Jessica Lilly

Southern West Virginia Bureau Chief

Jessica Lilly covers southern West Virginia for West Virginia Public Radio and can be heard weekdays on West Virginia Morning, the station’s daily radio news program, and during afternoon newscasts.

Jessica joined WV PBS in 2008 as the Southern West Virginia Bureau Chief. She’s committed to reporting stories from the people in her region and across the state and is passionate about following issues and developments in mine and worker safety.

Jessica was chosen by the West Virginia Associated Press in 2013 as the winner of the Significant Impact Award for her influence on broadcasting in the state. She was also the winner of the 2013 Associated Press Best Reporter, Best Enterprise Reporting and Best Feature Runner-Up.

In 2011 Jessica was recognized by the Associated Press as Runner-Up for Best Reporter and in 2012 was recognized for Best Breaking News Coverage.

While studying broadcasting, public relations and business administration at Concord University, Jessica worked as the weekend producer and fill in reporter for WVNS-TV in Raleigh County. She went on to work as a full time reporter for WVNS-TV for about a year.  

Jessica graduated from Concord University in 2007, where she was named Concord University’s Reporter of the Year and Producer of the Year.

Born in Bluefield, WV Jessica grew up in the coalfields of West Virginia and Wyoming County. She was always busy with activities such as cheerleading, or theatre.

When she’s not reporting, Jessica advises Concord University's online radio webstream and teaches communications classes at the school. She enjoys attending sporting events and theatre productions, singing, antiquing, skiing, riding ATV’s, and traveling with family.


New Federal Rule
5:06 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

MSHA Announces Plans for New Rule

Federal mine regulators are proposing a change in the criteria for civil penalties for health and safety violations. The Mine Safety and Health Administration Tuesday announced plans to publish a proposed new rule.



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Rallies planned
9:39 pm
Mon July 28, 2014

Groups Prep for EPA Clean Power Plan Hearing


Given the political climate around the EPA’s proposal, it seems unlikely that state lawmakers would have a policy without coal. Still, the United Mine Workers of America says workers and their families should be concerned about this new regulation. Groups from West Virginia and across Appalachia are gearing up to show support and protest of the EPA’s proposed rule.

Groups like the United Mine Workers of America and Coal River Mt. Watch are traveling to Pittsburgh later this week.

As it stands, the EPA rule would let states come up with their own energy policy on how to decrease carbon dioxide emissions. Given the political climate, some environmentalists worry it will be business as usual for the coal industry leaving little room for renewable energy. After all, lawmakers in states like West Virginia and Kentucky aggressively and consistently favor coal in speech and policy.

Listen to hear more from Phil Smith with UMWA and Vernon Haltom with Coal River Mountain Watch.

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Celebration in Hinton
3:24 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

W.Va. State Water Festival Celebrates 50 Years

Sandstone Falls is located on the north-flowing new river, 8.5 miles north of Hinton, West Virginia on State Route 26.
Credit New River Gateway

This year marks the 50th anniversary for the West Virginia State Water Festival. The festival kicks off this weekend.


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Campbell Flannagan Murrell House Museum
12:57 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

Group Works to Restore Oldest House in Hinton

The Campbell Flannagan Murrell House Museum at 422 Summers Street in Hinton, is believed to be the oldest house in town. The house is perched about a block away from the New River, providing a clear view of the water. 

Listen to hear ragtime style music played on an old piano in the house and more.

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Black Lung
5:16 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Miners Can Wait Years for Black Lung Benefits, Congress Listens

Credit Jessica Lilly

 A retired coal miner who suffers from black lung disease has urged Congress to help clear a backlog of claims of fellow miners who have the disease. Princeton native Robert Bailey testified at the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace hosted a hearing Tuesday. The hearing focused on the struggles miners face while seeking black lung benefits. Lawmakers say the testimony on Capitol Hill was meant to do three things:


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Inside Appalachia
9:01 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

Mountaintop Removal Concerns, "Food Tourism," Nostalgic Rebirth and more

A young yoga skeptic finds interest in the exercises.

Kentucky farmers are testing the nutritional value of hay.

And a music camp carries on the tradition of ole time Appalachian music.

Residents concerned about environmental impact. After approval for a mountain top removal site near Kanawha State Forest, the safety of people living in the area are not the only red flag being raised. As Ashton Marra of West Virginia Public Radio reports, the possible effects on plant and animal life are drawing criticism.

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Arts & Culture
4:45 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Iconic Company Restores Ghost Murals in Appalachia

The advertisement was considered a "ghost mural" because it was faded and chipping.
Credit Jack Fralin / CCBCC

Long before website banners, T.V. or radio commercials, and electronic billboards there were murals. Coca-Cola Consolidated is working to restore its faded advertisements, or ghost signs, across Appalachia. Ghost signs are the murals painted on buildings at the turn of the century that are now faded disappearing.  One of the largest murals, so far was unveiled last week in Hinton in  Summers County. Along with the strong sentimental value to the rural residents, the signs still have a strong marketing value for the global company.

                                               Advertisement in Hinton, W.Va. before ...

                                    Advertisement in Hinton, W.Va. during restoration ...

                                          Advertisement in Hinton, W.Va. after restoration ...

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Reconnecting McDowell
2:10 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Attorney, Teacher & Student Say Reconnecting McDowell is Working

Emily Hicks also spoke during a press conference in West Virginia earlier this year.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A West Virginia corporate attorney, a McDowell County teacher and a high school student traveled across the country to share the good they see coming from the Reconnecting McDowell project.

The three traveled to Los Angeles to speak at the American Federation of Teachers convention about the program they say has changed lives and given the community a new sense of optimism.

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Renaissance Theater
6:55 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

Small Pieces of Personal History Uncovered During Mercer Co. Theatre Renovation

A non-profit organization is working to improve the community by renovating a theater. It’s part of the Princeton Renaissance in Mercer County. Gutting a theater built more than 100 years ago, uncovers interesting pieces of history 

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Our Children Our Future Campaign
4:55 pm
Mon July 7, 2014

Groups Offer Workshops on Shaping State Policy


A group working to change policy in West Virginia to improve communities and end child poverty in the state is hoping to get input on how to do it, from residents. Organizers at the Our Children Our Future campaign are hosting four workshops this month.

The Our Children Our Future Campaign is conducting day long trainings in four separate towns across West Virginia. The group touches on issues like policy advocacy, healthy lifestyles, voter education, and more.


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Honor to Serve
6:44 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Princeton Native to Serve in the Army's Oldest Active Duty Regiment

Private Nathan Thomas Cooper

When 19-year-old Nathan Thomas Cooper first took the infantry man’s creed, it wasn’t clear where the United States Army would take him.

Friday marks the 239th anniversary of America’s Independence. A few years later, in 1789, Congress officially created the Department that helps protect and keep the American freedoms…the United State Military.

But the oldest active duty regiment can be traced back to 1784 … The Old Guard. A soldier from Princeton was recently chosen to help carry on the traditions of the troop.

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Pittsburgh Rally Planned
5:15 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

UMWA Plans Rally to Protest Proposed EPA Regs

Credit Bernard Pollack/(aflcio)

The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) is planning to make its objections to proposed EPA rules loud and clear. The union has a rally scheduled at the end of the month in Pittsburgh.


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11:30 am
Tue July 1, 2014

NPS Hosts Guided Hikes in Southern W.Va. for Holiday Weekend

Hikers and a park ranger enjoy a walk along the Bluestone River.
Credit National Park Service

The National Park Service is offering Ranger-Guided hikes in Summers and Fayette Counties this holiday weekend. All ranger programs are free unless otherwise noted. The NPS suggests hikers wear comfortable walking shoes. Hikers might also consider bringing water, snacks, camera and binoculars Below is a list of this weekend’s featured ranger programs:

In Summers County, interested hikers should meet at the base of Pipestem Resort State Park tramway at 10:00 a.m. Saturday, July 5, 2014. From there rangers will guide two hikes:

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National Geographic
9:54 am
Tue July 1, 2014

National Geographic, NOAA Grant Promotes Understanding of Watersheds

The grant was available for water quality field tests to groups in states that that are in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Credit Environmental Protection Agency

  A grant is equipping West Virginia geography and science teachers with tools to help better educate young people about watersheds. For one teacher, the chemical spill that left more than 300-thousand without usable water was a wakeup call of just how important this program really is.

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Williamson, W.Va.
4:04 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

Coalfield Town Nationally Recognized for Health Improvement Work

Credit FloNight

A West Virginia town is being recognized for its efforts and accomplishments to improve health. Williamson has implemented several programs over the past several years.


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Celebrate Princeton
5:21 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

Mercer County Celebration Hopes to Take Visitors “Back to the Future”

Adam Cox is one of the music artists scheduled to perform at the 2014 Celebrate Princeton Street Fair.

A freelance journalist is looking for folks to share stories about the heydays of downtown Princeton in Mercer County. The project launches during an annual street festival meant to “Celebrate Princeton”.

Listen to hear an excerpt from a song by Adam Cox, one of the music artists scheduled to perform at the 2014 Celebrate Princeton Street Fair.

Organizers of the 9th Annual Celebrate Princeton street fair are hoping to mark a turning point for this year’s festival.

After hosting the Mercer County event for years, the Princeton Public Library reached out to volunteers with The Princeton Renaissance Project, which is working to revitalize downtown by restoring a theatre, and hosting events on Mercer Street.

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Inside Appalachia
6:00 am
Sat June 14, 2014

Battling for Black Lung Benefits, Creative Paths to Fresh Food & More

A coal miner fighting for black lung benefits,

Creatively bringing fresh food to a city in West Virginia,

And, finding good use of an environmental pollutant.

Coal miner fights for benefits. Black lung disease has a long, crippling history in Appalachia. A former coal miner shares his battle for medical compensation after being diagnosed with the disease. Jessica Lilly  reports.

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Cleaning Our Waters
10:52 am
Fri June 13, 2014

Concord Professor Uses Acid Mine Drainage for Pottery

Concord University art professor JameyBiggs loads the kiln with firewood.

If you see a body of water with an orange hue, it’s likely the result of acid mine drainage. This pollutant is left behind from abandoned mine shafts coming in contact with the water and it can harm aquatic life.

Biggs explains the process of turning acid mine drainage into art.

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Tax Collection
3:48 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

Coal Co. Pays Owed Property Taxes to McDowell County


A Russian-owned coal company has agreed to pay $800,000 in back taxes to McDowell County. The money comes after the Sheriff’s Department filed a suit to collect.

The McDowell County Sheriff’s Department says Mechel Bluestone Coal Corporation owed $1.2 million dollars in property taxes.

Officials say the company had refused to pay until the courts began working to seize property to rectify the debt.

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Holding to Faith
12:25 am
Thu June 12, 2014

Black Lung Patient Races Against Clock for Transplant, Company Stalls

Bailey is carrying a bag with an on oxygen tank on his back. Medical tubes wind from the tank around his ears and over his slender cheeks carrying oxygen through a periodic puff to his nose.
Credit Jessica Lilly

Robert Bailey was a coal miner for 36 years. He began in McDowell County and after it became too hard to breathe, he retired from a mine owned by Patriot Coal in Boone County.

“Mostly because of my health and my breathing," Bailey explained between oxygen puffs. "My black lung condition.  I got where I felt like I couldn’t perform the way that I felt like I needed to."

In 2009 Bailey filed for disability and black lung benefits. After a few years of evaluations, and paperwork, the U.S. Department Of Labor determined that he deserved a monthly payment and medical care, which is a feat in itself. All the while, Bailey was struggling just to breathe.


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