funding and criminal justice issues; in June, he will transition into covering economic development for Mountain State Spotlight.

Report for America pays a percentage of corps members’ salaries; to help Mountain State Spotlight with its share of their salaries, donate here.