Elijah de Castro is a reporter covering rural communities for The People-Sentinel, a locally owned paper in Barnwell, South Carolina. Born and raised in semi-rural Upstate New York, he has reported on issues like climate change, poverty and infrastructure that affect families in his hometown of Trumansburg. While earning a bachelor's degree in journalism from Ithaca College, he broke major stories about the college's presidential compensation, and the college's decision to install artificial turf in its stadium despite health and environmental concerns. He also interned for The Progressive magazine, where he reported on Azerbaijan's genocidal blockade of the Armenian region of Artsakh, and how utility companies are fighting the transition to renewable energy.
Macon Atkinson covers political and personal trends, threads and issues from a rural voter perspective during the presidential election for The Post and Courier. Prior to joining that newsroom, she worked at daily newspapers in the Carolinas and Texas, covering public safety, city politics and downtown development. She won a 2023 Sidney Hillman Foundation award for her work on "The Cost of Unity," a project revealing the gentrifying forces behind Greenville, South Carolina's success. Originally from Charlotte, she graduated from Appalachian State University in 2019. When she's not working, you can find her out on a run or cooking in her kitchen.
The Post and Courier is the oldest newspaper in the South, the largest in South Carolina, and one of the few independent, family-owned papers left in the United States. That ownership translates into a growing newspaper that is expanding statewide. The Post and Courier was the winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service and a four-time Pulitzer finalist. This is a writer’s newsroom. We value storytelling as a framework for context-filled, investigative reporting.
The People-Sentinel is a for-profit news organization that has served Barnwell County since 1852. We are now expanding into two neighboring rural South Carolina counties, Allendale and Bamberg counties. Our mission is to provide factual, unbiased and accurate reporting to keep our communities informed while holding public officials accountable. In addition to our weekly print newspaper, our website, videos, social media and podcasts keep our community informed.
James Pollard covers state government and inequality for The Associated Press in Columbia, South Carolina. Before joining the Report for America corps, he earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science at Northwestern University. There, he served as managing editor of The Daily Northwestern and worked as a research assistant in the political science department. Pollard has reported on Texas politics and policy as a fellow with The Texas Tribune, interned on the NBCUniversal digital team, and covered his hometown of St. Louis as an intern with the Riverfront Times. In his free time, Pollard enjoys playing guitar, cooking and hiking.
The Associated Press is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting. Founded in 1846, AP today remains the most trusted source of fast, accurate and unbiased news in all formats and the essential provider of the technology and services vital to the news business. More than half the world’s population sees AP journalism every day.
In 1970, real estate developer Tom Wamsley and former newspaperman Ralph Hilton enlisted help and money from a third Hilton Head Island resident to start a newspaper to cover happenings on Hilton Head, a small island off the S.C. coast. The first edition — a 20-page tabloid — rolled off the press July 9, 1970. The paper came out on Thursday afternoons to an island with only 3,000 residents. As the island grew into a renowned resort, the Packet grew with it — from a weekly tabloid into a daily broadsheet newspaper. McClatchy Newspapers purchased the Packet in 1990, and by 1995 it had become a seven-day-a-week newspaper.
Sam Ogozalek reports for The Island Packet in Hilton Head, South Carolina. He covers
economic development in Jasper County, South Carolina, which is seeing burgeoning
growth as new residents, many of them retirees from out of state, settle in this
historically African-American area. Ogozalek covered cops, courts and local
government during internships at the Tampa Bay Times, The Buffalo News, and the
Naples Daily News. An investigative reporter who is adroit at FOIA and other document
requests, Ogozalek uncovered conflicts of interest while as an intern in Naples on a
design review board in a nearby town that led to a proposed new ethics ordinance. He
recently assisted with FOIA research at the Transactional Records Access
Clearinghouse. He was the 2018-19 editor-in-chief of Syracuse University’s
independent student newspaper, The Daily Orange. Ogozalek grew up in Hancock,
New York, a small town along the Delaware River.
Mary Norkol reports for The Sun News, the newspaper based in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where she focuses on homelessness. This is an underreported topic in the resort area with unique aspects including family members who follow their retiree relatives to the region but don’t have enough money for housing. Norkol wrote features for “The FBI Files” and “Murals and Mosaics” projects while working as an intern at the Chicago Sun-Times and worked on the investigative team during an internship with CBS in Chicago. She was editor-in-chief of Loyola University Chicago’s independent student newspaper, which won first place in its general excellence category by the Illinois College Press Association. Norkol was recognized for her work on a podcast covering the Mercy Hospital shooting and multimedia reporting on sexual assault solve rates in Chicago. A true Midwesterner, Norkol grew up in Stillwater, Minnesota, and spends her vacations and holidays in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Michelle was a reporting intern for the Toledo Blade, and a general assignment intern for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. As a reporter for the Yale Daily News and a contributing reporter for the New Haven Independent, 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. Since joining Report for America, Liu has covered criminal justice for Mississippi Today. The Institute for Non-Profit News named Michelle’s reporting on the spike of prison deaths in Mississippi as one of the “Best in Nonprofit News” in 2018. Her continued reporting on this and other stories not only helped lead the MDOC to invite the FBI to get involved in the investigation of these deaths, but her dogged records requests were cited by the Department of Corrections while asking the Legislature to exempt agencies from parts of the Public Records Act. More recently, the Mississippi Humanities Council invited Michelle to moderate a panel titled, “Locked Up: Criminal Justice in Mississippi.”