By most measures, West Virginia is considered one of the poorest states in the nation. The reasons for that are complicated and solutions can be complex. But we’re looking for a reporter who can dig into and explain clearly and simply to all West Virginians the reasons poverty exists in our state, the conditions that keep people in poverty, and the failures — and successes — of programs aimed at helping to reverse the cycle of poverty.
The successful applicant will put a premium on hearing directly from West Virginians experiencing poverty. They will be driven by telling empathetic, powerful accountability stories with an eye toward examining the systemic failures that hurt the state’s most vulnerable people. They will also want to help us make West Virginians experiencing poverty part of our growing audience, by meeting the information needs of those neighbors, telling stories not just about poor people, but telling stories with and for them.
- Produce accountability stories about the people and systems that have failed to give all West Virginians the opportunity to meet their basic needs.
- Lift up the voices of people experiencing poverty in West Virginia, using narrative journalism to tell their stories accurately and sensitively, without verging on “poverty porn.”
- Use data to highlight inequities across counties and systems — exposing the ways some people aren’t served by their government and elected officials.
- Highlight the bright spots: report on innovative solutions around the state that are making a meaningful difference in people’s lives and could possibly be scaled up to help more.
- Work with other Mountain State Spotlight reporters to best use our resources to investigate topics that intersect with our other beats (public health, economy, state government, the environment, and communities).
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 have at least five years of local or regional reporting experience, and preferably some advanced data skills.
- You feel the urgency of serving West Virginians with the journalism they want, need and deserve, and are constantly and proactively coming up with ideas to do that.
- You can prioritize and work on short, medium and long-term stories concurrently and meet deadlines.
- You have a collaborative spirit and want to work with a team. 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.
Experience as a journalist in West Virginia or other rural Appalachian states is a plus, but not mandatory.
We encourage members of traditionally underrepresented communities to apply, including women, people of color, LGBTQ people, veterans and people with disabilities. We believe that a newsroom that includes a broad range of life experiences will ultimately produce better journalism.
We’re committed to building a newsroom that cares for its employees, supports their professional growth, pays people equitably, provides work schedule flexibility as needed and offers opportunities for advancement.
If you meet some, but not all, of our requirements, we still encourage you to get in touch. We’re growing, so if you’re not right for this job, you might be right for the next one.
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.
- Parking and technology reimbursement.
- Paid parental leave.
- Flexible work schedule. Some weekend and evening hours will be required.
Mountain State Spotlight is based in Charleston, West Virginia. We have a brand-new newsroom with plenty of natural light within walking distance to numerous breweries, restaurants and coffee shops. Charleston is a small city where you’ll find friendly neighbors, a low cost of living, a close-knit community of journalists and numerous opportunities to explore our beautiful state. It’s also full of exciting news to report on, and faces many challenges that demand our vigorous brand of watchdog journalism.
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 non-profit 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.
To apply, or for more information, email firstname.lastname@example.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 poverty 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.