“Economic development” has long been tossed around as the cure-all for rural America. It’s the answer to West Virginia’s public health crises, the solution to educational disparities and sometimes the cause of environmental degradation. But what does economic development look like on the ground? 

Mountain State Spotlight, in partnership with Report for America, is seeking a curious reporter to focus on West Virginia’s economy: going beyond the ribbon cuttings and press releases to explain how companies, private individuals and government officials are helping or hindering the development of a diverse and healthy economy. You’ll tell stories about the economy — from major industries to small-town business trends — and follow up on the flashy projects after the politicians leave and the money has been spent to gauge whether they’ve succeeded in providing people with greater opportunities. 

You should be familiar with Freedom of Information Act requests (though some of the state’s economic development records are considered confidential and aren’t subject to FOIA, creating reporting challenges we want to overcome), comfortable with budget documents and skilled at using sources to uncover unique stories. Data reporting skills and familiarity with data visualization tools would be helpful.

Creative storytelling is a must, as is an ability to interview and respectfully interact with people from all different backgrounds and economic circumstances. 

West Virginia is a small state that’s facing serious challenges and expanding news deserts, but offers huge opportunities for reporters who want their work to make a difference. With one of the largest news reporting staffs in the state, Mountain State Spotlight is committed to using journalism to keep government, business and other institutions accountable. We’re passionate about this work, and using it to make our community a better place. 

And while we are committed to growing and developing the local talent pool and strongly encourage West Virginians to apply for this and all of our jobs, we welcome the opportunity to introduce our beautiful Mountain State to people who haven’t yet been lucky enough to live here. 

The organization

Mountain State Spotlight was founded in 2020 by MacArthur Fellow Ken Ward Jr. and veteran West Virginia editor Greg Moore. They’ve been joined by Pulitzer Prize-winner Eric Eyre to power an independent, civic news organization that tells stories of importance to West Virginians about the issues and challenges facing their communities.

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

We are backed by Report for America, the American Journalism Project, and ProPublica, and have big plans to grow to meet the information needs of West Virginians, to give our neighbors the journalism they want, need and deserve.

Job responsibilities:

  • Cover and produce investigative stories about all aspects of West Virginia’s economy, explaining trends, uncovering wasted spending and telling the stories behind economic development announcements.
  • Work with other Mountain State Spotlight reporters to best use our resources to investigate the kinds of abuses of power in our government that have held West Virginia back for generations.
  • Examine and report on the places where West Virginia’s government intersects with business and industry, exposing conflicts of interest that harm the public and enrich the powerful.

You’re a good fit if:

  • You have a demonstrated commitment to the use of investigative journalism, and live to develop and execute sustained, powerful stories that spur reform
  • You are organized and can handle multiple projects under tight deadlines.
  • You have a collaborative spirit and want to work with a team to give West Virginians the journalism they want, need and deserve. You believe that we are all stronger together.
  • You believe that legacy models for local media’s business and journalism are broken and that new approaches are needed to serve the public and our democracy.
  • You have sharp news judgment, and have a record of detailed reporting and powerful storytelling.
  • You have data reporting skills that would serve you well in examining financial records related to economic development.

Experience as a journalist in West Virginia or other rural Appalachian states is a plus, but not mandatory.

We are committed to representing all West Virginians in our work, and diverse perspectives makes our journalism stronger. We encourage members of traditionally underrepresented communities to apply, including women, people of color, LGBTQ people and people with disabilities. We encourage out-of-state applicants, as well as applicants who are ready to take on an ambitious role but aren’t exactly what we’re looking for. We’re growing, so if you’re not right for this job, you might be right for the next one.

The successful candidate will be expected to live in or near Charleston, West Virginia. Our Mountain State is a beautiful place to live, is full of exciting news to report on, and faces many opportunities that demand our vigorous brand of watchdog journalism.

Compensation and benefits

Full-time, competitive salary with benefits.

Three weeks of paid time off in addition to holidays

Flexible work schedule. Some weekend and evening hours will be required.

Application process

To ask questions, email jobs@mountainstatespotlight.org. This is a Report for America Corps position; to apply, visit Report for America’s website and fill out the application. In the prompt asking “Which host newsrooms with open positions particularly interest you? Is there anything else you want us to know about your preferences?” put “Mountain State Spotlight.”

Deadline to apply is Jan. 31, 2021.