Few things affect people’s lives more than actions taken — or not taken — by local legislators. Yet all too often, statehouse coverage is too insidery, loses the big picture and is incomprehensible to many of the people who most need to understand it.

We’re looking for a reporter who will take Mountain State Spotlight’s coverage in a different direction — one that’s driven by the needs of West Virginians, by a desire to de-wonkify state government and clearly explain how our government affects their lives. 

This is a nontraditional statehouse reporting position, focused on moving away from a reactive approach that simply chronicles the actions of powerful people. 

You’ll cover our government — from the Legislature and the governor’s office to executive agencies and the courts — spotlighting how the sausage gets made and exposing abuses of power. You’ll show the real-world effects of last-minute amendments, influential lobbyists and backroom deals on real West Virginians in every county in the state. You’ll spearhead election coverage, including working on new products designed to give vital civic information to as many West Virginians as possible. And you will work and be mentored by experienced editors who expect kick-ass stories and know that those stories take time to report and produce.

Job responsibilities:

  • Cover and produce investigative stories about all aspects of state government, giving readers more depth and detail than legacy media provides with its limited resources and focus on the drip-drip-drip of daily stories.
  • Report on West Virginia’s congressional delegation, providing our readers with a more complete understanding of what their elected representatives are up to than press release-driven local coverage currently allows.
  • Help us chart a new way of covering politics and elections that meets the information needs of West Virginians more fully than quick hit stories based on the latest 30-second campaign spots.
  • 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.
  • Have at least three years experience working as a reporter in a local newsroom, with some record of producing stories that hold powerful people accountable. 
  • Are mission-oriented: scared about the future of local news, but wildly optimistic that we can fill a critical need in West Virginia.
  • Are organized and can handle multiple projects under tight deadlines.
  • Enjoy working together with editors to execute stories from idea to published product, and believe reporting and writing are team sports.
  • Maintain a professional social media presence.
  • Like to collaborate, and believe that we’re all stronger when we work together.
  • You have data reporting skills that would serve you well in examining campaign finance issues in the Mountain State.
  • Are flexible and comfortable working in an environment where the pace can be fast, and multitasking is the norm. 
  • 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.

Experience reporting on government or public policy — or as a journalist in West Virginia or other rural Appalachian states — is a plus, but not mandatory. 

Our newsroom, in an historic building redesigned to Mountain State Spotlight’s specifications, is based in Charleston in the middle of an exciting neighborhood with lots of opportunities for eating, shopping and socializing. This position will require dividing time between the office and the state Capitol, approximately 2.5 miles away. 

The Organization

Founded in March 2020, Mountain State Spotlight went from pitch to publish in less than six months — in the midst of a raging global pandemic. Once we fill this position, we will have 13 employees. We have a plan to continue expanding our coverage, including bureaus across the state, to fill in growing information gaps as West Virginia’s legacy media continues to decline. 

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.

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. Our pay range for this position is $50,000-$70,000, and is based on relevant professional experience. 
  • 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.

To apply or to ask questions, email jobs@mountainstatespotlight.org. Please send us a resume, three work samples and a cover letter that tells us why you are right for Mountain State Spotlight’s team.

Applications will be reviewed and interviews scheduled on a rolling basis, giving an advantage to early applicants. For best consideration, apply by June 5, 2023.