Trey Kay, Todd Melby, Matthew Hancock Published

Us & Them: Another Small Town Paper Down

A graphic from our Us & Them podcast. The image looks like a faded newspaper clipping. On top of the clipping are the words, "Us & Them: Another Small Town Paper Down." In the upper right corner of the graphic is the WVPB logo.

Our country’s divides often reveal themselves in our choices and habits, including how and where we get our information. As the economics of the media landscape have imploded, the economics of the industry have forced changes. In the past two decades, online sites have taken over much of the income stream from classified ads and general advertising. That has led newspapers and broadcasters to slash thousands of jobs. Many local news outlets have gone out of business and there are now more than 200 counties across the country with no source of local news. 

One of those is McDowell County in West Virginia. Last year, publisher Missy Nester was forced to shut down the Welch Daily News after a valiant effort to keep the paper running. Join host Trey Kay and reporter Todd Melby on this episode of Us & Them to see what happens when local news organizations stop telling the stories of a community.

This episode of Us & Them is presented with support from the Pulitzer Center, the West Virginia Humanities Council and the CRC Foundation.

Subscribe to Us & Them on Apple Podcasts, NPR One, RadioPublic, Spotify, Stitcher and beyond.

Two adults, a man and a woman, sit on the concrete steps of a brick building. They are wearing casual clothing - jeans, sweatshirts, a jacket. The man is wearing a ball cap, and the woman has long, brown hair.
Derek Tyson and Missy Nester on the back steps of the now shuttered building that housed The Welch News.

Photo Credit: Todd Melby
An artistic view of a mountain from downtown Welch, West Virginia. On one side of the frame is a stone wall, and in the distance on the other side is a brick building with several windows. Many of the windows have air conditioners in them.
Downtown Welch, West Virginia.

Photo Credit: Todd Melby
Stacks of newspapers are seen on a table. At the top of each stack reads, "The Independent Herald."
Before the Welch Daily News shut down operations, publisher Missy Nester bought another regional paper, the Pineville Independent-Herald for $1.

Photo Credit: Todd Melby
An older woman sits on a table and looks toward the camera. Her hair is long, brown with some grays. She wears glasses, a gray sweatshirt, jeans and sneakers.
Missy Nester, taking a break in the printing press room of The Welch News.

Photo Credit: Todd Melby
A stack of papers including mail and something that reads, "McDowell County, West Virginia. The Nation's Coal Bin."
Missy Nester kept a collection of coal-related books and pamphlets in her office, including some from the last century showing several dozen coal companies operating in McDowell County.

Photo Credit: Todd Melby
A sign on a glass window reads, "Closed Permanently, 03/13/2023."
The Welch News closed down operations in March 2023.

Photo Credit: Todd Melby
An old iMac computer is seen balanced on stacks of old paper. The iMac looks as if it is from the 1990s.
A discarded iMac rests on top of bound copies of The Welch News.

Photo Credit: Todd Melby
A large room can be seen with printing presses.
The Welch News printing press dates to 1966, says publisher Missy Nester.

Photo Credit: Todd Melby
Papers are shown on a table. They read, "Route Driver Needed Immediately. Route Covers Carswell, Vivian to Maybeury, Northfork Hollow. $447.00 + $200.00 Mileage Monthly. For more information or to apply, call Tom at 304-436-3144, ext. 25. Or stop by at 125 Wyoming Street, Welch, WV."
The Welch News hired drivers three days a week to deliver the paper to homes in nearly every holler, road and neighborhood in McDowell County.

Photo Credit: Todd Melby
A man can be seen looking up toward something. He is standing. Next to him is a desk, and beyond that is a table with stacked newspapers on it. Further back in the room, a woman is seen on the phone sitting at a desk.
Derek Tyson and Missy Nester on a smoke break in the front office of The Welch News before the paper shut down in 2023.

Photo Credit: Todd Melby
Two adult men stand next to each other. One is smiling and one is smiling slightly. They pose for a photo and look toward the camera.
Us & Them Host Trey Kay with Steve Waldman, co-founder of Report for America, which is modeled on Teach for America. Instead of bringing teachers to schools, Waldman’s focus is on bringing reporters to newsrooms around the nation. He’s currently the president of Rebuild Local News, a nonprofit dedicated to finding new ways to fund local journalism.

Photo Credit: Trey Kay/West Virginia Public Broadcasting