Statewide Digital Publication Aims to Lift Up W.Va.
A new statewide, online publication went live today - Vandaleer.com. It pulls content from affiliated, localized online storytelling publications based around the state - the collective mission: share a new, positive narrative about and by West Virginians who want to celebrate what’s interesting and unique about the state.
Jason Koegler and a few of his friends moved back to West Virginia several years ago after leaving the state to pursue schooling and work elsewhere. Upon returning to be closer to family they decided they wanted to do something - specifically, to encourage others in their small hometown of Wheeling to do something to help revitalize the town. They created the website Weelunk.com to provide a platform for people to talk about what’s special about the town, what’s important to its people.
“When we started Weelunk, we didn’t have any thoughts or vision of going outside of Wheeling but what we realized is that Wheeling could only be as good as its state,” Koegler said.
In the almost two years since Weelunk was born, satellite websites have sprung up in Elkins, Huntington, Martinsburg, and soon the New River Gorge area, and Morgantown. Vandaleer (Vandalia + Mountaineer) is the umbrella site that pulls the best content as well as produces original content for statewide audiences, and far-flung West Virginians.
“It’s filling a void that the traditional media platforms kind of miss out on sometimes where it’s maybe not as worth their while to tell a story about a local group that’s making a difference,” Koegler said.
Published stories range from inspirational personal experiences to artistic expressions and constructive ideas about the future of the regions and towns in the state. Koegler says it’s a powerful tool for change. Koegler says political coverage on the website in Wheeling has helped usher in new, progressive leadership.
The site runs predominantly on volunteer labor.
“We have stories from 16-year-old John Marshall students to 86-year-old poets,”
Weelunk boasts of 250 volunteer contributors and millions of pageviews from all across the world. Koegler hopes to continue to grow the system and hear from more people throughout pockets of the state. He says at Vandaleer.com there’s a rolling, open call for stories, poetry, videos, or photos that celebrate the state.