Mountain State Spotlight: You Can Help Local Investigative Journalism Shine!

Investigative journalism goes hand-in-hand with any work for social progress. The state of newspapers and the fate of journalists has long been a worry at both the national and local level.  

Back in 2018, we faced the bankruptcy and pending auction of the Charleston Gazette-Mail, which had been one of the few remaining family owned newspapers in the country. In a call to action then, we wrote, “Losing the Charleston Gazette-Mail will be a terrible blow to a state that’s already reeling under the influence of special interest money in elections and political leaders beholden to those interests.” 

In 2019, the Pacific Standard ran an article subtitled, “The Charleston Gazette-Mail, known for its dogged accountability journalism, survived a merger and bankruptcy. Will it survive a new owner with ties to the very industries its reporters have been watchdogging?”

This remained a perplexing question, made all the more troublesome, when, in February this year, investigative journalist Ken Ward Jr. left the Charleston Gazette-Mail just days after executive editor Greg Moore’s job was eliminated. This caused much more gnashing of teeth among those of us who care about all kinds of environmental and social justice issues, the role of journalism in preventing backsliding on those issues, and the state of newspapers across the nation. 

On February 24, as WV Public Radio reported, Ward tweeted a note about his leaving that perhaps included a message meant to keep the teeth-gnashers from slipping into despair: “Some personal news: Today was my last day at @wvgazettemail. After more than 28 years, I’ve decided it’s time for new adventures and different challenges. More on that soon/1.”

Events and news in March helped turned the gnashing of teeth into smiles of hope.

On March 1, Ward joined ProPublica full-time, following a successful partnership with them during 2018 and 2019. That partnership produced a powerful series about the state’s natural gas industry

On March 30, the New York Times ran a column titled “Bail Out Journalists. Let Newspaper Chains Die” that shed public light on the new adventures. The column reported that Elizabeth Green and John Thornton are co-founders of the American Journalism Project, which aims to create a huge network of nonprofit journalism outlets. One new project they are working: backing a nonprofit outlet in West Virginia.

It will be led by Greg Moore, a former Charleston Gazette-Mail executive editor, and Ken Ward, a reporter at the paper who won a MacArthur “Genius” grant for his coverage of damage done by the coal and gas industries to people’s lives.

“There’s all this ‘doom and gloom for local journalism stories’ that have happened in the last week or so, and I hope that other people see what we’re doing and understand that the important thing is the journalism — it’s the stories, it’s the investigations — that’s what matters,” Mr. Ward said. He will also be on the staff of the nonprofit investigative powerhouse ProPublica and will have support from Report for America, another growing nonprofit organization that sends young reporters to newsrooms around the country.

Yesterday, Ward and Moore shared a press release that caused outright toothy grins and shouts of joy:

Mountain State Spotlight, a new nonprofit newsroom serving West Virginians, today announced four new reporters for the organization. The four staffers, covering issues like poverty, public health and economic development, are part of Report for America, a national initiative of The GroundTruth Project that is helping to rebuild local journalism across the country.

The RFA corps members will join longtime editor Greg Moore and veteran investigative reporter Ken Ward Jr. at Mountain State Spotlight, a civic news organization that will launch later this year…

Mountain State Spotlight will begin operations later this year with one of the largest newsrooms in West Virginia… 

Mountain State Spotlight’s mission is to serve West Virginians by giving them the last word on their government, exposing corruption from the state level down to rural communities, holding powerful individuals and institutions accountable, and making our state a better place through “sustained outrage” journalism that keeps after the story until reforms are made.

“This is a very talented and energetic group of journalists, and it’s exciting to have them join us as we launch this new effort to give West Virginians the accountability reporting that they want, need and deserve,” said Ward, Mountain State Spotlight’s senior investigative reporter.

Mountain State Spotlight wants West Virginians to help them investigate. We can fill in this form or email tips to Follow them on Twitter @mtnstspotlight.

This non-profit civic news organization needs your financial support. Donate here. I, for one, have stopped gnashing my teeth and have opened my wallet instead. I imagine OVEC will have a few news tips to send along too.

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1 Comment

  1. Hello. I’ve been looking for intervention in WV regarding research and coverage of behind the scene political corruption. I’m seeing too many issues in our state which smells of fraud, election interference and deep state agenda. Not only is our economy failure part of a well orchestrated plan, but I’ve personally been exposed to another side of its evil face. Because of the overplayed numbers of the virus hoax, our very citizens are intentionally being undermined. I was hoping to find help for our state. Can you offer any assistance? Thank you

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