100 Days in Appalachia

An experimental project designed to burst the filter bubble of social news and to candidly narrate the first 100 days of the new administration from within the heart of Appalachia

100 Days in Appalachia is published by West Virginia University Reed College of Media Innovation Center in collaboration with West Virginia Public Broadcasting and The Daily Yonder. For more on the project, follow along on FacebookTwitterInstagram.

 

GOP Tax Reform – What's in it for Appalachia?

Dec 5, 2017
J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press

In the early hours on Saturday, the Senate passed the GOP’s tax reform bill. The vote fell primarily along party lines, with all 48 Democrats voting against the bill, alongside the sole Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee.

Can West Virginia Shift Its Attitude Toward the Opioid Crisis?

Nov 28, 2017
Dollar Photo Club

Shawna Hardy grew up in the early 80s “on the hill.” That’s how family referred to her Grandma Helen’s property, a quasi-farm situated atop a steep hill in North-Central West Virginia. Her family lived in a trailer next to Grandma Helen, separated by a large field outlined with thick aluminum fencing that held a chicken coop, a salt lick for the cows, and a small barn for a temperamental palomino named Golden Boy.

Op-Ed: Massive Chinese Investment Pledge Could be Game Changer for W.Va. – If it Happens

Nov 20, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump waves next to Chinese President Xi Jinping after attending a business event at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017.
Andy Wong / Associated Press

President Trump announced during a recent visit to China that state-owned China Energy would invest $83.7 billion in West Virginia over the next 20 years, but will it be good for West Virginia? Yes – if it happens, and if the state doesn’t give away an arm and a leg in subsidies and tax breaks to try to make it happen.

Are Black Walnuts Ready to Boom?

Nov 12, 2017
The front door of Gerlach Farm and Feed in Wheelersburg, Ohio advertises the start of the black walnut season. Hulling stations earn a commission of $0.05 per pound of black walnuts hulled, providing a good incentive for them to get the word out in their
Eileen Guo / 100 Days in Appalachia

The first car arrives over two hours before the hulling station officially opens in Jeffersonville, Kentucky. By the time that Renee Zaharie appears and starts the hulling machine, four more vehicles have pulled in and are waiting under the darkening evening sky.

Tradition so Rich, so Fragile, so Sweet

Nov 7, 2017
Farmers Donnie Tenney (left) and Charlie Radabaugh inspect sorghum canes at Tenney’s farm in Tallmansville, W. Va. before harvesting and processing into sorghum syrup.
Mike Costello / 100 Days in Appalachia

Gone from most kitchen pantries, sorghum keeps connections strong in some rural communities. Just a few miles down a narrow, winding road from Buckhannon, the seat of Upshur County, West Virginia, a carved wooden sign welcomes visitors to Tallmansville. At first glance, there’s not much to the rural village of around 400 residents, but I’ve spent enough time in these hills to know what little first glance says about a place.

We Have Questions: Seeking Explanation for Halted Mining Impact Study in Appalachia

Oct 29, 2017
Chart of average age-adjusted number of annual deaths per 100,000 due to cancer from 1997 to 2007 showing that nearly all counties with mountaintop removal mining are above the national average.
Graphic courtesy Appalachian Voices

In a move officials say is meant to "ensure the proper and responsible allocation of taxpayers’ money," a forthcoming study on the public health impacts of mountaintop removal mining titled, “Potential Human Health Effects of Surface Coal Mining Operations in Central Appalachia" was cancelled in August, leaving behind an unaccounted for $400,000 of remaining funding.

Ex-DEA Official Blames Congress, but His Own Agency Blessed Opioid Boom

Oct 24, 2017
Hydrocodone pills
Toby Talbot / AP

The Washington Post and 60 Minutes released an explosive report detailing how Congress hobbled the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to take down prescription opioid distributors. The exposé stars Joe Rannazzisi, who ran the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control from 2006 to 2015.

Broadband Analysis: Scrappy Wireless ISPs Get the Job Done

Sep 25, 2017
A wireless internet transmitter on the right cell tower beams data to subscribers in Whitesburg, Kentucky
Shawn Poynter / The Daily Yonder

Rural areas don’t need to wait on expensive and hard-to-build fiber-to-the-home networks to start using broadband. In many cases, fixed wireless can provide a fast and affordable last-mile connection in underserved areas. And some communities are building the system themselves.

WISPs – Wireless Internet Service Providers – are the un-song heroes closing the digital divide in rural communities. New technology makes WISPs faster than ever, much more affordable than fiber, and a great option in areas where terrain and population density make wired systems problematic.

Rural Populations Decline, Regional Patterns Shift

Sep 14, 2017

The number of people living in rural areas continues to slide, according to the latest population estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau. People have left rural America in decades past. The big difference now is that the number of births in rural areas isn't keeping pace with the number of deaths.

A 40-year-old Federal Law Literally Changed the Appalachian Landscape

Aug 5, 2017
Kara Leigh Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Forty years ago, President Jimmy Carter signed a law that literally changed the face of Appalachia.

The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) was intended to replace a state-to-state patchwork of rules for strip-mining with a uniform federal standard. Four decades later, however, environmentalists say the law has fallen far short of its potential.

“Massive destruction, massive explosives -- and only 300 feet away from someone’s home,” said Thom Kay, legislative associate at Appalachian Voices. “What is SMCRA doing if that’s still allowed?”

The Associated Press

Reddit is a modern day canary in the coal mine for the people of Appalachia — a region of the United States being disproportionately affected by the opioid epidemic.

Since the presidential election, Reddit’s r/opiates has transformed into a lifesaving map for people with addiction navigating a minefield frequently filled with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid nearly 100 times more potent than morphine.

Job-spurring Grants in Appalachia are Targeted in Trump’s Budget. Here’s What is on the Line

Mar 22, 2017
Courtesy Cassidy Wright-Hubbard

In 2015, Cassidy Wright-Hubbard was a seventeen-year-old sophomore at Southeast Community and Technical College in Cumberland, Kentucky. Raised in Harlan, she was dually-enrolled in high school and college studying for her art degree. But she needed an income and jobs in the area are few and far between. 

F. Brian Ferguson / The Charleston Gazette-Mail

Despite hailing from Vermont, former Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders attempted to shine a light on poverty in middle America this weekend with a stop in West Virginia. Sanders held a town hall in McDowell County for an MSNBC taping of “All In with Chris Hayes.”  

Courtesy: Violet Gathalee Pavkovich

Violet Gathalee Pavkovich stands on the small back porch of her powder blue, turn-of-the-century farmhouse, an orange cat meandering around her legs. White wicker furniture contrasts the rusty railroad tracks that border her back yard.

“Trains hauling coal come through here two or three times a day,” she remarked casually. As I thank her for her time, she asks if she can give me a hug.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Wilbur Ross to serve as President Trump’s Secretary of Commerce on a 72-27 vote Monday night -- with U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, voting against the billionaire businessman, citing Ross’ business dealings in the state.

Nancy Andrews / West Virginia University

The stories of the hardworking, blue collar West Virginians who looked to Trump as an outsider willing to change the political order in Washington have been told by both local and national media outlets, but the question now is whether he will stick to his word.

In Clay County, Trump's Inauguration Brings Hope of Coal's Revival -- Even for Youth

Jan 22, 2017
David Smith / 100 Days in Appalachia

Tears of hope welled in the young eyes of Dakota Vaughan as he watched Donald Trump officially become the 45th President of the United States.

Nancy Andrews / West Virginia University

It's clear many of the adults living in Appalachia are focused on what the new president can do for the economy here, but they're not alone. Young people also have their own concerns about Trump.

Students from Frankfort High School in Mineral County marched in the inaugural parade Friday in Washington, but before they left, they shared their thoughts about President Trump and their role in performing at his inauguration.