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 100 oral histories and produced a multimedia documentary of those stories called Memories of the Valley.

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.

Kara Lofton/ West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Today, many seniors in rural communities don’t have the support they need to live independently, safely. Who’s going to care for our elders in the years to come? In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll explore the resources available to caregivers and their loved ones. We’ll also hear what some people are doing to help seniors feel less alone and isolated.

As seen from the New Jersey Turnpike near Kearny, N.J., smoke billows from the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York after airplanes crashed into both towers Tuesday, Sept.11, 2001.
Gene Boyars / AP file photo

It’s hard to believe the terror attacks on Sept. 11 were 18 years ago.

In some ways, it feels like it just happened. In other ways, it seems like forever ago.

I still vividly remember where I was and what I was doing that morning. I’m sure you do, too.

It was an awful event in our nation’s history, and we should never forget what happened, what it meant and what we lost on that terrible day.

We were attacked by evil men who perverted a religion as an excuse to do unspeakable and unfathomable acts of hate.

Images of the covers of the books fantasy author Craig Halloran has written.
Courtesy image

Swords, sorcery, other worlds and plenty of action are staples of the fantasy book genre. Craig Halloran, from Charleston, West Virginia, has written 70 books in 10 years, taking his readers to far-off lands. 


A man on the train tracks. Near the scene of the miners' protest in Harlan Co., KY.
CURREN SHELDON

This week on Inside Appalachia, we’ll look at how our history is intertwined with our future. We’ll hear from coal miners and children about how they are reshaping Appalachia, while remembering the past. Also in this episode, we’ll hear from a woman who found recovery, and a job, after struggling with drug addiction for more than two decades.

And we’ll hear from some of the miners in Harlan County, Kentucky who are protesting their employer, coal operator Blackjewel LLC. We’ll talk about what the protest says about the state of organized labor in the mines.

Courtesy photo

Alexander Rosenstein is an orthopedic surgeon and a university professor who lives in Charleston, West Virginia and in Hawaii. But as much as he loves the surgical theater, he also loves spy thrillers — he grew up loving Ian Fleming’s books about James Bond. 

Now he’s telling his own spy thriller stories with his debut novel “Sword of the Kremlin.” It’s set during the Cold War, but with a twist: His main character is in the KGB.


Eric Douglas / WVPB

Eric Gardner has a different perspective than most about the rivers in central Appalachia. That’s because he spends most of his time in them. 

Gardner is a commercial diver. He works in the Kanawha and Ohio rivers, maintaining tow boats, barges, pipelines and spillways. 

“I started out with some older gentleman that ran the company. [They]  took a liking to me and taught me a lot of the trades that I still use to this day,” he said. 

Captain Marvin Wooten pushes five loads of coal along the Kanawha River. He has worked for Amherst Madison since 1979.
Eric Douglas/ WVPB

In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’re looking at how water shapes us ⁠— and how we’re impacting our waterways. Our rivers are a vital part of our identity as Appalachians. We depend them for survival, recreation and transportation. And we depend on rivers for economic reasons, too. 

 

The handful of riverboat companies that still operate in Appalachia have primarily made the majority of their money towing coal barges. But a downturn in coal production meant many of these companies had to look to other ways to stay afloat.

Courtesy Christy Smith

Christy Smith’s debut novel “Killed It” is a thriller with a twist. Smith explained that the book is both a thriller and a dark comedy. It’s set in New York City and the protagonist is a young, failed female comedian who is working as a paralegal.


Jessica Lilly / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Across Appalachia, thousands of coal miners have suffered from black lung disease. In the 1960s, miners organized a movement to end the chronic condition. They convinced Congress to pass new laws that were supposed to make black lung a thing of the past. Today, conditions underground have changed, and the disease has come roaring back. For this episode of Inside Appalachia, we are taking another listen to this show which aired in the spring. 

Brian Peshek/ The Allegheny Front

The economy of central Appalachia has long revolved around extractive industries: timber, coal, oil and natural gas. The jobs associated with these industries are often good paying jobs. They also can bring environmental and health issues to the region. 

In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll explore how an increase in natural gas development has brought challenges and concerns, both for our health and our natural environment. But for some, the jobs and economic benefits that come with this increased activity are welcome, especially as so many jobs have left our region in recent years. 


Courtesy: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

The recent rise of oil and gas drilling across West Virginia has raised questions about industry regulation and taxation. Many bear a striking resemblance to similar questions raised about the coal industry in years past. 

Ken Ward Jr. is a reporter for the Charleston Gazette-Mail. He’s been writing about the coal industry his entire career. He sees a number of similarities between the coal and natural gas industries and how those industries are regulated. 

Historical Photos Courtesy of the Nitro Convention and Visitors Bureau.

There’s a town in Kanawha County, West Virginia where some locals say living there is a "blast."

As part of our occasional series, "What’s in a Name," we take a look at the history and folklore of the names of Appalachian places. The town in question, Nitro, West Virginia, grew out of the explosives industry and was home to a factory that helped supply the U.S. Army with gun powder during World War I. Ken Thompson volunteers at the World War I museum in the city of Nitro.

Eric Douglas / WVPB

Pinch, West Virginia is home to about 3,500 people and the longest running community reunion in the country. Since 1902, the reunion has brought current residents together as well as many who moved away.


John Hale / WVPB

School is, or soon will be, back in session, so we wanted to take another listen to an episode we originally aired in May, about the devastating effects a school closure can have on a community.

Basketball was a big deal for the small town of Northfork, in McDowell County, West Virginia. The high school team won the state championship eight years in a row.

“Little old ladies who wouldn’t know a football from a basketball became big fans because it brought positive notoriety and attention to the community,” Northfork alumni Gary Dove recalled.

Courtesy: University of Illinois Press

When Cicero Fain began working on his Ph.D., he took a deep look at the black community in Huntington, West Virginia. He wanted to understand where it began and what helped i to thrive. That research ultimately became his new book “Black Huntington: An Appalachian Story.”

One major factor that boosted growth in Huntington was the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad. When Collis P. Huntington decided to build a depot in Huntington, he needed workers. 

Eric Douglas / WVPB

The mayor of West Virginia's capital city wants to try out new ways to deal with vacant and abandoned properties that have drawn the ire of residents. 

Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin on Monday announced the introduction of two bills will help clean up abandoned buildings in the city. She says residents complain to her office every day about the vacant properties.

Benny Becker/ WMMT

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. 


Caitlin Tan / 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.)  


Eric Douglas / WVPB

There was a time that life along the river revolved around riverboats. In the 19th century, the only way to get supplies or mail was the river. To keep the history of the river alive, a community of enthusiasts in West Virginia and Ohio maintain riverboats for their personal use. 

The original riverboats were called “sternwheelers.” The stern is the back of the boat, so these riverboats had a paddlewheel that provided thrust to propel the boat up and down the river. 

Eric Douglas / WVPB

At any given time on weekends during the summer months, there are likely dozens of divers exploring the world beneath the waves at Summersville Lake in Nicholas County, West Virginia. Just watch for their bubbles on the surface.

It may come as a surprise that a lake known for fishing, camping and boating, is also a favorite destination for divers. They come to the lake to take classes, practice their diving skills and just have fun in the water. 

Caitlin Tan/ WVPB

On this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’re taking another listen to a show we aired in March. It’s an off-the-beaten-path tour of some of the region’s alternative cultures and economies. We’ll visit a factory where workers are reviving the art of glassmaking. We’ll hear how farmers and chefs are returning to some of our old-fashioned recipes for inspiration and attempting to reshape our region’s economy in the process.

And we’ll go back to the 1970s to hear what it was like to be part of the LGBT community in Roanoke, Virginia.

Courtesy Photo: Sheila Redling

Best-selling author Sheila Redling, from Huntington, West Virginia, has written nine books under the pen name SG Redling. After losing her will to write, she is back on track and more books are on the way. In this interview she talks about the importance of protecting your ability to write and gives advice to writers.

Redling explained that after a fast start, writing several books, she burned out. 

Michelle Hanks

What is the human impact of a failure to prioritize workplace safety? In this episode, we’ll explore 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. 


Living in the mountains of Appalachia, the nature that surrounds us often becomes a mere backdrop. We expect it to be there, so we forget about it. 

In the new book Mountains Piled Upon Mountains: Appalachian Nature Writing in the Anthropocene, nearly 50 writers focused on the natural world of Appalachia using place-based fiction, literary nonfiction, and poetry. 


Dolly Sods, spruce trees, landscape of valley below
Chad Matlick / 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. 

On this episode of Inside Appalachia, we'll take a look at how the natural environment has influenced our lives. 


Courtesy Photo: Michael Connick

After a career working in the international intelligence community, realistic cold war spy novels have been Huntington author Michael Connick’s forte. His latest book, a crime novel titled “HPD” is still realistic, but it focuses on the Huntington Police Department in present day. 

HPD follows the 12 year career of a Huntington police officer from when he first joined the force in 2006 through 2018. The main character, a patrolman, follows up on a murder investigation in his own time, in spite of what it costs him personally. 

Jesse Wright / WVPB

“Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis”, a personal memoir by JD Vance, was on the New York Times Bestseller list for 24 weeks. After the 2016 presidential election, some people read the book hoping to gain insights into the region. It sold more than a million copies, and a Ron Howard film is now in the works.

West Virginia University Press recently published a new book called “Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy.” The book includes essays, poetry and photos from 40 activists, artists and poets.

Anne Li / WVPB

This week on Inside Appalachia, we’re taking another listen to an episode we aired last winter. With the political season heating up, we probably all need another reminder.

We’re wading into the American political divide and bringing you voices with distinct points of view from opposite sides of the country. It’s no secret that these days, we live in the divided states of America. Sometimes, it can feel like the only thing that unites us anymore is that now-nearly universal experience of sitting awkwardly around the Thanksgiving table with family members who have different political beliefs, trying to find a way to avoid politics altogether. 


Sam Fonda pours a beer at Weathered Ground Brewery in Cool Ridge, West Virginia.
Janet Kunicki / WVPB

Craft breweries are popping up all over the region. In West Virginia alone, there are 27 breweries and three quarters of them opened in the last five years.

Sam Fonda, from Weathered Ground Brewery in Raleigh County, West Virginia, has almost 3,000 gallons of soon-to-be-beer fermenting and another 1,000 gallons aging in oak barrels nearby at any given time. That may sound like a lot, but his typical batch is 220 gallons, and that gives him the chance to experiment.


Caitlin Tan / WVPB

People in Appalachia have made spirits for hundreds of years. Some people even say Appalachians are among the best at making whiskey and moonshine. But this history is sometimes coupled with negative stereotypes. Outsiders have long portrayed Appalachians as dangerous, lawless moonshiners.

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