Report for America announces 2018 Corps Members


NEW YORK — Report for America, a non-partisan national service program that places journalists into local news rooms, has announced its complete Class of 2018. Report for America is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, a nonprofit news organization that trains young journalists to cover the most important stories in the world.

Two Chicago natives will be reporting on the city’s historically undercovered West and South sides, including the neighborhoods in which they were raised. An Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist will be reporting for television, radio, and print in New Mexico. A Next Generation Radio Fellow and co-recipient of the AP’s Innovator of the Year Award for College Students will be reporting from the Mississippi Delta. A former editor in Washington, D.C. who returned to her hometown in Pennsylvania will be the first statehouse reporter for a digital news organization in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. An award-winning photojournalist will be joining a nonprofit newsroom in his home state of Mississippi as their first photographer. A reporter and editor raised and educated in Texas in an immigrant family will focus his reporting on second-generation Hispanic immigrants and the issues they face.

Ten emerging and established journalists were chosen from 740 applicants. An elite panel of judges evaluated each candidate, semi-finalists were interviewed, and then a small group of finalists were presented to each news organization. Each newsroom proceeded with their own interview process, just as they would with any other journalist hire.

Report for America Corps Members are employees of their respective newsrooms, however their salaries are paid for in partnership between RFA, the news organization, and local philanthropic supporters. In the first year of corps member placement, RFA pays roughly 50 percent of the salary.

Our inaugural class, most of whom already have several years of newsroom experience, will start working for Report for America news organizations in Illinois, Georgia, Texas, Mississippi, and New Mexico in early June. They join three reporters who began their year of service in the Appalachian states of Kentucky and West Virginia in January. Report for America’s Class of 2018 includes a total of 13 journalists dedicated to service in their newsrooms and communities.

More than half of RFA’s 2018 corps members have ties to the communities or regions they will be serving, while the rest will be moving to new areas.

These emerging and established journalists are: Carlos Ballesteros,  Mallory Falk, Sarah Anne Hughes, Michelle Liu, Obed Manuel, Samantha Max, Ciara McCarthy, Manny Ramos, Eric Shelton, and Alexandra Watts

The three additional corps members who have been working in the field since January are Molly Born, Caity Coyne, and Will Wright.


In 2018, Report for America corps members are reporting on undercovered topics and underserved communities for the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Chicago Sun-TimesDallas Morning News, KRWGthe Incline / Billy Penn, Mississippi Public Broadcasting, Mississippi Today,  Telegraph, Victoria Advocate, West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and Lexington Herald-Leader.

Funding for Report for America comes from a variety of national foundations and philanthropists including the Knight Foundation, the Google News Initiative, the Tow Foundation, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the Galloway Family Foundation and others.

Report for America 2018 Corps Members

Carlos Ballesteros is a former Newsweek reporter who also has reported from his hometown of Chicago on city hall, gentrification, housing, and immigration for the South Side Weekly, Nationand In These Times. He was editor-in-chief of Claremont College’s Student Life for which he led a team of more than one hundred student journalists, managed a budget crisis that nearly shut down the paper, first published in 1889, and created a new emphasis on collaboration and diversity in the newsroom. Ballesteros will be returning home to join the Chicago Sun-Times and report on the city’s south and west sides, including the neighborhood where he was raised.

Mallory Falk is a two-time Edward R. Murrow Regional Award-winner, a 2016 USC Annenberg National Health Reporting Fellow, and a radio journalist whose stories have aired on All Things Considered, Here & Now, and Texas Standard. She was an education reporter for New Orleans’ NPR-affiliate WWNO and a producer of What My Students Taught Me, an education podcast from The Atlantic and Columbia Journalism School’s Teacher Project. Prior to her work in radio, she served as communications director for the non-profit Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools. Originally from Pittsburgh, Falk is a graduate of Middlebury College and the Transom Story Workshop. Falk will be joining KRWG in New Mexico as a multimedia reporter covering education, healthcare, economic development and sustainability.

Sarah Anne Hughes has worked as an editor and reporter in the District of Columbia and her home state of Pennsylvania. She began her career at the Washington Post, where she blogged about pop culture and national news. Hughes has worked as a reporter for The Incline, editor-in-chief for the DCist, and managing editor of the Washington City Paper. In the past year, Hughes returned to her hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where she has been working as a freelancer. She will be joining Billy Penn/The Incline as their first statehouse reporter.

Michelle Liu was a staff reporter for the Yale Daily News, a reporting intern for the Toledo Blade, and a general assignment intern for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. She has worked as a contributing reporter for the New Haven Independent for which she shadowed canvassers in New Hampshire and covered labor unions in Connecticut. She was also a program coordinator for Yale’s Summer Journalism Program for high school students. Born and raised in Texas, Liu will be joining Mississippi Today as a statewide reporter with a special focus on the Delta.

Samantha Max was an investigative reporting intern for the Medill Justice Project and a bilingual multimedia news intern at Hoy, Chicago Tribune’s spanish-language daily. She returned to her hometown of Baltimore in 2015 and again in 2016 to work as a newsroom intern for NPR-affiliate WYPR. She has written on immigration and the criminal justice system, and she reported from the steps of Baltimore’s Courthouse East when prosecutors announced the acquittal of Caesar Goodson, one of the police officers charged in the 2015 death of Freddie Gray. She will be joining the Telegraph in Macon, Georgia, where she will work working with local residents to select issues of significant public interest in a unique partnership with the News Co/Lab of the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.

Eric Shelton is a photojournalist whose work has been published in the Boston Globe, LA Times, New York Times, USA Today, and Washington Post. He first left his home state of Mississippi to intern with the Associated Press in Boston. He has since worked across Texas and Mississippi as a photojournalist for Texarkana Gazetteand the Natchez Democrat, a multimedia journalist for the Abilene Reporter-News, and digital reporter and chief photographer for the Hattiesburg American. For the past four years, he has worked as photo editor of the Killeen Daily Herald, managing photo and video for five publications within the media group. Throughout his career, Shelton has documented issues concerning drug abuse and poverty, and he has won awards from the Mississippi Associated Press Managing Editors and the Arkansas Press Photographers Association. Shelton will be returning to Mississippi to work as the first photojournalist at Mississippi Today.

Ciara McCarthy was the editor-in-chief of the Daily Northwestern, the first newsroom intern for the Marshall Project, and a special projects intern for the Guardian US. After graduation, she moved to New York to work as a researcher for the “The Counted,” an Emmy-nominated project for the Guardian that documented and reported on Americans killed by the police. More recently, she was a Manhattan-based community news reporter for the Patch. McCarthy will be joining the Victoria Advocate where she’ll cover local government and the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Obed Manuel is a reporter and editor focused on his home city of Dallas. Until recently, he was an associate editor at Central Track, where he was focused on city news / politics and social change movements. He previously worked as managing editor of Latina Lista, where he launched a weekly podcast and wrote on immigration and technology. A graduate of the Mayborn School of Journalism at University of North Texas, Manuel was a staff writer for the North Texas Daily and was a two-time intern at the Dallas Observer. In 2015, Manuel assisted former Dallas Observer editor Joe Tone with research for Bones, a nonfiction book about money laundering through the quarter horse racing industry in the American southwest. A native of the northern Mexico city of Monterrey, Manuel will be joining the Dallas Morning News to report on the growing population of second-generation Hispanic immigrants and the issues they face.

Manny Ramos is a data-driven journalist dedicated to covering his hometown of Chicago. Ramos is a two-time Fellow at City Bureau, a civic journalism lab based on the South Side, for which he covered the failings of the Chicago Police Department’s community-policing initiatives and worked as a public health multimedia reporter in collaboration with WBEZ’s Curious City. During this time, he also served as a journalism mentor for underserved youth via Free Spirit Media. Prior to this, Ramos reported on city politics and Chicago Public Schools for Gaper’s Block and covered municipal elections for the Daily Line. He was an editorial intern for the Chicago Reader and Depaulia’s first podcast producer and political reporter. Ramos will soon join the Chicago Sun-Times for whom his reporting with focus on Chicago’s south and west sides.

Alexandra Watts was a 2017 Next Generation Radio Fellow with NPR in 2017. While at Arizona State University, she became the first ever audio and podcast editor for The State Press, and she worked on podcasts/audio with the news division of Arizona PBS. Watts has a BA & MA from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She had internships in digital media and broadcast news with KJZZ and worked in community engagement with the PIN Bureau, where she was part of the team who won the Associated Press Media Editors’ Innovator of the Year Award for College Students. Watts will soon be joining Mississippi Public Broadcasting to cover the Delta region.

These ten 2018 corps members are joined by the first three 2018 corps members who were posted to newsrooms through a pilot program in Appalachia. They are:

Molly Born, a native of West Virginia, worked for six years at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where she covered crime, local government, and education. In pursuit of the story, she spent the night at a palatial Hare Krishna commune, reported on location from the middle of a four-lane highway, and (politely) commandeered a passing car to hear the verdict in a murder trial. She’s a graduate Fairmont State University and has a masters in journalism from Northwestern University. She has long carried a bit of West Virginia everywhere she goes — in the form of a tattoo of the state’s motto on her back. As an RFA corps member, Molly now reports for West Virginia Public Broadcasting. She has already investigated the plight of a town whose water was contaminated by a coal mine owned by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, and explored how a lack of reliable internet access is hurting rural economies.

Caity Coyne was the Editor-in-Chief of West Virginia University‘s award winning, independent student newspaper, the Daily Athanaeum, and a reporting intern at the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Coyne is originally from San Diego, CA, but she found a home in West Virginia as a student. As a RFA corps member, Caity reports on the state’s southern coalfields for the Charleston Gazette-Mail. She has tenaciously covered a statewide teachers’ strike and featured a once-booming coal town that may be forced to dissolve as a municipality.

Will Wright covered the environment and government accountability during internships at the Sacramento Bee, the Lexington Herald-Leader and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.  He was Editor-in-Chief of University of Kentucky’s independent student newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel. After graduating from University of Kentucky in December 2016, Wright completed a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. He grew up in Eighty Four, PA, a small town outside Pittsburgh. Since joining RFA, Wright has reopened the Lexington Herald Leader’s Pike County Bureau in Kentucky. He already put a spotlight on Kentucky’s “worst water district” where some residents went without water for weeks. The district’s business manager retired shortly after publication, and the state committed $3.4 million to fix water issues in eastern Kentucky. Will also collaborated with veteran reporter Bill Estep to break a story about $3 million in back taxes owed by Kentucky-based coal companies linked to West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice.


Report for America: Report for America is the only nonprofit journalism initiative in the U.S. that combines public service with its mission to cover the news. Launched in 2017 and donor-financed, Report for America is creating a new, sustainable system that strengthens communities and journalism. Our mission is to deploy talented, service-oriented journalists into undercovered areas, provide Americans with the information they need to improve their communities, hold powerful institutions accountable, and rebuild trust in the media.Report for America is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, an award-winning nonprofit media organization with an established track record of training and supporting teams of emerging journalists around the world and in the US.

The GroundTruth Project: The GroundTruth Project is a Boston-based, independent, non-partisan, non-profit news organization dedicated to supporting the next generation of journalists in the US and around the world. In the last five years, GroundTruth has supported 150 reporting fellowships as far away as Myanmar, Egypt and Somalia and as close to home as Kentucky, Minnesota, and Montana. Our newest initiative ‘Report for America’ seeks to address a crisis in local journalism in America which has become a crisis for our democracy. By deploying RFA corps members into RFA host newsrooms for one year of public service reporting, RFA is trying to create a movement to restore trust in journalism and serve communities that need better coverage of the issues in their community. For more, visit


Maggie Messitt