Bill Lynch, Mason Adams, Kelley Libby, Lilly Knoepp Published

The Changing Media Landscape, Inside Appalachia

Local journalism, particularly in Appalachia, is changing. Some journalists are forming unions, while others are branching out from traditional media.

This week, we’re joined by Lilly Knoepp, regional reporter at Blue Ridge Public Radio in Western North Carolina.

Boom and bust cycles for coal, timber and textiles are nothing new to Appalachia. Today, we’re seeing another industry struggle – local journalism. 

Some newspapers have scaled back or disappeared entirely, but journalism isn’t dying. Journalists are adapting and some are reinventing what they do.

You’ll hear these stories and more this week, Inside Appalachia.

In This Episode:

  • Preserving The Cherokee Language
  • Newspapers Unionize And The Roanoke Rambler Rises
  • New News Startups In Appalachia

Preserving The Cherokee Language

Local journalists tell local stories that big news media ignore, like the struggle of places like the Kituwah Academy to uphold its mission.


The Kituwah Academy is a Cherokee immersion school in Western North Carolina. During the COVID pandemic, they tried to continue teaching students the language without being in the classroom with them.

Knoepp spoke with teachers at the school, including Irene Smoker-Jackson whose mother was one of the last people in the Cherokee Snowbird community who only spoke Cherokee.

Henri Gendreau, founder of the Roanoke Rambler, interviews Angelo Colavita, founder and owner of War on Books in Roanoke.


Local Media Unionizes And The Rise Of The Roanoke Rambler

Appalachia is sometimes thought of as a news desert but Western North Carolina has a lot of newspapers. There’s lots of coverage, but still gaps and a need to get more stories from the western counties to the rest of North Carolina.

Meanwhile, like in other parts of the country, some workers at media companies in North Carolina and Virginia have unionized. It has also led to new media outlets like The Roanoke Rambler, started by a former Roanoke Times reporter.

Mason Adams spoke with Alicia Petska of the Timesland Guild, a union formed at the Roanoke Times in Virginia.

New News Startups In Appalachia

The Asheville Blade and Scalawag are recent additions to the regional media community. 

The Asheville Blade is a leftist local news co-op, that takes an adversarial stance toward covering local government, including the police. The startup has been at the center of conversations about journalist’s rights and made national news after two Asheville Blade journalists were arrested on Christmas Day in 2021.

Scalawag is an independent media organization based out in the south whose work often includes Appalachia interests. Their approach to journalism is to disrupt the narratives of the South. 

Mason Adams spoke with Blade founder, David Forbes.

Lilly Knoepp talked with Scalawag publisher, Cierra Hinton.

Blue Ride Public Radio’s Lilly Knoepp joined host, Mason Adams, as a guest for this episode.



Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Jesse Milnes, Appalachian Road Show, Paul Loomis and Chris Knight.

Bill Lynch is our producer. Zander Aloi is our associate producer. Our executive producer is Eric Douglas. Kelley Libby is our editor. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Our co-host this week is Lilly Knoepp from Blue Ridge Public Radio.

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Inside Appalachia is a production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.