“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 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 job: 

  • Report accountability 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 journalism, and live to develop and execute sustained, powerful stories that spur reform
  • You can prioritize and work on short, medium and long-term stories concurrently and meet deadlines.
  • You feel the urgency of serving West Virginia with the journalism it needs and are constantly and proactively coming up with ideas to do that.
  • 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. We have a pay scale based on experience that we are constantly working to increase as we’re able through cost-of-living and merit raises. We welcome promising early career journalists, but also are especially interested in hearing from more experienced candidates for this role.  
  • Benefits, including 75% company-paid health insurance and 401k.
  • Twenty-five days of paid time off in addition to holidays and our annual “dark week” between Christmas and New Year’s.
  • Paid parental leave.
  • Parking and technology reimbursement.
  • Flexible work schedule. Some weekend and evening hours will be required.

The Organization

Mountain State Spotlight was founded in 2020 by veteran West Virginia journalists. The organization’s co-leadership consists of MacArthur Fellow Ken Ward Jr., who heads the editorial department, and Executive Director Ellen Allen, a veteran nonprofit leader who manages development, financial and operations. They’re powering an independent, civic news organization that helps West Virginians understand our state’s issues and its potential.

Our team includes a managing editor, a development manager and five reporters. We are backed by the American Journalism Project, ProPublica, Report for America, and major national journalism funders. We have big plans to grow to give our neighbors the journalism they want, need and deserve.

Application Process

To apply, or for more information, email jobs@mountainstatespotlight.org. Your application should include: 

  • Your resume;
  • A cover letter telling us why you are the right person for Mountain State Spotlight’s team. Describe your vision of how you would approach an accountability-focused economic development beat in West Virginia;
  • Non-paywalled links or PDF files of at least three examples of your best work.

Applications will be reviewed and interviews scheduled on a rolling basis, giving an advantage to early applicants. For best consideration, apply by July 31, 2022.