Eric Douglas Published

WVPB News Staff Picks Favorite Stories From 2022

Woody Williams.jpg
Woody Williams at his Ona, West Virginia home. The painting behind him depicts him on Iwo Jima using his flamethrower.
Eric Douglas

Over the course of a year, reporters file hundreds of news stories. But a few tend to stick out and become favorites — for any number of reasons. The WVPB News Department picked their best stories.

The following are in no particular order:

Randy Yohe


Randy Yohe
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Vickie Yohe, sitting by the fire outside a glamping dome near Alderson, West Virginia.

Alternative Lodgings, ‘Glamping,’ Enhance W.Va. Tourism Destinations

This story was a highlight of my first year at WVPB. I enjoy traveling and staying in “alternative lodgings” and was able to manifest that pleasure while getting out in the field and capturing compelling sound and interviews. Who doesn’t enjoy the sound of a steam locomotive or a babbling brook? I could tell a story that was a feature that offered governmental insight into West Virginia’s exploding tourism industry. I also got to include the smart and insightful one in my family, my lovely and talented wife Vickie.

Southern W.Va. Tourism Highlights The Haves And Have-Nots

A government reporter who enjoys tourism stories? Who doesn’t want to combine work and play? This was part of our news-staff-wide series on getting inside the dynamics of West Virginia tourism. I’ve followed the stalled implementation of the Coalfield Grant Facilitation Commission, directed to help revitalize struggling coal communities. One aspect is improving recreation and historic draws. So, I got to ride an airboat on the Tug Fork River, tour two fascinating but neglected museums and bring a voice to those who desperately need economic redevelopment.

Chris Schulz

0928 Morgantown High Walkout

Chris Schulz
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Students at Morgantown High School staged a walkout Wednesday to protest the removal of Pride flags from classrooms.

Update: Mon County Bans Pride Flags In Schools, Receives Pushback

It’s always nice to be able to report on the next generation taking action and standing up for what they believe in. It’s a bit of a cliche in journalism to say that we give voice to the voiceless, but in reality when we’re at our best we simply amplify what’s already there. It was exciting to follow this story as it developed over several days, and humbling to have it picked up by NPR.

Distribution Of COVID-19 Deaths Uneven Across W.Va.

COVID-19 continues to loom large over our lives, so it was empowering to take the time and really get into the numbers with this story. There is truly so much that we still don’t understand about this disease, why it hits some harder than others, and how things like those disparities and long COVID-19 will continue to influence our world.

Curtis Tate

Coal Supply Problems Persist, Appalachian Power Tells PSC

It seemed as absurd to say that West Virginia could run out of coal as to say Iowa could run out of corn. Yet in late 2021 and early 2022, as we would learn from Public Service Commission testimony, that’s exactly what happened. Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power, in particular, came up short on their coal supplies at their John Amos, Mountaineer and Mitchell power plants. They had to idle the plants for significantly longer periods, otherwise they’d burn through their stockpiles and not have enough on hand for winter.

With coal and natural gas suddenly in high demand due to the COVID-19 recovery and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the utilities were caught flat-footed and couldn’t get new deliveries. The problems persisted well into the year. On top of that, Appalachian Power asked for approval of a huge rate increase to cover the increasing cost of coal and gas. We still don’t know how the PSC will rule in that case.

Shepherd Snyder

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Shepherd Snyder
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
UMWA leaders and trial defendents Bill Blizzard, Fred Mooney, William Petry, and Frank Keeney pose for a photo (left to right). The photo was featured in the Coal Country Tours exhibit in the Jefferson County Courthouse.

West Virginia Historians Recognize 100th Anniversary Of Mine War Trials

I really enjoy diving into local history whenever possible, and putting this feature about the post-Mine War treason trials in Jefferson County was some of the most fun I’ve had as a reporter. It was a blast getting to pick historians’ brains about this part of West Virginia history that’s often overlooked.

I was actually out in the field grabbing tape for another story when, completely by chance, I struck up a conversation with someone who ended up introducing himself as the circuit court judge who presides over the Jefferson County Courthouse — the very same building where these trials took place. He invited me later that week to come by the courthouse, where we got to talk more about the trials and take a look at some old court documents from the era, which I think really tied the whole story together. So that’s a great memory I’ll always have.

Eric Douglas

Remembering Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams, The Last WWII Medal Of Honor Recipient

My favorite story from this year is sad, but I was proud to help remember and honor a great American and a great man. This story is based on an interview I did with Woody a few years before on another project. I used it to tell some of the story of Woody Williams within hours of us learning of his death.

West Virginia native, U.S. and state hero Hershel “Woody” Williams died on June 29. He was 98 and the last surviving recipient of the Medal of Honor from World War II.

Bill Lynch

Floyd Friday Jamboree

Mason Adams
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Various musicians gather around to play music at the Friday Night Jamboree in Floyd, Virginia.

Floyd’s Friday Night Jamboree Builds Community From Music

Picking out my favorite Inside Appalachia story is a little unfair.

In every show, I can at least find one story that tells me something new or informs me about our region in a way I didn’t expect, but my favorite from 2022 was this story from Floyd, Virginia where Inside Appalachia’s host, Mason Adams, lives.

To me, this is the Appalachia I love. It’s fun, friendly, and willing to share what it has. In this case, that’s music and a good time. This story reminds me of home.

Caroline MacGregor


Helpful Harvest
Food insecurity is being felt by more families across West Virginia

Food Banks, Pantries Hit By Inflation As More Families Seek Help

Hunger in America is not something one would expect from a first world country. Yet right here in West Virginia, as in other states, this growing social issue is only exacerbated by inflation. People across all income levels, as well as the very food pantries whose goal it is to help, are struggling. This story is an overview on food insecurity approaching Christmas, with a focus on one woman’s efforts to put food in the hands of residents in rural Mercer County. Hearing her firsthand account of people in need, some of whom literally walk miles for a small box of food, for me, was both poignant and inspiring as well as a call to action to help our neighbors in need.

New Law Banning Abortion In W.Va. Prompts Strong Reaction

Abortion undeniably evokes impassioned and provocative viewpoints on both sides of the debate. Reporting on the West Virginia Legislature’s contentious decision in September to ban the procedure extended beyond what many consider a fundamental woman’s reproductive right — to the more troubling questions surrounding the ban’s implications for doctors and women’s healthcare. In a state already faced with an OB/GYN shortage and one that ranks near bottom for maternal and infant health, I feel it is a critical obligation for reporters to continue to highlight this pressing issue.

Emily Rice

Mountain Health Clinical Solutions Offers New Drug Testing Services

As a lifelong learner, I enjoyed learning about toxicology from Kristen Bailey for this piece about the availability of accurate and expedited toxicology reports. While usually associated with pre-employment drug screening, toxicology reports are vital to doctors treating a variety of illnesses with the best medicines available.

Liz McCormick

Barbara Kingslover

Evan Kafka
Barbara Kingsolver

Author Barbara Kingsolver Reflects On Appalachian Writing, Climate Change And Upcoming Novel

The year 2022 marked a transition for me at WVPB. I moved out of our newsroom, where I had been our Eastern Panhandle and education reporter for many years, and into our webmaster/digital coordinator position. It was so exciting to take on this new role and support WVPB in new and exciting ways through digital and social media initiatives, but I knew I would miss reporting.

Fortunately, I still get to do a little reporting from time-to-time, including an annual interview with the Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence at Shepherd University in the fall. This year, I interviewed the incredibly talented Appalachian author Barbara Kingsolver. For my 2022 staff pick, I’ve chosen my conversation with Kingsolver where we discussed her work as a writer and her latest novel Demon Copperhead.