Jessica Lilly

Host & Co-Producer of Inside Appalachia - Southern West Virginia Bureau Chief

Jessica Lilly covers southern West Virginia for West Virginia Public Broadcasting and is the host and co-producer of Inside Appalachia. The show airs Sunday at 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. and is also available as a podcast. Jessica can also be heard weekdays on West Virginia Morning, the station’s daily radio news program.

Jessica joined West Virginia Public Broadcasting in 2008 as the Southern West Virginia Bureau Chief. She’s committed to reporting stories of the people in her region and across Appalachia. She's passionate about following issues and developments in worker safety, community tap water, and more.

Inside Appalachia won a Regional Murrow in 2016 for the Inside Appalachia show called, "What Happens When Strangers with Cameras Travel Inside Appalachia?" Jessica was named "Best Radio News Anchor" two years in a row by the Virginias Associated Press beginning in 2016.

Concord University chose Jessica as, "Alumnus of the Year" in 2015. Jessica was instrumental in launching Concord University's first FM station, WVCU-LP FM in 2015.

Jessica was chosen by the West Virginia Associated Press in 2013 as the winner of the Significant Impact Award for her influence on broadcasting in the state. She was also the winner of the 2013 Associated Press Best Reporter, Best Enterprise Reporting and Best Feature Runner-Up among other awards throughout her career.

While studying broadcasting and journalism, public relations and business administration at Concord University, Jessica worked as the weekend producer and fill in reporter for WVNS-TV in Raleigh County, West Virginia. She went on to work as a full time reporter for WVNS-TV for about a year.  

Jessica graduated from Concord University in 2007, where she was named Concord University’s Reporter of the Year and Producer of the Year.

Born in Bluefield, W.Va., Jessica grew up in the coalfields of West Virginia and Wyoming County. She was always busy with activities such as cheerleading, or theatre.

When she’s not reporting, Jessica is the faculty advisor at Concord University's radio station, WVCU LP-FM "Mt. Lion Radio".

She recently took on the role of Concord University cheerleading coach.

In her spare time, she enjoys attending sporting events and theatre productions, singing, antiquing, skiing, riding ATV’s, and traveling with family.

Ways to Connect

Janet Kunicki/ WVPB

Since the War on Poverty in the 1960s, federal funds to help revitalize coal country have poured in from Washington, D.C. And in recent years, a new federal push has brought millions of dollars worth of funding to projects that are intended to create jobs and retrain people in coal country for work in other fields. There are also a number of state initiatives to help generate job growth. But have these projects worked? 


courtesy Emily Hilliard

Here in Appalachia, it’s apple season. Did you know that Golden Delicious Apples originated right here in West Virginia? In fact, apples are our state fruit. Apples have been a major agricultural industry for the Mountain State. 


AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis

Coal miners and their families in Appalachia take great pride in their work and the fellowship that surrounds coal mining. As Jeremy Brock, one former Kentucky coal miner, put it: "It's a culture. It's a brotherhood."

“Once you get used to it, I wouldn’t do nothing else," he told the documentary project, Humans of Central Appalachia, in 2016.

Jim Antonini, an occupational health science researcher, fields a ball at shortstop for Chico's Bail Bonds. As team captain, Antonini is in charge of the always-entertaining game write-ups that recap the misery suffered by the Morgantown softball team.
Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

As we head into the final weeks of summer, this week on Inside Appalachia we explore the impact of baseball throughout the region. We’ll learn about the history of early baseball in the coal camp towns of southern West Virginia, and go inside the legendary baseball bat factory — the Louisville Sluggers. And we’ll meet a man who went from living in an isolated timber town in Pocahontas County, West Virginia to being a professional umpire for the Cincinnati Reds.

Molly Born/ WVPB

This week on Inside Appalachia we're revisiting an episode from earlier this year, exploring issues in our region’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. We’ll hear from a teenager getting ready for an LGBT formal. We’ll learn how difficult it can be to access healthcare in eastern Kentucky for one gender nonconforming Appalachian.

Daniel Walker/ WVPB

This week on Inside Appalachia, we’re going on a road trip to meet people who are working in Appalachia to preserve American culture and traditions.

Molly Born/ WVPB

In parts of Appalachia, needle exchange programs have brought controversy, and they sometimes carry a stigma that such offerings enable, or even encourage, drug use. But supporters say the practice, especially when coupled with addiction treatment options for participants, can help get them on a path to recovery.

Emily Hilliard/ WV Folklife Program

This story is part of an episode of Inside Appalachia about Professional Wrestling in Appalachia. Click here to listen to the full episode. 

In Madison, West Virginia, All Star Wrestling draws hundreds of people to most matches. The crowd is no different than any West Virginia high school sporting event: Plenty of kids, small children to teenagers—and parents, grandparents, and others who you can tell by the skeptical  look on their faces, are not that into it. They brought their kid who loves wrestling and that’s the only reason why they are sitting in an audience surrounded by screaming fans with music blaring.


Shayla Klein

This week on Inside Appalachia, we explore the world of independent pro-wrestling.

While pro-wrestling is popular across the country and all around the world, the sport has a rich and storied history here in Appalachia. In this episode we’ll take a glimpse at the action, intensity, and drama (real-life and otherwise) that happens between the ropes.


Southern Foodways Alliance/ Gravy

Being a farmer isn’t easy. One woman in Georgia found that getting assistance as a black farmer can be especially tough.

Shirley Sherrod said she found discrimination in the federal government’s farm assistance programs, and she and other farmers fought back in the biggest class action lawsuit in U.S. history. Listen to the episode to hear the results of the lawsuit, and what it meant for farmers across the country.


Carrie Neumayer/ KyCIR

This week on Inside Appalachia, we’ll learn about the life of  Kentucky politician and pastor Danny Johnson, and the investigation that exposed a long line of questionable actions that preceded his rise to power. 


West Virginia University

Between 1999 and 2015, roughly 300,000 people in the United States died from opioid overdoses. And of the five states with the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in 2016, four were in Appalachia. 

In this week's episode of Inside Appalachia, we'll hear a special report from The Uncertain Hour, a podcast from American Public Media's Marketplace. Their investigation, which first aired in December, centered on a lesser-known but significant aspect of the opioid crisis: how Purdue Pharma marketed OxyContin, its highly addictive pain medication.

Brittany Patterson/ WVPB

Coal has dominated Appalachia’s energy economy for more than a century. But natural gas is emerging as a new economic force, bringing with it jobs, infrastructure needs and new environmental concerns.

In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll hear why some are worried about the risk of water contamination from major gas pipelines being built through parts of West Virginia, projects which also promise jobs in the region.


Charles Kleine

A comedian, an actor and dog move from West Virginia across the country chasing big dreams. What could possibly go wrong?

On this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we’re talking about two things you’re likely to find on a supper table in Appalachia: Jell-O and mason jars.

Courtesy

Theatre West Virginia in Raleigh County was founded as a way to preserve and share West Virginia’s unique culture. Some long running plays include "Honey in the Rock" and "Hatfields and McCoys." This year, the organization added "Paradise Park The Musical" to the list.

A group of teens walks on the campus of West Virginia State University to the Rainbow Formal, the state's first LGBTQ prom.
Molly Born / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this week’s show, we’re exploring issues in our region’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. We’ll hear from a teenager getting ready for an LGBT formal. We’ll learn how difficult it can be to access healthcare in eastern Kentucky for one gender nonconforming Appalachian. We’ll also take a look at efforts in West Virginia to provide legal protection to people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

courtesy Bil Lepp

This week, we’re listening back to a popular show we did back in 2016, featuring award winning storytellers— telling some whopping tale and lies.

We’ll be featuring storytellers from the West Virginia Storyteller’s Guild, all of whom have competed and won prizes across the country. 


Arbuckle Creek, Minden
Brittany Patterson

On this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll visit Minden, West Virginia, where residents are asking the federal government to consider adding their town to an official list of places most seriously contaminated by hazardous waste. But this nearly 40-year-old program’s budget has faced repeated cuts over the past 20 years. We’ll learn about how that may affect cleanup efforts for communities that are designated as U.S. Department of Environmental Protection Superfund sites.

Roxy Todd/ West Virginia Public Broadcasting

This week on Inside Appalachia we’re going to listen back to an episode we originally aired in 2017, about veterans who are turning to traditional farming, for therapy.

We’ll travel to Sugar Bottom Farm in Clay County West Virginia to meet Veteran Eric Grandon, the first veteran to go through the Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture program.


Timothy D. Easley / Associated Press file photo

Researchers across different disciplines at Duke University hope to find a sustainable energy system. Part of the initiative is to find out how using more sustainable energy sources like wind or solar will effect the people in traditionally coal dependent communities.

Adobe Stock

The 10 counties in the United States most at risk for an HIV outbreak are all in Central Appalachia, according to a 2016 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Compiled after a 2015 outbreak of the disease in southern Indiana, the report found that places with a combination of high poverty, low access to health care, and rampant intravenous drug were mostly likely to experience a similar outbreak of HIV and hepatitis C.

The Associated Press

If you've been paying attention, you know by now that Appalachia is in the middle of an opioid addiction crisis. You may have seen suffering with substance abuse disorders in your own neighborhood.

Last year on Inside Appalachia we aired an episode about Grandparents raising grandchildren. Our newsroom just won a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award for this series, so today, we’re listening back to this important story.  

courtesy Partnership for Appalachian Girls' Education

Our region has challenges, from the economic decline of the coal industry, to the opioid epidemic, there’s work to do in our communities. In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll hear from several people who are trying to reinvigorate our region with opportunities for change. We’ll also hear from some younger voices in Appalachian, North Carolina about growing up in the mountains.

 


Roxy Todd/ WVPB

Several federally funded job-training programs have emerged in recent years designed to help revitalize coal country. In 2017 alone, the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal-state partnership focused on economic development since the mid-1960s, approved more than $150 million in projects for the region. But how successful are these programs, and what are the challenges?

Courtesy

President Donald Trump appointed a new federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission or ARC. Tim Thomas spent the past three years serving on the state staff of Republican U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell from Kentucky. Thomas also has experience as the director of external and regulatory affairs for Swift & Staley, a Kentucky-based maintenance, operations and environmental services company. Its clients have included federal and state agencies, such as the U.S. Departments of Energy and Agriculture.

Roxy Todd/ West Virginia Public Broadcasting

It’s been a year since we started following six Appalachians as they grappled with whether to stay in their home state or leave for better opportunities. On this week’s episode, we’ll revisit those we profiled in our Struggle to Stay series– and reflect on what we learned as we helped them tell their stories.


ASSOCIATED PRESS

In this week's episode of Inside Appalachia, we visit communities impacted by creation of flood-control lakes. In one, the Village of Lilly, about 40 families were pushed off their land along the Bluestone River in Summers County, W.Va., in the 1940s. Many of these families had lived there for more than 200 years. 


Kara Lofton/ West Virginia Public Broadcast

This week on Inside Appalachia, we'll learn more about how our reliance on coal and other extractive industries have affected our region’s economy.

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