Eric Douglas

Associate Producer, Inside Appalachia

Eric is a native of Kanawha County and graduated from Marshall University with a degree in Journalism. He has written for newspapers and magazines throughout his career. After completing the certificate program with the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, he began producing documentaries including Russia: Coming of Age, For Cheap Lobster and West Virginia Voices of War.

 

Working with FestivALL in Charleston, he has recorded more than 150 oral histories and produced a multimedia documentary of those stories called Memories of the Valley.

Eric has produced a series of "Appalachian Author Interviews" for West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Listen to the entire series.

He is also an avid scuba diver and a former dive instructor. He is an author, writing both nonfiction and fiction, including a series of thriller novels set in locations around the world. (Read a profile Eclectopia host Jim Lange wrote before Eric came to work at WVPB.) For a change of pace, he prints his underwater photographs using the antique technique called cyanotype, also known as sun prints.

Caitlin Tan / WVPB

Usually this time of year marks the start of festival season. So many little communities throughout the region celebrate springtime in their own way. But things are basically on pause right now as the country holds its collective breath. 

On this week’s episode of “Inside Appalachia,” we check in with our friends and neighbors across the region, many of whom are hunkering down at home, trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Courtesy Illustration

“The Bitter Southerner Podcast” is an offshoot of an online magazine called The Bitter Southerner.  The podcast, which just completed its second season, is devoted to the culture of the South and produced with the support of Georgia Public Broadcasting. 

Host and editor Chuck Reece doesn’t shy away from topics that can be awkward to discuss. Reece himself grew up in north Georgia, in the foothills of the Appalachians, and has an affinity for the region. He has dedicated shows to controversial topics like the federally-owned power utility the Tennessee Valley Authority and the book “Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy.”


Kara Lofton/ WVPB

 

On this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we are taking a much-needed break from the news. We’ll explore ways we can continue to stay connected with each other, even when we’re self-isolating for health reasons.

Eric Douglas / WVPB

W.I. “Bill” Hairston is a professional storyteller. He spins tales about a number of different topics  —  some made up and some real. 

During a recent talk at the West Virginia State University Economic Development Center on Charleston’s West Side he devoted his entire presentation to the topic “Growing Up Black in Appalachia.”

Hairston was originally born in Phenix City, Alabama in 1949. He describes the area of the town where he lived as being predominantly black. 

J. Tyler Franklin

What is the human impact of a failure to prioritize workplace safety? 

In this episode, which we originally aired in 2019, we’ll hear how weak regulatory laws, and a failure to prioritize worker safety, may be contributing to more deaths, and a higher risk of workplace accidents -- both at the state and national levels. 


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In February 1968, US Senator Robert Kennedy visited eastern Kentucky to investigate the successes and the failures of the “War on Poverty.” In the new book “All This Marvelous Potential: Robert Kennedy’s 1968 Tour of Appalachia” author Matthew Algeo examined the trip and digs into what Kennedy saw, what has changed since then and what remains the same. 

Algeo said he used small stories to try to tell bigger stories in American history. He focused on Kennedy’s tour to highlight bigger issues he discovered in his research. 

Courtesy Illustration / Weelunk.com

Stories told in serial fashion are stories with chapters released on a regular basis, often weekly. Publishers began releasing serial fiction in the 1800s. The format really took off in the 1920s with cheap publishing options and penny magazines. Authors like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who penned the “Sherlock Holmes” short stories and novels, published in serial form. 

John Hale/ WVPB

Most people rarely think about where food comes from. We go to the grocery store and have so much to choose from. But global experts say small and medium-sized farms are critical to future food systems. That’s what we’ve got here in Appalachia, but more and more farmers across our region are facing economic challenges.

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Diane Ravitch is an author and public education historian turned education activist. Recently, she was in Charleston speaking at the Red For Ed Celebration on the second anniversary of the West Virginia teacher’s strike. She spoke with Eric Douglas about the teacher’s movement and her book, “Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America’s Public Schools.” The book details the massive private funding in the educational reform movement that began in the George W. Bush era and the teacher’s movements that have spread across the country in its wake. 


Caitlin Tan/ WVPB

One could spend a lifetime learning about Appalachia, and just scratch the surface. 

On this week’s episode, we take a deeper look at traditional cultural practices found throughout these mountains.

We’ll hear stories spanning from fiddle music, to Appalachian style food. We’ll also hear how moonshine getaway cars turned into an Appalachian subculture of families who rebuild and race hot rods.


Illustration Courtesy Jesse Wright

This week’s episode of Inside Appalachia is all about love. Not the florist and jewelry store version of love, but love for something deeper: love for home, family, for the mountains. 

We also have a variety of personal love letters from listeners, and we'll talk a little bit about being in love, too.


Emily Hilliard / West Virginia Humanities Council

On this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll hear several stories about people who are working to help address problems within their own communities.

The Melungeon people of east Tennessee were isolated and discriminated against throughout much of their history. They began to be “othered” in the 1800s for being mixed-race Appalachians.

Melungeons are considered a tri-racial isolate, meaning they are a combination of traits from multiple ethnic backgrounds, thus, creating their own unique culture. Today we know the Melungeon are African, white European and Native American. 

Brittany Patterson / Ohio Valley ReSource

Stories about Appalachia tend to fall into two camps-- quaint stories about cultural oddities, or reports about grim health and economic statics that our region struggles with. And while those stories have merit, they aren’t the only stories that matter.

Eric Douglas / WVPB

“Montani Semper Liberi ⁠— Mountaineers Are Always Free” is West Virginia’s state motto, but it is more than that. It is a belief system that is not just true about the Mountain State. It rings true throughout Appalachia and even mountains on other continents.

Glynis Board / WVPB

Here in central Appalachia, we have plenty of high-tech skills, and many of us can connect to orbiting satellites, and therefore people and ideas on the other side of the globe, in milliseconds.

But there are also a lot of isolated pockets throughout Appalachia where a smart phone is rendered pretty dumb.

Reenactors in period costume at the recent Suffrage Centennial event at the West Virginia Culture Center
Janet Kunicki / WVPB

2020 marks 100 years since women in the United States earned the right to vote. The fight for the 19th Amendment followed more than 70 years of struggle that included everything from marches and protests to beatings, hunger strikes and force feeding.

Today, some advocates worry that history has been lost. To mark the ratification of the 19th Amendment, public and private organizations are teaming up to organize events to commemorate the centennial all year long and across the state. 

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislature

In this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we’re doing something a bit different. We’re taking a temperature check on how people are feeling about politics as we head into what is sure to be a critical election year. While most people have the presidential race on their minds, there are many local races here that will have lasting impacts as well.

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Sometimes creativity requires breaking away from the normal routine and focusing on one’s work. Now in its sixth year, the New River Gorge Creative Residency at Lafayette Flats in Fayetteville, W. Va. allows writers and visual artists a quiet place to stay and make art. 


Eric Douglas / WVPB

It may be winter, but work on the waterways around Appalachia never stops. In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we are listening back to an episode that originally aired over the summer about people who work on the rivers.

Our rivers are a vital part of our identity as Appalachians. We depend on them for survival, recreation and transportation. And we depend on rivers for economic reasons, too. 


Kara Lofton / WVPB

At Inside Appalachia, we can’t get enough of the holidays and the traditions that come out of these mountains. So for this week’s episode, we are taking another listen to a show that originally aired last December.


Zach Harold / For Inside Appalachia

In this episode of Inside Appalachia we’ll hear stories about holiday traditions that have been passed down through several generations. We’ll travel to a toy maker’s workshop where toys are handmade⁠ — similar to what your grandparents might remember from Christmases past. 

We’ll also explore the grief that sometimes comes with the holidays, as family members who created traditions are no longer with us, and look at Christmas tree farms in Appalachia trying to help preserve family traditions. 


Eric Douglas / WVPB

People have been decorating Christmas trees in their homes since the 16th century. It’s a tradition that began in Germany and spread throughout Europe and the rest of the world. 

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Katherine Manley grew up in abject poverty in Logan County, W. Va., but went on to teach in the same schools she attended. 

Mountain State Press recently published her memoir, “Don’t Tell ‘Em You’re Cold” about her upbringing and how she overcame those challenges. The book's title refers to a time when she was begging on the streets of Logan with her father. He was afraid the authorities would take her away if she told anyone she was cold.  

Caitlin Tan / WVPB

In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll take a trip across our region and meet people in Tennessee, to Kentucky, and Ohio. Each of the stories featured highlight an element of life here in Appalachia that is often overlooked. 


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West Virginia author Mesha Maren’s debut novel “Sugar Run” is set in a fictional version of Greenbrier County. Maren is from Alderson and currently splits her time between North Carolina and West Virginia. 

“Sugar Run” tells the story of a woman named Jodi McCarty. The story begins as she is being released from prison. She wants to head back to where she grew up in southern West Virginia, to live on land owned by her grandmother. But before she does that, she wants to make good on a promise she made before prison.

Eric Douglas / WVPB

For many people in Appalachia, the lakes, rivers and creeks are the first places we swam, played in the water or caught crawdads. For many adults, our waterways are some of the best places to get outdoors and cool off in the summer. We have whitewater rafting, swimming, boating and even scuba diving to choose from (yes, scuba diving, you read that right.)  

It may be December, but we wanted to take another listen to this episode to imagine the fun we will have this summer. And as a reminder that the rivers and waters of Appalachia are an important, vital resource all year long.


Ella Jennings

Our region has faced major economic changes and challenges in the past decade. But if you know our region’s history, this story of boom and bust, renewal and recession, is an all too familiar story. In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll explore how these economic changes affect people, our friends, our neighbors, and how entire communities can be uprooted by the closing of a local factory, or coal-mine layoffs. 


Courtesy Deb Morgan

This week on Inside Appalachia, we’ll meet several people who are making connections with each other, themselves, or a spiritual community. 

Eric Douglas / WVPB

Doctors point to overwhelming evidence that breast milk is superior to formula. But breastfeeding rates in the United States continue to be low. Reasons for that may be lack of paid maternity leave in the U.S., challenges breastfeeding at work, the role of WIC in subsidizing formula and the fact that for many women, breastfeeding, although natural, is a learned skill and there aren't enough people teaching techniques. 

We’re taking another listen to an episode this week that we aired earlier this year about this important topic. More than a dozen women share their stories about motherhood, breastfeeding, and society’s demands. 


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