Monday, July 10, 2017

Appalachians who are unhappy with national news media are telling their own story

Appalachian journalists, fed up with what they perceive to be biased and opportunistic coverage from national news media sources, are trying to reclaim their voice, writes West Virginia-based Catherine Moore for the Columbia Journalism Review.

"Even before Donald Trump’s election, Appalachia was treated as a kind of Rosetta stone for deciphering rural white poverty in America," Moore writes. "In its aftermath, media inquiries . . . confirmed many residents’ deep-seated fear that the national press only shows up when the news is bad, or to make them look like fools or freaks. Instead of inviting input on how to frame their stories, reporters seemed to be looking for people to fit a frame they already had in mind."

When Communications Director Jake Lynch of the West Virginia Community Hub became increasingly frustrated by national media coverage, he invited members of the national media to New Story 2017, the organization's yearly conference for "people trying to drive the story and the future economy of the state." None would come, Lynch reported. "There wasn’t enough conflict or controversy, he was told," Moore writes.

At New Story 2017, a two-day conference held from June 16-17 at West Virginia University's Reed College of Media, "showcased a number of new platforms, projects, and enterprises that have sprung up to shape the narrative of Appalachia from the inside out," writes Moore. More than 300 people and organizations from Central Appalachia showed up.

"There was Kentucky-based Southerly, a robust new email newsletter aiming to fill a gap in environmental reporting in and about the South. And Mountain Tech Media's 'Upload Appalachia' internship program, designed as a vehicle for smart, talented young people to stay in the region and take on digital work. Many more inside-out, bottom-up media projects in the region—Vandaleer, Inside Appalachia, Scalawag, the Ohio Valley ReSource, WestVirginiaville, Hollow, Looking at Appalachia, Appalshop—were represented as well," Moore writes.

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