New Storytellers Join Inside Appalachia Folkways Reporting Corps
Four new journalists, folklorists and a chief editor have joined the Inside Appalachia Folkways Reporting Corps to bring the West Virginia Public Broadcasting audience even more fascinating stories that explore the region’s rich cultural heritage.
This is the third year of the special Inside Appalachia project, which is designed to shine a light on the arts and culture of a six-state region of Appalachia, including Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, West Virginia and Ohio. Thirteen specialized storytellers are focused exclusively on Appalachian art, crafts, music, dance and foodways. Their Folkways stories will air as a part of Inside Appalachia's weekly radio show on WVPB Sundays at 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. It is also available as a podcast on wvpublic.org and can be heard on a number of partner stations.
Joining the Inside Appalachia Folkways Reporting Corps from across central Appalachia are Laura Harbert Allen of Charleston, West Virginia; Heather Duncan of Knoxville, Tennessee; Lauren Griffin of Morgantown, West Virginia; and David Wooldridge of Lowesville, Virginia.
Returning to the corps from last year are Connie Bailey-Kitts of Bluefield, Virginia; Clara Haizlett of Bethany, West Virginia; Trevor McKenzie of Boone, North Carolina; Rachel Greene Moore of Boston, Massachusetts; Katie Myers of East Kentucky and East Tennessee; Heather Niday of Green Bank, West Virginia; and Rebecca Williams of Swannanoa, North Carolina. Zack Harold of Ashford, West Virginia, and Nicole Musgrave of Whitesburg, Kentucky, are returning as part-time Folkways staff reporters for the project.
Inside Appalachia producer Roxy Todd said she is looking forward to seeing so many talented reporters eager to return this year to deepen their folkways reporting skills. "After nearly three years, folks are getting into the groove of what this project is, and there’s a real hunger among team members to focus on sharing stories that break stereotypes about Appalachia. I expect to hear unique stories that really go beneath the surface."
New corps members include:
Laura Harbert Allen of Charleston, West Virginia. She is an experienced audio storyteller who has contributed to and produced work for podcasts such as Making Contact, Us & Them, Freakonomics Radio and Inside Appalachia. She also has public media leadership experience as a program director and general manager at WEKU-FM near Lexington, Kentucky. She hopes to finish her Ph.D. in media studies at the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University this year. She teaches podcasting and audio storytelling at OU and says she loves teaching and learning from the next generation of audio storytellers.
Heather Duncan of Knoxville, Tennessee. She is an award-winning reporter, book editor and oral storyteller who hails originally from the mountains of North Carolina. She has 20 years’ experience reporting and writing local and regional news for daily newspapers, alternative weeklies, radio and online outlets. She spent years focused on covering the environment and sense of place and contributed to the Pulitzer-Prize winning coverage of Hurricane Katrina for The Biloxi Herald. She lets off steam by playing the clarinet and telling historical stories and folktales at local schools.
Lauren Griffin of Morgantown, West Virginia. She grew up in Wheeling and graduated from West Virginia University in 2019. She splits her time fundraising for Preston County Parks and Recreation and serves as an AmeriCorps member with the West Virginia Association of Museums. She enjoys traveling, cross-stitching and exploring the heritage and landscape that makes up her home.
David Wooldridge of Lowesville, Virginia. He began working at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park in 1995 where he now serves as the park’s Museum Technician. At the National Park, he works a stone’s throw away from the Mariah Wright house, the ancestral home of his third great-grandmother, restored and preserved by the National Park Service. Wooldridge, a former middle and high school social studies teacher and administrator, received his bachelor’s degree in history and education from Radford University and his master’s degree from the Curry School at the University of Virginia. He has played and studied the early banjo for over 25 years. He is passionate about telling untold stories.
Returning corps members include:
Connie Bailey-Kitts of Bluefield, Virginia. She grew up with a story-telling veterinarian father who shaped her path in journalism. She graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in journalism and worked there as a science writer before returning home for a life-altering period as a caregiver. Coming home also meant rediscovering a new appreciation for Appalachia. She’s written about its people, places and problems while reporting for a weekly newspaper, has recently fallen in love with radio and continues to freelance writing and editing. She enjoys raising dairy goats, making movies about them, and foraging for greens. As an Airbnb host, she's been fortunate to hear stories from all over the world.
Clara Haizlett of Bethany, West Virginia. She is a multimedia storyteller inspired by folklife, cross-cultural dialogue and the natural world. She stumbled upon the world of storytelling somewhat accidentally. During her final year at West Virginia University, she started a podcast as a fun "side project." But from the very beginning, it was clear that podcasting would not be a "side project." She was hooked, entirely spellbound by the art of storytelling. Since then, she's shifted her career to journalism, producing work for outlets like PBS, Smithsonian Folklife, and Virginia Public Media.
Trevor McKenzie of Boone, North Carolina. He works with manuscripts, field recordings, and other materials detailing Appalachian history and life in the W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection at Appalachian State University. On nights and weekends, he performs traditional music at square dances and concerts both as a solo artist and with string bands.
Rachel Greene Moore of Boston, Massachusetts. A native of Western North Carolina, she is a freelance journalist who has covered environmental issues and folkways throughout Appalachia and the South. In her spare time, Rachel enjoys collecting oral histories, baking and hiking.
Katie Myers of East Kentucky/East Tennessee. She is a writer, environmental educator and amateur water scientist who splits her time living in both East Kentucky and East Tennessee. In addition to her reporting for the Inside Appalachia Folkways Corps, she’s a reporter with the Ohio Valley ReSource and WMMT Mountain Community Radio out of Whitesburg, Kentucky. She's covered southern politics, social movements and environmental justice issues with Scalawag, Science for the People, Current Affairs, Commune Magazine and others. She is a recipient of the Kristi Havens Fellowship through Sundress Academy for the Arts.
Heather Niday of Green Bank, West Virginia. She began as a volunteer deejay for Allegheny Mountain Radio in 1998 alongside her husband Chuck, who is the chief engineer for AMR. She joined the AMR staff in 2007 as news director and became the program director in 2013, later adding traffic manager to her many roles. She grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area. She moved to Green Bank when her husband began working at the Green Bank Observatory. She is a long-time musician (flute and vocal), choir director for Arbovale UMC and Steering Committee member of the Mountain Music Trail. She co-hosts Something Different, a weekly jazz show on AMR.
Rebecca Williams of Swannanoa, North Carolina. She is a writer, director, educator and digital media storyteller who has facilitated community-based arts and cultural development projects for the past 25 years in Virginia, Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma and North Carolina. Along with her husband, Jerald Pope, she co-founded Serpent Child Productions, a nonprofit dedicated to the collaborative creation of multidisciplinary art that draws on the history and stories of community participants. She is a graduate of Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies.
Returning part-time Folkways Corps members include:
Zack Harold of Ashford, West Virginia. He is a southern West Virginia native, the grandson of two coal miners, the son of a Pentecostal preacher, a former staff writer with The Charleston Daily Mail and former managing editor of WV Living and Wonderful West Virginia magazines. He currently works with the WVU Extension Service Family Nutrition Program. He enjoys playing music with his band, The Sycomores.
Nicole Musgrave of Whitesburg, Kentucky. She is an independent folklorist and media producer. Recently, she’s worked with Appalshop and Partners for Education at Berea College to document eastern Kentuckians’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has an M.A. in Folk Studies from Western Kentucky University.
Meet our new chief folkways editor:
Chris Julin, an award-winning reporter, editor and producer, joined the team earlier this year as its chief folkways editor. He is a seasoned production professional who has made audio stories "since the days of typewriters and cassette tapes." He’s been a reporter, producer and editor at Minnesota Public Radio, among other public radio stations. In recent years, he's helped launch and worked behind the scenes of many podcasts, including WVPB’s Us & Them. He also edits and produces radio documentaries and feature stories, and he teaches journalism at the college level. The projects he’s been affiliated with have won a variety of awards, including the Edward R. Murrow Award and the Peabody Award.