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.

Pat Jarrett/Virginia Humanities

In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we hear how religious leaders are adapting to change and finding ways to continue helping people find solace and peace during the pandemic. 

We also hear a series of stories from high schoolers who were challenged to work outdoors, in snow and ice and didn’t complain. Quite the opposite. Their teachers say they appeared to be more engaged in learning. 

The students reported on topics like sheep farming and ice hockey, as part of a project that’s meant to help students build resilience through storytelling and outdoor education. 


Courtesy photo

Poison Flood, a new novel by Jordan Farmer, is set against the backdrop of an environmental disaster in southern West Virginia. It includes murder, theft and riots. The book is described as a crime and noir-style mystery by the publisher. 

Eric Douglas / WVPB

The Charleston City Council voted on Monday to donate a plaque honoring the Kanawha Riflemen, a company of Confederate soldiers, to a West Virginia history museum. The resolution didn’t specify which one but mentioned the Craik-Patton House Museum  in Charleston as a possibility.

WV State Archives

The recent killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minnesota has reignited the Black Lives Matter movement, sparking protests across this country, including in several cities in W.Va. It has launched candid conversations about long held institutionalized and systemic racism and brought forth stories of individuals that are vital to understanding injustice in our country.

For this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we are taking another listen to an episode we originally produced earlier this year. We focus on one chapter in the history of the Black community of Charleston, West Virginia.

Mason Adams / For Inside Appalachia

Culture can connect us to our kindred spirits across great distances, even during a global pandemic. It helps build bridges in other ways, too. In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we hear stories about cultural ties that bind us to people across the globe.

Courtesy photo

This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity. 

Stories of snake handlers, moonshining and the isolated mountains of West Virginia have been around for years, but “Shiner,” a new novel by author Amy Jo Burns, looks at them from the perspective of a 15-year-old girl caught in the middle. 

Eric Douglas spoke with Burns to discuss the newly released book. 

Douglas: The book is set in modern day, but there are pieces of it that feel like they could have been told 100 years ago. 

Photo by Kara Leigh Creative

In honor of Father’s Day, this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia is dedicated to dads. 

A man’s brain is rewired when he holds his newborn baby just after birth. Scientists have found that after holding his infant in his arms for 30 minutes, a dad’s brain gets flooded with dopamine and oxytocin, which is sometimes referred to as “the love hormone.” In just a few moments, his brain chemistry is changed forever. 

StoryCorps

Thomas Burger was a stay-at-home dad during the 1970s. Back then, only two percent of fathers stayed home with the kids. He said people often seemed confused when he told them he was a stay-at-home dad. 

Forty years later, the number of stay-at-home dads has climbed to four percent. A Pew Research Center survey from 2013 found that eight percent of people in the U.S. said children are better off if their father is home and doesn’t work. More than half think kids are better off if mom stays home.

In 2018, Burger sat down with his daughter, Renee Frymyer, inside the Storycorps recording bus in Charleston West Virginia and told her what it was like. 


Brian Blauser / Mountain Stage

Protests against police killing unarmed black Americans continue across the country, including here in Appalachia. Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent weeks protesting the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor among others. These protesters seek an end to police brutality and many point to our nation’s long history with systemic racism. 

In this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll listen to stories about the protests and hear the voices of Appalachians who have dealt with discrimination based on the color of their skin. 

Courtesy photo

This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity. 

Stories of snake handlers, moonshining and the isolated mountains of West Virginia have been around for years, but “Shiners,” a new novel by author Amy Jo Burns, looks at them from the perspective of a 15-year-old girl caught in the middle. 

Eric Douglas spoke with Burns to discuss the newly released book. 

Douglas: The book is set in modern day, but there are pieces of it that feel like they could have been told 100 years ago. 

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

People in our region have made spirits for hundreds of years. Some 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.

Courtesy photo

Stories of life in Appalachia are often told from a male perspective, but many young writers and authors are trying to change that. They want to make sure the story of Appalachia’s women are not forgotten. 

In Cassie Chambers’ memoir “Hill Women” she examines her life in eastern Kentucky through the eyes of three generations of women in her family. 

She spoke with Eric Douglas to discuss the book -- and her pursuits that ultimately led her back to eastern Kentucky. 

Rachel Greene / For Inside Appalachia

This week’s episode of Inside Appalachia is about perseverance through music, stories and art. We’ll introduce you to some  folks from the other side of the ocean who have deep connections to Appalachia, and discover reflections of our own cultural identity in their stories.

Eric Douglas / WVPB

Stan Bumgardner is a historian and the editor of Goldenseal Magazine, a folklife publication about West Virginia. He recently wrote an essay titled “What is Appalachia?” for the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Heather Niday / For Inside Appalachia

There is a deep connection among generations that holds steady for many families across central Appalachia. Perhaps it’s a combination of shared struggles and enduring repeated cycles of economic boom and bust. Maybe it’s our deep ties to the land that help bind so many of us to our past — after all, these mountains are among the oldest on the planet. While many Appalachians have fled the region in search of better opportunities, many of them we interview on Inside Appalachia tell us about the pull to return, even after many years. 


Courtesy photo

Author Bonnie Proudfoot began working on her new novel “Goshen Road” nearly 25 years ago, but she said she had to get older before she had the confidence to finish it. The story follows two sisters growing up in northern West Virginia, beginning as teens in 1967. 

She described the book as women-centered Appalachian fiction, although she was quick to point out that not every chapter was told from a woman’s point of view. 

Trey Key / WVPB

Many families have turned to video conferencing apps like Zoom and Skype to stay connected during the coronavirus pandemic. Those online conversations can also  serve a larger purpose  —  to capture family oral histories. 

Oral histories are, at their simplest, recordings of memories. They have been around since the earliest days of reel-to-reel tape recorders. Documentarians or researchers would head out into the field to record the memories of people who survived grand events in human history. In the process, they also recorded local music and tall tales. 

Jesse Wright / WVPB

With kids cooped up inside their homes and classroom instruction happening remotely, we thought it would be a great time to take another listen to an episode of Inside Appalachia that originally aired in 2019. We explore the power of getting children outside to learn, a topic that’s perhaps even  more important now than ever. 

Nicole Musgrave

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting all of our lives, whether you’re working from home, worried for your health or unexpectedly out of a job. PBS’s beloved Mr. Rogers often quoted his mother saying to “look for the helpers” during a crisis. We’ve been looking and have found that there’s no shortage of those in our region.

Courtesy Jessica Salfia

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Jessica Salfia began receiving emails from companies she had interacted with over the years. Most said the similar things, like how they “cared about their customers” and were “looking after their employees.” 

Instead of just deleting those emails, Salfia, who is a creative writing teacher from Martinsburg, W.Va., saw the makings of a poem.

Salfia said she encourages her students to keep a “writer’s notebook,” an informal writing journal to record things for writing about later. 

Amy Knicely

From religious services to a renewed love of gardening, quarantine gives and takes.

 

The global pandemic has taken things from all of us. Some more than others. Thousands have died, many of them alone, and separated from their families. At least 26 million Americans have lost their jobs. 

Most rituals and traditions have also been disrupted, especially those that normally include people gathered in large groups.

On June 25, 1980, Vicki Durian and Nancy Santomero were killed in Pocahontas County. They were on the way to the Rainbow Family Gathering, an annual  meeting of hippies and other like-minded people that celebrate peace, harmony and freedom held at different national forests across the country. 

WV State Archives

In the mid-20th century, Charleston, West Virginia, was a major stop for black musicians traveling to Baltimore and D.C. on what was known as the “Chitlin' Circuit.” Improv jazz masters like James Brown, Cab Calloway and others are said to have stopped in Charleston’s historic Triangle neighborhood to play informal gigs late into the night, or have a drink of moonshine in some of the illegal bars and brothels that operated in the neighborhood. 


Courtesy: West Virginia State Archives

Why was the Triangle neighborhood, once steeped in the richness of black music and culture, demolished in 1974 in Charleston, W.Va.? Why were some residents unaware that their neighborhood was being torn down until the bulldozers showed up? And why do some members of Charleston’s African American community today believe that this history could repeat itself in the city’s West Side neighborhood 50 years later, unless this history is reckoned with and remembered?

Courtesy image

Former Charleston Gazette-Mail reporter Eric Eyre won a Pulitzer Prize in 2017 for his investigation into how drug distributors pumped powerful opioids into some of West Virginia’s most rural counties. In his new book, Eyre takes readers on a journey through the reporting it took to uncover the story, beginning with a single death in one family and detailing how those distributors ignored how addictive the drugs could be.

Courtesy photos

Can laughter be beneficial for our health? Research suggests that laughing can be therapeutic not only for our emotional well-being, but it can help heal us in a physical sense, too.

Howard Berkes / NPR

Ten years ago, on April 5, 2010, 29 men who worked at an underground coal mine in Raleigh County, West Virginia, lost their lives. The Upper Big Branch Mining Memorial Group, Inc. has placed wreaths at the monument in Raleigh County on April 5 every year since. But this year, they aren’t encouraging family members to visit, due to the spread of COVID-19.

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.

Pages