July 11, 2023

For Immediate Release


Sean Manning

- [email protected]

States Newsroom Launches West Virginia Watch

Leann Ray to lead States Newsroom’s Mountain State Outlet

Charleston, W.V. – States Newsroom, the nation’s leading network of state-based nonprofit news outlets, today launched West Virginia Watch to provide free, high-quality, non-partisan reporting on the important issues affecting the Mountain State. With the launch of West Virginia Watch, States Newsroom’s network now includes 35 newsrooms and content-sharing agreements with eight independent news sites.

West Virginia Watch will be spearheaded by Editor-in-Chief Leann Ray, Charleston-based journalist and lifelong West Virginian. Ray’s journalism career started at 16, when she wrote for the Charleston Gazette’s teen publication, FlipSide. After graduating from Poca High School, she attended West Virginia University, and worked at the university’s Daily Athenaeum student newspaper. Since graduating with a B.S in News Editorial and an M.S. in Journalism, she has worked as a reporter, copy editor, news editor, breaking news editor, and she most recently served as city editor at the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Ray resurrected FlipSide in 2018 and increased the number of counties that received the product by 600%.

Additional members of WV Watch’s newsroom include:

  • Amelia Ferrell Knisely, ReporterKnisely is an investigative reporter in West Virginia. Originally from Rand, she started her career in television news in her home state before moving to Nashville and reporting for The Tennessean. She returned to West Virginia in 2019 through Report for America to write about poverty for the Charleston Gazette-Mail, where she documented the state’s 10,000 homeless students and growing child hunger problem. She went on to work at Mountain State Spotlight and West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Knisely’s work, which regularly focuses on child welfare, people with disabilities and social services, has won national awards.
  • Lori Kersey, ReporterKersey is a reporter and editor based in Charleston. She has a decade of experience reporting for the Charleston Gazette-Mail. A native of Sissonville, her reporting roots go back to the newspaper’s teen journalism program, FlipSide. Kersey earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism at Marshall University and her master’s degree in communication at Morehead State University. Prior to joining the Gazette-Mail in 2011, she worked at the Ironton Tribune in Ohio and the Georgetown News-Graphic in Kentucky. At the paper over the years, she covered city and county government, as well as health, business, courts and crime and worked as assistant city editor and weekend editor.
  • Caity Coyne, ReporterCoyne is a reporter based in Charleston. Raised in San Diego, she moved to West Virginia 10 years ago and began reporting in college at West Virginia University.  In 2018 she accepted a job at the Charleston Gazette-Mail as one of three inaugural reporters with the national nonprofit Report For America. Her persistent reporting in the state’s Southern Coalfields helped communities access clean drinking water for the first time in decades and garnered multiple national and state journalism awards, including being named as a finalist for the Livingston Award for National Reporting in 2019.
We are excited to launch our 35th outlet to provide reliable daily coverage of the issues and policies shaping life in the Mountain State,” said Chris Fitzsimon, Director and Publisher of States Newsroom. “Leann and her team are ready to make West Virginia Watch the go-to source for how decisions are made by government officials in Charleston and around the state. Our mission is to make sure West Virginians understand how state leaders’ decisions affect their lives through nonpartisan, fact-based reporting without a paywall.”
States Newsroom plans to launch newsrooms in Oklahoma and Maine in the coming months, nearing the organization’s goal of having newsrooms in roughly 40 states by mid 2024. As part of its continued growth, States Newsroom announced in March that it was selected by The Pew Charitable Trusts to be the new home of Stateline – merging the two state policy-focused organizations to expand their incisive reporting on state government around the country. States Newsroom also extended its reach last year by launching content-sharing partnerships with eight independent nonprofit outlets, including The Texas Tribune, to host reporting on News from the States, its comprehensive statehouse news site.
Last year Pew Research Center cited States Newsroom and other nonprofit newsrooms as key to filling the void in coverage left by staffing cuts at legacy media outlets. According to Pew, the overall percentage of reporters working for nonprofit newsrooms in the statehouse press corps has more than tripled since 2014 and now makes up the largest portion of statehouse reporters in 10 states and the second largest in 17 states.
States Newsroom is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that is funded by the generous contributions of readers and philanthropists. States Newsroom is committed to supporting fact-based, non-partisan news to the public at no cost and ad-free.
Other States Newsroom affiliates and legacy partners are:
Alabama Reflector –
Alaska Beacon –
Arkansas Advocate –
Arizona Mirror –
Colorado Newsline –
Florida Phoenix –
Georgia Recorder –
Idaho Capital Sun –
Indiana Capital Chronicle –
Iowa Capital Dispatch –
Kansas Reflector –  
Kentucky Lantern –
Louisiana Illuminator –
Maryland Matters – 
Michigan Advance –
Minnesota Reformer –  
Missouri Independent –  
Daily Montanan –
Nebraska Examiner –
Nevada Current – 
New Hampshire Bulletin –
New Jersey Monitor –
Source New Mexico –
NC Newsline –
Ohio Capital Journal – 
Oregon Capital Chronicle –
Pennsylvania Capital-Star –
Rhode Island Current –
South Dakota Searchlight –
Stateline –
Tennessee Lookout –
Virginia Mercury –
Washington State Standard –
Wisconsin Examiner –    
In addition to its network of state-based newsrooms, States Newsroom has content-sharing agreements with eight leading nonprofit newsrooms: CommonWealth (Massachusetts), Connecticut Mirror, Honolulu Civil Beat (Hawaii), Mississippi Today, New York Focus, The Texas Tribune, VTDigger, and WyoFile (Wyoming).