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

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?

Anne Li / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Appalachia voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump. He won 95% of the counties here. On this week’s Inside Appalachia, we speak with Trump supporters and opponents about how a Trump presidency will impact our region.

Jessica Lilly

The economy in southern West Virginia is suffering due to the collapsing of the coal industry and it’s not hard to find reports of layoffs. But an international coal company called ArcelorMittal Princeton is expanding operations at a McDowell County mine bringing 50 to 75 jobs back to the region.


While millions of addictive pain pills flooded West Virginia, a generation of Appalachians grew up with a parent addicted or abusing drugs. Hear some of their stories on this week's classic episode of Inside Appalachia.

StoryCorps

We’ve teamed up with StoryCorps and Georgetown University’s American Pilgrimage Project for this episode about faith in Appalachia.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

This week's Inside Appalachia is a special holiday edition.  We hear stories of Christmas past, present and hope for the future. We’ll check in with West Virginians still recovering from historic flooding that hit about 6 months ago, find out how to avoid gaining weight, hear a story about a welcomed Star of David on a Christmas tree, and more.

Paula Riley Thomas was living in Alexandria, Va. in 1991 when her son James was born. She moved back to McDowell County, W.Va. when James was a year old to escape a domestic violence situation. She struggled to recover emotionally but found some hope in her Christian faith and writing poetry.

Listen to hear her story and a poem she wrote about her son, James, shortly after she moved back to McDowell in 1992.

Photo by Crystal Good

Ever hear the word 'Affrilachian'? In the 1990s, a poet in Kentucky named Frank X Walker came up with the term. It refers to African Americans living in Appalachia. 

“To us it was about making the invisible visible, or giving voice to a previously muted or silenced voice,” Walker told the Appalachian Studies Association during its 2016 conference at Shepherd University.

Benny Becker/Ohio Valley ReSource

NPR revealed this week that more coal miners in Appalachia are suffering from black lung than National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports. Inside Appalachia Host Jessica Lilly spoke with NPR investigative reporter Howard Berkes about the points raised in his report.


Jessica Lilly

In this week’s Inside Appalachia, we take a look at first generation college students.  We’ll hear about challenges that first generation college students are going through, and how some colleges and universities are trying to help these students stay in school.

U.S. National Archive Jack Corn

We all have a unique way of talking- and here in Appalachia, we have many ways of being understood, and misunderstood, because of our language.

It stretches across race lines - and the judgment of one’s language can reveal classism, racism or both. This week’s episode of Inside Appalachia explores one of the ways people are judged: language.   

Courtesy of Hazel Shrader

In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we're taking a look at the myths and truths of the wild turkey, thanks to the folks at the podcast With Good Reason. We’ll find out if turkeys really can fly, meet a man who became a “turkey mother,” and find out what color turkey went out of style.

MOUNTAIN STAGE/PAT SERGENT

Music has traditionally played a big role in the culture of Appalachia, and it seems that other countries are taking notice of the region’s rich musical tradition. In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll hear from the tourism music trail in West Virginia called The Mountain Music Trail (MMT) Since we last heard from them, they have grown. The MMT recently was a finalist in the British Guild of Travel Writers 2016 tourism initiative awards in the “wider word” category, and was recognized as one of the top three destinations in the world. 

courtesy Suzi Whaples

The election is over. So this week, we thought it was only fitting to share a few stories, tall tales, and flat out lies— without the political pressure.

After all, here in Appalachia we have a rich cultural tradition of storytelling.

In this episode, we listen to three storytellers from the West Virginia Storyteller’s Guild, all of whom have competed and won prizes across the country.

Courtesy

For a generation of Appalachians, growing up with a parent addicted or abusing drugs is a way of life. On this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we hear from men and women who have experienced the effects of opioid addiction and of the innocence that this epidemic has claimed.

courtesy

For a generation of Appalachians, growing up with a parent addicted or abusing drugs is a way of life. Kristina Weaver, or Breezie, grew up in southern West Virginia with a loving family and father who struggled with addiction. Her father, David Siers, died in June of 2015 of a heroin overdose.


Jessica Lilly

On Friday, October 28, 2016, just a little more than four months after June’s historic flooding, 83-year-old Gerda Thompson passed away. Thompson lost her husband Edward during the 2016 flood that ravaged West Virginia in June. In July, she was featured in an Inside Appalachia TV special called West Virginia's 1,000 Year Flood.

On Saturday, October 29th, her son Keith Thompson posted the news of her death on Facebook:

Scotty White / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Appalachia has some of the best settings for scary stories, including dark underground coal mines and remote forests. There are hundreds of remarkably bizarre, mysterious ghost tales that take place here in West Virginia.

Mountain Stage is one of the longest running live music performance shows on public radio.  It began in 1983 and has featured nearly 2,000 acts from more than 50 countries--and nearly every conceivable genre. With such a storied history, there is little doubt the show has helped to create a lot of memories over the years.

Candace Nelson

If your father worked in the coal mines, chances are you remember his lunch or dinner bucket and the food that he brought to work. For many families, the extra food that was packed away in these dinner buckets was practical -- it would be there just in case an accident happened.


Steve Inskeep/ NPR

It's election season and we want to know what Appalachians are looking for in a new president. We’ll hear from a former coal miner from Whitesburg, Ky, Gary Bentley. We'll also hear from a veteran who lives in Bristol, Va., Ralph Slaughter.

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