Mountain State Spotlight is an independent, civic news organization that tells stories of importance to West Virginians about the issues and challenges facing our communities.

Mountain State Spotlight was established in 2020 with seed capital from the American Journalism Project, alongside investments from Report for America and ProPublica. Already one of the state’s largest newsrooms, it is on a path to become the primary source of information for West Virginians.

With support from the American Journalism Project, Mountain State Spotlight is building toward long-term sustainability and expanded statewide and multilocal coverage, with reporters in rural and urban communities across the state.


The support we receive from the American Journalism Project team has been instrumental in our ability to plan for the future and prioritize our goals while implementing new strategies.


  • Ken Ward Jr. is a distinguished reporting fellow with 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.
  • 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.