ProPublica announced on Wednesday that it has hired three additional reporters to complete its new regional reporting units in the South and Southwest. Sarah Smith will join the South team and Mark Olalde and Anjeanette Damon will join the Southwest team.
The new reporters will join the newly formed reporting units led by Mara Shalhoup, South editor, and Michael Squires, Southwest editor. New hires in the Midwest unit, led by editor Louise Kiernan, were announced earlier this year with a new reporter position recently added.
“ProPublica’s commitment to local reporting has allowed us to expand our newsroom with journalists from across the regions with exceptional skills in in-depth reporting,” Shalhoup said.
“We are thrilled to have these outstanding investigative reporters join our regional teams to continue the work of holding decision-makers accountable and telling hard-hitting stories that spur change,” Squires said.
Sarah Smith comes to ProPublica from the Houston Chronicle’s metro desk, where she covered housing, homelessness, poverty and mental health. In Houston, she investigated the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s failure to oversee one of its biggest private housing contractors. Before the Chronicle, she worked at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, where her investigation into abuse and cover-ups in independent fundamental Baptist churches led to arrests across the country. She also has worked as a legislative relief reporter for the Associated Press in Mississippi and as a fellow at ProPublica, where she investigated Mississippi’s failure to get defendants timely mental health evaluations and Connecticut’s flawed domestic violence laws, resulting in statewide reforms. She is a Livingston finalist and a Deadline Club Award winner.
Smith’s work at ProPublica will focus on housing, mental health, poverty and religion. She will be based in Atlanta.
Here are the reporters joining the Southwest regional unit:
Anjeanette Damon comes to ProPublica from the Reno Gazette Journal in Nevada and USA Today Network, where she worked as a government watchdog reporter and regional investigative editor. Damon’s work has included an investigation of in-custody deaths at the Washoe County jail that resulted in legislative action and was recognized as a finalist for an ONA public service award. Her series on the deplorable living conditions faced by people with severe mental illness in state care sparked immediate action by Nevada’s governor and legislation to improve oversight of the housing program. In 2019, Damon was lead reporter and writer on Season 2 of “The City,” a USA Today investigative podcast examining how political power is wielded in American cities. Prior to the Reno Gazette Journal, Damon worked as a politics reporter and editor at the Las Vegas Sun, where she uncovered a scheme by lawmakers to avoid disclosing campaign spending and where she revealed how closely the governor’s staff worked with leading lobbyists to determine the governor’s position on key issues.
Damon’s reporting at ProPublica will focus on government accountability. She will be based in Reno.
Mark Olalde joins ProPublica from The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, California, where he covered the environment, including the impact of climate change on wildfires and water policy on the Salton Sea. Before that, he investigated extractive industries for the Center for Public Integrity, including a project exposing the threat of idle oil and gas wells. That work was recognized with the 2020 Stokes Award and the silver medal in the Barlett and Steele Awards. Olalde was previously a freelance reporter. He published investigations in the Los Angeles Times, Arizona Republic, High Country News and USA Today, as well as international outlets. His reporting on abandoned mines in South Africa earned him recognition in 2017 as the country’s top print reporter covering the environment and as a finalist in the Global Editors Network’s Data Journalism Awards. Olalde’s reporting has taken him to Malawi, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, Curaçao, Mexico, South Africa and across the United States.
Olalde’s work at ProPublica will focus on environmental topics such as oil, mining, water and public lands. He will be based in Phoenix.