Since 2017, the national service program Report for America — an initiative of The GroundTruth Project — has been partnering with newsrooms and communities across America to place journalists into positions where they are needed to report on under-covered issues. In June, Mountain Times Publications will welcome its first RFA reporter to work in our Watauga, Ashe and Avery newsrooms, covering myriad environmental issues — from water to asphalt and beyond — that affect our mountain region.

The one-year position comes following an application and interview process with RFA. The selection process is rigorous, but this year about 300 journalists will be placed in 200 newsrooms throughout the United States. RFA hopes to have 1,000 working journalists serving annually within the next few years.

The extra resource comes at a much-needed time for the Watauga Democrat, the Ashe Post & Times and The Avery Journal-Times — the three papers of record at which the reporter will divide time through the year — but it doesn’t come without a cost. While RFA covers half of the reporter’s salary, the program requires that newspapers partner with their communities to make up the reminder.

During the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing more about that partnership, but in today’s newspaper, beginning with a Page 1 story, you can learn more about the reporter we selected to join our team this summer. In the meantime, if you have specific environmental issues or concerns you’d like us to consider and investigate, send them to the executive editor at tom.mayer@mountaintimes.com. Our commitment to serving our communities not only continues, it’s just gotten stronger.

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Tom Mayer is the executive editor of Mountain Times Publications, a group of five news newspapers, six websites and one monthly periodical in the High Country of North Carolina.

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