Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Top West Virginia journalist Ken Ward Jr. will head up a nonprofit news venture in the state with his former editor

Ken Ward Jr.
Top West Virginia journalist Ken Ward Jr. followed his editor Greg Moore out the door at the Charleston Gazette-Mail a month ago. Now they will lead a nonprofit newsroom in the state. "The not-yet-named news outlet (candidates include 'Mountain State Muckraker') will begin with a staff of about 10, seven of them journalists, a news team on the same scale as the diminished local paper," Ben Smith reports for The New York Times. The new project will receive support from Report for America, which sends fledgling reporters to newsrooms in underserved areas.

The project is the brainchild of journalist Elizabeth Green and investor John Thornton, who co-founded the American Journalism Project, which "aims to create a huge network of nonprofit outlets, some organized around subjects like education or criminal justice, others focused on covering a town, a city or a state," Smith reports. Green, a former reporter, created the nonprofit education news organization Chalkbeat after she was laid off; she believes nonprofit news ventures are the future and that hedge fund-owned chains are bleeding local papers dry, Smith writes.

"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," Ward told Smith.

In addition to his role in the new initiative, Ward has signed on as a full-time ProPublica staffer, he told The Rural Blog in an email. Ward had been part of ProPublica's Local Reporting Network, a project that supports investigative journalism at smaller papers, since its inaugural class in 2018. That same year, he won a MacArthur Foundation fellowship based on his investigative reporting. And in 2019, Ward was one of three winners of the Tom and Pat Gish Award, presented by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues (publisher of The Rural Blog), for his tenacious reporting on coal and other rural topics.

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