Podcast - Inside Appalachia

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.

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.

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.

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. 


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.)  


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.

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. 


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. 


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. 


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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. 


Jesse Wright, WVPB

People who write novels, short stories and newspaper articles each tell Appalachia’s story in their own way.

This is an encore airing of an Inside Appalachia show that deals with a few of the writers who tell Appalachia’s story. 

We’ll hear from journalist Ken Ward. He’s been writing for the Charleston Gazette-Mail in Charleston, West Virginia for 27 years covering environmental issues, coal mining and worker safety. He’s heard both praise and criticism for his coverage.

Caitlin Tan / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

This week on Inside Appalachia, we’ll hear from Appalachians who have a knack for making things with their hands -- people who make the essentials of life in the old ways. 

“And when I sit down at one of those looms and I start creating a piece of cloth, I feel connected to the place of my ancestors, the people who have come before,” said weaver Jane Gilchrist.


Pages