Jessica Lilly

Host & Co-Producer of Inside Appalachia - Southern West Virginia Bureau Chief

Jessica Lilly covers southern West Virginia for West Virginia Public Broadcasting and is the host and co-producer of Inside Appalachia. The show airs Sunday at 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. and is also available as a podcast. Jessica can also be heard weekdays on West Virginia Morning, the station’s daily radio news program.

Jessica joined West Virginia Public Broadcasting in 2008 as the Southern West Virginia Bureau Chief. She’s committed to reporting stories of the people in her region and across Appalachia. She's passionate about following issues and developments in worker safety, community tap water, and more.

Inside Appalachia won a Regional Murrow in 2016 for the Inside Appalachia show called, "What Happens When Strangers with Cameras Travel Inside Appalachia?" Jessica was named "Best Radio News Anchor" two years in a row by the Virginias Associated Press beginning in 2016.

Concord University chose Jessica as, "Alumnus of the Year" in 2015. Jessica was instrumental in launching Concord University's first FM station, WVCU-LP FM in 2015.

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 among other awards throughout her career.

While studying broadcasting and journalism, public relations and business administration at Concord University, Jessica worked as the weekend producer and fill in reporter for WVNS-TV in Raleigh County, West Virginia. 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, W.Va., 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 is the faculty advisor at Concord University's radio station, WVCU LP-FM "Mt. Lion Radio".

She recently took on the role of Concord University cheerleading coach.

In her spare time, she enjoys attending sporting events and theatre productions, singing, antiquing, skiing, riding ATV’s, and traveling with family.

Ways to Connect

Roger May/ Looking at Appalachia

In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we talk about faith and music. We learn about Sister Rosetta Tharpe,  one of the first great recording stars of gospel music, find our the story behind a song that became an American icon, and we’ll learn more about a project Glory that depicts images of Pentecostal style tent revival in Kentucky and West Virginia.

A truck hauls coal away from the Coalfields Expressway site.
Jessica Lilly / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Residents in southern West Virginia are hopeful that the next state and federal budgets will include funding for the Coalfields Expressway. The 4-lane highway broke ground back in 2000 but the idea for the road goes back to the late 1960's, when the road was called the Beckley to Grundy Road. The infrastructure project is more than 27 years in the making.


Here in Appalachia, thousands of young people are leaving each year, moving from their hometowns to find opportunities elsewhere.  In this episode, you will hear part of Colt Brogan’s Struggle to Stay in Appalachia.

It’s part of a series on Inside Appalachia called, “The Struggle to Stay.” This decision is different for each of us. While academic studies might provide a generalized view, the complexities are found in the individual journey as we try to find a place where we belong. 


Roxy Todd/ WVPB

It’s been about 20 years since the opioid epidemic started. Appalachia has been called ground zero for this crisis, and the Mountain State leads the country in drug overdose deaths. This episode of Inside Appalachia explores how the epidemic is affecting veterans, who are twice as likely to become addicted to opioids than the general, or civilian, population. 


Adobe Stock

It’s been about 20 years since the opioid epidemic first exploded across Appalachia, and now doctors are shifting away from prescribing opioids for long-term pain. 

But this shift away from pills has met resistance from some  doctors and patients.

In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we'll hear why addiction hit Appalachia so hard. We'll also find out what the medical community is doing to fight the pain pill epidemic.

Roxy Todd/ WVPB

It’s not always easy to live in these mountains, but some of us are determined to stay. In this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we'll explore the deep roots to the region in a new series called The Struggle to Stay.

Appalachia isn’t alone in watching its young people fight with the decision to stay or go from their homeplace—it’s a conversation happening all over the country. But people are leaving parts of Appalachia at a rapid pace. 

Office/Sen. Jay Rockefeller

In this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we hear three of our favorite stories from the Inspiring West Virginians series.  

The series highlights leaders in health, business and science.

Jessica Lilly

Coal mining has touched so many aspects of life in Appalachia. The coal industry has provided more than just jobs — it’s helped build towns, bridges and it’s even provided money for many Appalachians to go to college. We also have a deep cultural connection to coal and its history.

Still, there’s no denying the coal industry has changed the landscape of our mountains, and infected many miners with a deadly disease known as black lung.

Emily Hilliard/ WV Folklife Program

In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we take a road trip to explore stories of people who are reviving Appalachian traditions, like baking salt rising bread or making sorghum sweeteners.

Some folklorists, artists and educators are wondering what the future of traditional arts in the country will look like. On Friday, the West Virginia House of Delegates approved a bill that would eliminate the state's Secretary of Education and the Arts and reorganize several of the departments the position oversees. Most of those departments oversee cultural and arts programs like the state archives, the state museum, the annual Vandalia music gathering and West Virginia Public Broadcasting. The bill still needs to be approved by the state Senate to take effect.

Anne Li/ WVPB

Why is Donald Trump so popular in Appalachia? And how confident are Appalachians that Trump will change the economy and bring back thousands of coal mining jobs?

Trump won 95 percent of Appalachian counties, and 69 percent of West Virginia voters chose him - the highest percentage of any state.

But that doesn’t mean everyone here is happy with the results.

Not many Americans know the story of the Mine Wars that were fought between workers, labor unions and mine company guards during the early 1900s. In this show, Jessica Lilly talks with filmmaker Randy MacLowry, whose new PBS documentary The Mine Wars focuses on these armed uprisings by labor organizers in the coalfields of southern West Virginia.

Roxy Todd/ WVPB

This week on Inside Appalachia, we’ll travel to Sugar Bottom Farm in Clay County West Virginia to meet Veteran Eric Grandon, the first veteran to go through the Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture program.

Roger May

This week on Inside Appalachia, we travel to Cedar Grove, West Virginia, home of renowned novelist Mary Lee Settle. On this episode, we explore surprising, hidden histories through the work of Settle and the voices of women from Cedar Grove.

Jessica Lilly

The coal industry has done a lot for central Appalachia. It’s created jobs, and it’s helped many families afford college. Coal has also created a  very strong sense of pride. But as jobs in the coal industry have declined, so have the opportunities in Central  Appalachia. On this episode of Inside Appalachia, we explore one of the legacies of of the industry: crumbling water infrastructure.

Dave Foster / West Virginia Rural Water Association

It’s been happening for years - water systems are slowly coming to a breaking point. The next episode of Inside Appalachia explores one legacy of the coal mining industry - crumbling water infrastructure.

Jesse Wright

On this episode of Inside Appalachia, in honor of Valentine’s Day, we wanted to bring you voices from people who’ve written love letters for Appalachia, of a sort. And like most loves, this love, well…. it’s complicated.

Some of the folks we’ll hear on our show grew up in these mountains and were eager to move away, but when they did, they felt a strong homesickness that seemed to draw them back.

Dr. Geoffrey Cousins
Jean Snedegar

Since 2010, West Virginia Public Broadcasting has produced a series called Inspiring West Virginians, highlighting 29 leaders in health, business and science. In this week’s episode, we hear three of these stories- a kind of finale- because this is the final year of the Inspiring West Virginians series.

Tim Reddinger, Ohio River, Beaver, Pennsylvania
Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

It’s easy to take the water coming out of your faucet for granted, but tragedies like the Elk River Chemical spill that left thousands of residents in West Virginia's capital city without water for days have put tap water front and center.

Appalachia is no stranger to water contamination, especially in places with a history of heavy industry, like the Ohio River Valley. But as a large source of drinking water, how do we know it’s safe?

Candace Nelson

If you didn’t grow up in West Virginia, you may have no idea what a pepperoni roll is. But those who grew up eating them in school cafeterias or buying them at some of the Italian bakeries in north-central West Virginia, probably know pepperoni rolls are strongly connected to Appalachian culture and childhood memories.

This week, we’ll learn a bit more about this signature Appalachian food, and we’ll learn about how its origins are deeply connected with the history and culture of coal mining, and to the food that miners brought to work in their lunch buckets.

U.S. National Archive Jack Corn

Why is Donald Trump so popular in Appalachia? And how confident are Appalachians that Trump will change the economy and bring back thousands of coal mining jobs?

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