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.

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.

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.

The story airs June 20 at 8 p.m. on WVPB radio and streaming live at wvpublic.org. 

WVU Press

The book “Appalachia North” by Matthew Ferrence takes a look at what it means to be from Appalachia and not realize it. He grew up in a part of Pennsylvania that’s part of Appalachia according to the Appalachian Regional Commission, but no one there acknowledged that fact.

Matthew Ferrence describes “Appalachia North” as a geological, cultural and as a personal journey. It’s a memoir.

Kara Lofton/ West Virginia Public Broadcasting

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. 

In this episode more than a dozen women will share their stories about motherhood, breastfeeding, and society’s demands. 


Photos by StoryCorps, graphic by Jesse Wright/WVPB

StoryCorps producers brought their mobile recording studio to Charleston, West Virginia, in fall 2018, and recorded more than 100 stories. These recording are between friends, co-workers and family members. StoryCorps’ mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world. These recordings will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in the largest collection of oral histories in the world.

We edited and selected a few of those conversations for this episode of Inside Appalachia.

Emily Hilliard / West Virginia Folklife Program

Doris Fields, an R&B, soul, and blues musician and songwriter, also known as Lady D, is the daughter of a coal miner. Her dad moved to West Virginia from Alabama at 10 years old and spent 50 years in the mines. She currently lives in Beckley.

Fields explained that music has been in her blood since she was a young girl, growing up in Cabin Creek, West Virginia.

Caitlin Tan / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

In this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we explore how our cultural traditions change over time and evolve as they get passed from person to person.

 

How does foklife fit into our already busy, and frankly, quite stressful lives?

“Henry Glassie, another folklorist, says that folklore is the creation of the future out of the past. So in order to know where we're headed, we have to know about these traditions in the past,” explained West Virginia state folklorist Emily Hilliard.


Kara Lofton/ West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Across most of central Appalachia, the population is declining as young people leave to find work. Those who stay, are rapidly aging. In West Virginia, for instance, about 16 percent of the population is 65 or older, according to a Department of Health and Human Resources report. Seniors are expected to be about a quarter of the total population by 2030. 


Courtesy of Patricia Boyd

This week on Inside Appalachia, 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.

Courtesy / Marshall University

Dan D’Antoni never got far from his roots, even though basketball took him away from his home in Mullens, West Virginia for nearly 50 years. He continued to be a proud son of the Mountain State while teaching the world about the unique style of basketball that he says came from the courts he grew up on.

F. BRIAN FERGUSON / CHARLESTON GAZETTE-MAIL

For many families in parts of eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia, the absence of clean, reliable drinking water is part of daily life.

Blaine Taylor, a 17-year-old resident of Martin County, Kentucky, struggles to manage basic hygiene when his water comes out with sediment in it.

“I had to use a case of water last night just to get enough water in my bathtub just to get myself cleaned up for today at school,” he said. “It’s rough.”


Ben Hethcoat/Marketplace

Like a slow-motion tsunami, the opioid epidemic continues to claim the lives of our friends and neighbors. Four of the top five states with the highest rates of drug overdose deaths are here, in Appalachia.

The drug epidemic is changing, but it’s not going away. People are still fighting for their loved ones and communities. This episode of Inside Appalachia looks at traditional and innovative ways law enforcement is tackling the challenge. And we’ll hear from people who end up behind bars anyway, as they struggle with substance use disorder.


Jessica Lilly / WVPB

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.

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

Spring is here and that means baseball season. This week on Inside Appalachia we’re taking another look at 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.

Eric Douglas / WVPB

West Virginia is home to numerous beverage companies that brew beer, distill spirits and syrups and press cider. The state also boasts farmers who produce fruits and grains those bottlers could use.

The problem is the two groups are often disconnected.

The “Craft: Farm to Bottle Summit” in South Charleston earlier week this aimed to address that gap, bringing the two groups together and helping each understand the other’s needs. The Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI) in Huntington organized the summit. More than 100 people attended.

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. The book sold more than a million copies, and a Ron Howard film is now in the works.

In movies, the people and places of Appalachia are often made into an “other”. That makes it easy to both romanticize and look down upon the region. One example is the common joke many Appalachians are all too familiar with, when someone who isn’t from here pretends to play the banjo riff from “Deliverance”. In Meredith McCarroll’s book “UnWhite: Appalachia, Race and Film”, she examines the way the people of Appalachia are portrayed in films.

Adobe Stock

The opioid crisis is one of the biggest public health challenges in our region today. One strategy that’s been proved to help curb the epidemic’s worst effects is to implement harm reduction programs, which include a variety of services. One of the most controversial is a component called needle exchange. 


courtesy Mike Costello

In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’re taking another look at the sugar shacks of Appalachian maple producers, and we’ll learn how to use syrup in everything from glazed greens to buttermilk ice cream – and even roasted rabbit. 

Courtesy: Emily Calandrelli

West Virginia native Emily Calandrelli goes by the name “The Space Gal” online. She has a passion for space exploration and getting more young people, especially girls, into Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, also known as STEM. She recently spoke in Charleston as part of the Higher Education Policy Commission’s Chancellor’s STEM Speaker Series. It was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Caitlin Tan

This week on Inside Appalachia, we take 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.


Emily Hilliard / West Virginia Folklife Program

In this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll explore why communities with a culture of volunteerism, and strong support systems, are more resilient. This episode features several stories that all have one thing in common -- they’re about the impacts of community, and social interactions, have on our ability to thrive.

Anne Li / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

This week on Inside Appalachia, 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. 


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