An independent narrative and immersion journalist, Maggie Messitt has spent twenty years reporting from inside underserved communities in southern Africa and Midwestern America. Typically focused on complex issues through the lens of every day life, her work is deeply invested in rural regions, issues of justice and equity, and environmental sustainability. 

A dual-citizen, Messitt lived in northeastern South Africa from 2003 to 2011. During this time, she was a long-form reporter, newspaper editor, and the founding Executive Director of a nonprofit media organization, including a journalism school for rural Shangaan, Northern Sotho, and Zulu women. Her projects and programs were funded by the International Academy of Film and Television, the Lonely Planet Foundation, and the South African Media Development and Diversity Agency.

Since returning to the United States, her reportage and essays have been published in Creative Nonfiction, LA Review of Books, Memoir Journal, Mother Jones, River Teeth, the Poetry Foundation's essay-of-the-week series, Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance magazine, and World Literature Today, among others. An excerpt of The Rainy Season was recognized by Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies, honored for the "best documentary writing for a long-term project," and her work for PBS Wisconsin and POV documentary films earned her a 2010 Multimedia Storytelling Fellowship at University of California--Berkeley's Knight Digital Media Center. 

Messitt has a BA from Boston College, MFA from Goucher College, and PhD in Creative Nonfiction from Ohio University. She has also served (by invitation) as the 2015 Scholar-in-Residence at Bowers Writers House (Elizabethtown College), 2015 Kenyon Review Peter Taylor Fellow, 2016 Clayton B. Ofstad Endowed Writer-in-Residence (Truman State University), the Creative Nonfiction Judge for the 2017 Oregon Literary Fellowships (Literary Arts), and the 2019-2021 Mellon Fellow in Narrative Journalism (Denison University).

Longlisted for the 2016 Sunday Times Alan Paton Award and an INDIES Book of the Year Finalist, The Rainy Season—a work of narrative nonfiction resulting from ten months of intense immersion and six years of reporting—is her first book. 

Messitt served as the founding National Director of Report for America, a national service program that places talented emerging journalists in local newsrooms across the country to report on issue-based and geographic coverage gaps. During this time, she grew the program from 3 journalists in Appalachia to 60 journalists in newsrooms across the country and established the foundation for an expansion to 225 journalists in 2020. In a short time, the program garnered national attention for its efforts to address news deserts and coverage gaps across the country. For this work, Messitt was included on a list of “the biggest brains and bank accounts in the fight for local journalism,” by Harvard University’s NiemanLab (April 2018).  

She is currently the Norman Eberly Professor of Practice in Journalism, Director of the News Lab, and affiliate faculty in the School of International Affairs at Penn State University.