State policies directly affect people’s daily lives, and state-level political battles shape the national landscape. While traditional news coverage of national politics has increased in recent years, state coverage continues to shrink—leaving a void that is too often filled by partisan or unreliable sources. A 2014 Pew Research Center study showed that less than a third of U.S. newspapers have reporters covering their statehouses, a number that has certainly decreased in the last five years.

As a result, important issues in the states are under-covered, with real consequences for real people. Ultimately, the Newsroom exists to provide the relentless stream of quality reporting and commentary that helps sustain a vibrant democracy.

Each Newsroom outlet is led by a veteran local journalist with deep knowledge of the state’s political history and media landscape who oversees a staff of experienced capitol reporters. Our Washington, D.C. bureau reports on congressional delegations and key Supreme Court and administrative decisions that affect the states. The Newsroom’s headquarters is led by Director and Publisher Chris Fitzsimon and includes Deputy Director Andrea Verykoukis, National Editor Mary Cornatzer, Digital Director Nelle Dunlap, Media Administrative Professional Tori Addison, and Full Stack Developer Joe Wright.

The Newsroom is a project of the Hopewell Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit that incubates projects and provides professional support and guidance. The Newsroom and its affiliates are independent, and we decide what we cover.

Chris Fitzsimon

Director and Publisher

Chris oversees the content and themes of the organization, managing financial resources, and supervising the state editors. He also travels frequently to hire and visit editors and grantees and appears weekly on the TV political talk show NC SPIN.

From 2004 to 2017, Fitzsimon was the founder and original director of NC Policy Watch, North Carolina's leading online news and commentary outlet, where he led a team of seven journalists, hosted a weekly radio show and wrote a syndicated column on North Carolina politics and government.

Fitzsimon was also the founder and director of Common Sense Foundation, a progressive think tank in Raleigh. From 1991 to 1994, he was the spokesperson, speech writer and policy adviser for N.C. Speaker of the House Dan Blue. Before his stint with Speaker Blue, Fitzsimon was an award-winning television news reporter covering politics and government.

Andrea Verykoukis

Deputy Director

Andrea is the former Communications Director for Public Schools First NC, a statewide education advocacy organization, and a longtime contributor to NC Policy Watch’s blog. She and Chris worked together (many) years ago to quantify the dearth of state political coverage on capital area TV news, a project that helped inspire the creation of NC Policy Watch and later the Newsroom. She plays a long game.

Between stints in the political and journalism worlds, Andrea raised two kids and volunteered for auctions, boards, fundraisers, and as a reading tutor for underprivileged students in Durham and Chapel Hill. Supporting Chris’s work as publisher, Andrea travels regularly to develop leads for editors and reporters in the states and manages day-to-day functions in the Newsroom.

Mary Cornatzer

National Editor

Mary works with the state editors to plan coverage, maintain editorial standards, expand the reach of each state’s reporting and commentary, and advise on cross-outlet projects. She also provides editorial support and works with Chris and Andrea on the Newsroom's growth.

Before coming to the Newsroom, Mary was a longtime reporter and editor at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., where she was at various times responsible for business and political coverage. In another lifetime (before she became a mom), Mary was also The N&O's music critic.

Nelle Dunlap

Digital Director

Nelle oversees the online presence of the Newsroom’s state news outlets, working with the staff of each state on social media strategies, website modifications, audience development, and content delivery. She also provides graphic editorial content for the state outlets and explores new ways to expand the reach of each state’s reporting and commentary.

Before coming to the Newsroom, she spent a few years as the New Media Director for NC Policy Watch. She has also worked as an instructional designer for a kids tech company, an adjunct art professor, a performance space mananger, a digital storytelling fellow in India, and a freelance web, video, and graphic designer. Nelle currently serves on the boards of two NC-based arts organizations: the Durham Art Guild and School of the Alternative.

Nelle has an MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art and a BFA from the University of Iowa. As a student, she had a three year stint as the Graphics Editor of the Daily Iowan student paper and an internship at Bloomberg News.

Breanne Porter

Operations Director

Breanne oversees personnel, finance, and systems management for the Newsroom. Her responsibilities include interfacing with third-party vendors, arranging and managing lease agreements and contractors, conducting financial analyses, and maintaining monthly budget tracking.

Before coming to the Newsroom, she worked at Arabella Advisors, LLC, where she provided operational, programmatic, financial, and business development support for a portfolio of fiscally sponsored nonprofit projects. Her portfolio focused on policy and advocacy issues such as healthcare and tax reform, civic engagement, and access to education research and resources.

Breanne has a BA in political science from Yale University, where she earned distinction in the political science major and served on the executive board for the Yale Mock Trial Association.

Christine Heubusch

Media Administrative Coordinator

Christine provides administrative support to the States Newsroom headquarters and its affiliates, with focuses on invoicing, analytics tracking, document management, and research.

Prior to joining States Newsroom, Christine worked as an administrative professional at an association management company based in Charlottesville, VA. She served a wide variety of nonprofit clients in health care and trade industries through office management, email campaign oversight, conference planning, government relations support, and customer service.

Christine is a passionate volunteer and has special interests in ESL tutoring and outreach to the homeless. She holds a BA in Media Studies with a minor in Art History from the University of Virginia.

Joe Wright

Full Stack Developer

Joe supports the Newsroom mission by providing technical support and assistance, developing unique, modern, and responsive code to drive the various state specific web presences, assisting with design and graphic needs, administering web servers and systems, and utilizing best practices in SEO monitoring and ranking in order to be sure the reach of each state’s journalistic endeavors has the greatest reach possible.

Before joining the team at the Newsroom, he worked with a variety of startups in central North Carolina across several industries to build websites and software to make big ideas into realities. In addition to being a developer, he has worked as an English teacher, a business intelligence analyst, a chef/baker/bartender, and an artist.

Joe has a 20th Century Literature MA from North Carolina State University, as well as a BS in Engineering and a BA in English from the same. While at NCSU, he wrote for the student newspaper for 5 years, served as editor-in-chief of the student literary & arts magazine for 3 years, and hosted a long-running radio show on the college station for 9 years.