Our mission is to help West Virginians improve our state by producing “sustained outrage” journalism that exposes abuses of power by government, business and other institutions.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, West Virginia was at a crossroads.

West Virginia is struggling through an historic economic transition. Drug abuse and overdoses are ripping the state’s families apart. The public trust in government is on the decline. Democracy is threatened.

Critical decisions are being made. West Virginia’s economy, educational system, failing infrastructure and troubled public health system are central issues that need attention.

And never before in our state’s history has putting accurate information into the hands of our citizenry been more important. West Virginia is a beautiful state, and its people are resourceful, kind and resilient. They want, need and deserve watchdog journalism that holds powerful interests accountable. Journalism that puts the public interest first.

That’s why Mountain State Spotlight exists.

Formed in the spring of 2020 — just as COVID shut down the economy and our schools, and began stealing the lives of thousands of our neighbors — Mountain State Spotlight is different from any other news organization in West Virginia. We have a different mission. And we are funded by a different business model.

Photo by Ellen Allen.

First, our mission:

To help West Virginians improve our state by producing “sustained outrage” journalism that exposes abuses of power by government, business and other institutions.

We borrow that phrase — “sustained outrage” — from the journalism philosophy of the late W.E. “Ned” Chilton III, publisher of the Charleston Gazette. It means we promise to come back to stories of abuses of power, stories of injustice, stories where West Virginians are being needlessly harmed, again and again. We’ll come back until reforms are made.

Along the way, we will also tell stories that are of great importance to West Virginians and their communities. We will explain complex problems. We will illustrate how public policies affect real West Virginians, and we will highlight solutions that could be scaled up to make a difference across the state.

Mountain State Spotlight tells stories that make a point, and that make a difference. We don’t try to hide what’s really going on with a bunch of he said-she said phrasing or bureaucratic, insider language. We do journalism for real West Virginians, not for only the political elite in Charleston.

Now, the business model.

We are a nonprofit newsroom. That means we rely on foundations and individual donors to power our journalism. We work not for a publisher or some corporate owner or powerful insider, but for you — our readers. Because we rely on your support, we are accountable only to you.

And because of that, our stories will never be hidden behind a paywall. They will always be free to all. We believe that all West Virginians have a right to the information they need to be part of our communities, to make a difference, to help improve the lives of their families and neighbors. We hope that you agree, and if you do, that you will support us with your donations.

Finally, we want to hear from you. You can reach out via our tip line with story ideas.

We are doing this because we love our state, and we know how great a place it is to work and live. But also that it can be better, and that the most important step — the step that helps all other steps to be possible — is to put information into the hands of our citizens.


Ken Ward Jr.

Co-founder and Senior Editor