The Virginia Mercury is an independent, nonprofit online news organization covering state government and policy. The Mercury launched in 2018 to bring a fresh perspective to coverage of the state’s biggest political and policy issues and fill the gaps in statehouse reporting created by a shrinking media industry.
The Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. We retain full editorial independence and are a proud member of the Virginia Press Association and the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association.
Our staff is composed of five veteran journalists and we also publish original and guest commentary on a range of topics, including politics, environment/climate, education, health, labor, criminal justice, and more. We also consider commentary pieces on other topics, such as arts and culture and media criticism, on a case-by-case basis.
We’re actively seeking opinion pieces from diverse voices. We want to publish perspectives from underrepresented communities, women, young people, and thinkers from all backgrounds with something valuable to say.
The Virginia Mercury generally features progressive commentary, though we are open to considering submissions on policy issues from a range of ideologies. We do not usually accept submissions, however, from declared candidates for public office or sitting elected officials.
While we welcome thoughtful analysis, criticism and opinions in the commentary we publish, we do not condone or publish hate speech, writing that includes stereotypes, or cruel humor that disparages individuals or organizations.
Successful commentary submissions will be between 700-800 words. On occasion, we may consider publishing longer commentary pieces. We only accept submissions of original work that haven’t been pitched or published elsewhere. Please include links and sourcing to expedite fact-checking and use AP style. We don’t require photos to be included in submissions, but please consider suggesting imagery that could visually represent your writing.
We reserve the right to edit all submissions for clarity and factual correctness prior to publication.
Contact Commentary Editor Samantha Willis with submissions: [email protected]
Sarah is Editor-in-Chief of the Mercury and previously its environment and energy reporter. She has worked for multiple Virginia and regional publications, including Chesapeake Bay Journal, The Progress-Index and The Caroline Progress. Her reporting has won awards from groups such as the Society of Environmental Journalists and Virginia Press Association, and she is an alumna of the Columbia Energy Journalism Initiative and Metcalf Institute Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists. She is a graduate of the College of William and Mary. Contact her at [email protected]
Commentary / Deputy Editor
Samantha Willis, a writer and journalist whose experience in digital, print and broadcast media spans 12 years, is Commentary and Deputy Editor at the Virginia Mercury. Her work has appeared in leading publications including Glamour, Essence, Scalawag and the Columbia Journalism Review, and within a wide range of Virginia-based media. Before joining the Mercury in November 2022, Samantha was Editorial Producer for VPM News Focal Point, a weekly statewide television news show she helped launch in February 2021. Before VPM, Willis was an independent journalist (2017-2021), arts editor at Richmond Magazine (2015-2017), and Digital Content Producer and Manager at ABC 8News (2012-2015), among other media roles. She is also the co-creator of The Unmasking Series, an anti-racism dialogue and workshop program which has convened four times throughout the state of Virginia: #UnmaskingRVA (Richmond, 2016-17), #UnmaskingCville (Charlottesville, 2018), #UnmaskingHR (South Hampton Roads, 2019), #UnmaskingPeninsula (The Virginia Peninsula/Hampton University, 2021). Samantha lives in Hanover County with her husband and three sons.
A veteran Virginia politics reporter, Graham grew up in Hillsville and Lynchburg, graduating from James Madison University and earning a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Before joining the Mercury in 2019, he spent six years at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, most of that time covering the governor's office, the General Assembly and state politics. He also covered city hall and politics at The Daily Progress in Charlottesville. Contact him at [email protected]
Nathaniel is an award-winning journalist who's been covering news across the country since 2007, including politics at The Loudoun Times-Mirror and The Northern Neck News in Virginia as well as sports for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio. He has also hosted podcasts, worked as a television analyst for Spectrum Sports, and appeared as a panelist for conferences and educational programs. A graduate of Bowie State University, Nathaniel grew up in Hawaii and the United Kingdom as a military brat. Five things he must have before leaving home: his cellphone, Black Panther water bottle, hand sanitizer, wedding ring and Philadelphia Eagles keychain.
Energy & Environment Reporter
Charles Paullin is a Richmond-based reporter with a background of working for the Northern Virginia Daily in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, and central Connecticut region across over the last five years. An Alexandria native, Charles graduated from the University of Hartford initially wanting to cover sports. He's received several Virginia Press Association awards the past two years covering crime, local government and state politics. Catch him during a morning run or in nature experiencing all the outdoors has to offer.
Longtime columnist and editorial writer Roger Chesley worked at the (Newport News) Daily Press and The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot from 1997 through 2018. He previously worked at newspapers in Cherry Hill, N.J., and Detroit. He's been writing for the Mercury since 2019.
Bob Lewis covered Virginia government and politics for 20 years for The Associated Press. Now retired from a public relations career at McGuireWoods, he is a columnist for the Virginia Mercury. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow on Mastodon: @[email protected]
Ivy Main is a lawyer and a longtime volunteer with the Sierra Club's Virginia chapter. A former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency employee, she is currently the Sierra Club's renewable energy chairperson. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of any organization.
Wyatt Gordon covers transportation, housing, and land use for the Mercury through a grant from the Piedmont Environmental Council and the Coalition for Smarter Growth. The Mercury retains full editorial control. Wyatt is a born-and-raised Richmonder with a master’s in urban planning from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and a bachelor’s in international political economy from the American University in Washington, D.C. Most recently he covered transportation as Greater Greater Washington’s Virginia correspondent. Previously he’s written for the Times of India, Nairobi News, Honolulu Civil Beat, Style Weekly and RVA Magazine. He also works as a policy manager for land use and transportation at the Virginia Conservation Network.
Mercury intern Meghan McIntyre recently graduated Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in digital journalism. She has had stories covering Virginia government and politics published in various outlets across the state through Capital News Service, a course in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture at VCU. She was also a previous news intern at VPM and briefly freelanced for The Farmville Herald and The Suffolk News-Herald. She can be reached at [email protected]