The Report for America program, a nonprofit journalism initiative that places reporters in newsrooms across the United States, will add four reporters to the Charleston Gazette-Mail staff next year.
The Gazette-Mail’s new Report for America corps members, who will join the newspaper next summer, will focus on in-depth stories on topics of great interest to West Virginians, including economic development and public health. They will boost the Gazette-Mail’s data reporting, help use visual elements to tell stories with that data, and engage readers online and in person.
“This continued help from Report for America and The GroundTruth Project is more than welcome,” said Greg Moore, the Gazette-Mail’s executive editor. “We do a lot of great work here, but like many news organizations, we have fewer resources to do that work than we had just a few years ago. Our two previous RFA corps members have helped West Virginians understand better how their state works, and we look forward to seeing what our new corps members can do.”
The Gazette-Mail was one of the first three news organizations to be part of the RFA program, along with West Virginia Public Broadcasting and the Herald-Leader of Lexington, Kentucky.
In its announcement Monday, Report for America said it would supply 250 journalists to 164 news organizations in 46 states — a move the group called “the single biggest hiring announcement of journalists in recent memory.”
“We offer a pretty simple fix for news holes in communities throughout the country — local reporters on the ground, who hold leaders accountable and report on under-covered issues,” Steven Waldman, co-founder of Report for America, said in a news release. “The editors we’ve met during our application cycle have shown us amazing passion, commitment and sharp ideas for how to better serve their local communities.”
Report for America helps to pay their journalists’ salaries, while asking host news organizations to find support from the community to help pay them as well.
The salaries of the Gazette-Mail’s two current RFA corps members, Caity Coyne and Amelia Ferrell Knisely, are partially paid by The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation.
“We could not ask for a better community partner than the foundation,” Moore said. “The Gazette-Mail is also very fortunate to have local owners, who recognize the value in the work we do and the amazing opportunity that our continued partnership with Report for America offers us.”
Coyne, who came to the Gazette-Mail from West Virginia University, was one of the first three RFA corps members, and is finishing her second year with the program. At the end of this year, she will transition from an RFA corps member to a staff writer at the Gazette-Mail.
During her two years, Coyne has concentrated on Southern West Virginia, including an award-winning series on the difficulties residents there face in getting clean drinking water.
Knisely, a native of Rand and a graduate of Shepherd and Marshall universities, previously worked at the Tennessean newspaper in Nashville. She is the only reporter dedicated full-time to poverty issues in West Virginia, and since she arrived in June, has written stories about the number of homeless schoolchildren in the state and a small area hospital that is bucking the national trend by expanding rather than closing.
Journalists will be able to apply for the new round of positions online at the Report for America website later this week. The ones who are selected will receive a week of training in June and then join their newsrooms for at least a year.