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Mountain State Spotlight staff, September 2022. Back row (L to R): Ian Karbal, Dan Lawton, Duncan Slade, Trey Garlow, Ellie Heffernan. Middle row (L to R): Erica Peterson, Allen Siegler, Alexa Beyer, P.R. Lockhart, Jane Siers Wright. Front row: Ken Ward Jr., Ellen Allen. Photo by Duncan Slade

Alexa Beyer

Environment and Energy Reporter

Alexa Beyer brings a decade worth of interest and involvement in environmental and energy issues that affect underdog communities across the country. She is a graduate of the Engagement Journalism program at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, and earned her bachelor’s degree in Geography at Middlebury College. Her interest in journalism was sparked while working with a community near Louisville, Kentucky to help protect residents from being forcibly evicted from their homes. She is very enthusiastic about serving West Virginians and exposing environment and energy injustice wherever it exists in the state.


Allen Siegler

Public Health Reporter

Allen Siegler comes to Mountain State Spotlight from The Tacoma News Tribune, where he worked first as an intern and eventually as the Education/Breaking News Reporter. Prior to that, he interned at The San Diego Union-Tribune and wrote freelance articles about refugee resettlement in North Carolina.

Originally from San Diego, Allen earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Yale University and an applied epidemiology master of public health diploma from The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. As a long distance runner, he likes to explore the various mountain trails throughout the state.


Dan Lawton

Economic Justice Reporter

Dan Lawton has worked as a reporter in Northern California and New Orleans, covering criminal justice, government and high-profile federal court cases. While working for the East Bay Times in Oakland, his reporting on use-of-force deaths led to countywide policy reform, and his local government coverage sparked an investigation into excessive billing practices. At the New Orleans Advocate, he covered crime and wrote feature stories for the paper’s lifestyle section.

Dan has also worked for Bloomberg News and had a brief stint as a journalist in Ghana as part of his master’s degree in Journalism from the University of Oregon and has an English degree from the University of Colorado. Dan is a New Orleans native and enjoys hiking with his wife, Jillian, and playing with their two rambunctious cats.


Duncan Slade

Audience Manager

Duncan Slade joined Mountain State Spotlight after a year as editor-in-chief of the Daily Athenaeum, the independent campus newspaper of WVU. That year, he more than doubled the publication’s readership through analytics, audience engagement and a digital-first newsroom restructuring. He previously worked as a public radio reporter and freelance photographer. His reporting work has been published by the Washington Post, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and NPR. 

As our Audience Manager, Duncan works with editors, reporters and development professionals to ensure that our journalism is grounded in the information needs of West Virginians and that as many West Virginians as possible see our stories.


Ellen Allen

Executive Director

A native of Princeton, West Virginia, Ellen Allen joined Mountain State Spotlight as the organization’s first executive director in February 2022, overseeing the business operations. She brings over 30 years of management and leadership experience, most recently as the director of Covenant House, a Charleston-based nonprofit. Ellen is a graduate of Concord University and holds a MBA from Averett University. She has a 27-year daughter, Sarah, and is married to Sue Julian.


Ellie Heffernan

Report for America corps member and community watchdog reporter

Ellie Heffernan is a recent graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill and previously wrote for several North Carolina publications, including INDY Week. She loves reading fiction novels, playing guitar or clarinet and traveling somewhere new. She also (kind of) speaks a few languages: Macedonian, Wolof, French and English.


Erica Peterson

Managing Editor

Erica Peterson has more than a decade of experience as a reporter, editor and newsroom manager in both West Virginia and Kentucky. She started her career as a reporter with West Virginia Public Broadcasting, then covered energy and the environment for years as a reporter at Louisville Public Media where her reporting took her into rivers, coal mines and World War II-era bunkers.

Most recently, Erica oversaw the large local and regional newsroom at Louisville Public Media as the director of news and programming. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Carleton College and a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University.


Ian Karbal

Report for America corps member and state government watchdog reporter

Before joining the Mountain State Spotlight team, Ian Karbal was a Delacorte Magazine fellow at the Columbia Journalism Review, covering mis/disinformation and the media industry. His work has also appeared in The Trace, OpenSecrets, and the Gateway Journalism Review. Ian, from Chicago, began his career reporting on local government for the Pinckneyville Press in southern Illinois. His investigative work uncovering biased and for-profit policing practices earned him a Freedom of Information Award from the National Newspaper Association, and made him a finalist for the 2018 Chicago Headline Club’s Peter Lisagor Awards.


Jane Siers Wright

Development Manager

A native of Milton, West Virginia, Jane brings over thirty years of experience in nonprofit fundraising to the position of development manager with Mountain State Spotlight, most recently with West Virginia Public Broadcasting. She holds BA and MA degrees from Marshall University. She lives in Charleston’s East End with her husband, Dr. Kenneth Wright, and three rescue dogs.


Ken Ward Jr.

Co-founder and Senior Editor

Ken Ward Jr. is senior editor and co-founder. He is also a distinguished reporting fellow with our partner, the nonprofit newsroom ProPublica. Ken spent nearly three decades reporting for The Charleston Gazette on the impacts of coal mining, chemical manufacturing and natural gas drilling on his home state of West Virginia. In 2018, he received a MacArthur Fellowship – the so-called “Genius Grant” — for “revealing the human and environmental toll of natural resource extraction in West Virginia and spurring greater accountability among public and private stakeholders.” He grew up in Mineral County and graduated from West Virginia University. He lives in Charleston with his wife, Legal Aid Attorney Elizabeth Wehner, their son, Thomas, and their cat Henry.


P.R. Lockhart

Economic Development Reporter

P.R. Lockhart is joining Mountain State Spotlight after a two-year stint as a freelance journalist reporting on communities of color for various outlets, including NBC News and The Guardian. A former military brat, she has lived in several states, but has called Virginia home for more than a decade. Prior to freelancing, P.R. worked as a reporter covering race and politics for Vox and as a Ben Bagdikian Editorial Fellow at Mother Jones. Her interest in reporting on marginalized communities was born at Duke University where she studied Psychology and spent way too much time standing in line for basketball games. 

Trey Garlow

Operations Manager

A lifelong West Virginian, Trey Garlow has spent most of his life in Kanawha and Putnam counties. With nearly ten years of experience in Office Administration from Garlow Insurance, Trey brings a blend of knowledge and expertise to help Mountain State Spotlight’s newsroom function efficiently and effectively. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Geneva College and a minor in graphic design from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.


Our Board of Directors

Ben Bailey, Chairman

Steve Canterbury, Treasurer

Suzanne Weise, Secretary

Amar Rajwani