Category Archives: Audio

Smithsonian’s “Sidedoor”

Smithsonian’s “Sidedoor” podcast recently released a full episode on the history of the Battle of Blair Mountain. It’s an approachable and thoughtful introduction to the topic, featuring interviews with myself and my fellow WV Mine Wars Museum board member Chuck Keeney, along with several other historians…

One hundred years ago, in the hills of West Virginia, Black, white, and European immigrant coal miners banded together to demand better pay and safer working conditions and were met with machine guns. While the story made headlines in 1921, it didn’t make it into the history books. In our final episode of the season, we unearth this buried history to help mark the centennial of the largest labor uprising in American history.

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Kudzu Punks

Larah Helayne (left) wears a Girls Rock Whitesburg shirt while holding a banjo and a protest sign at the Blackjewel blockade in Cumberland, Kentucky. Helayne visited the blockade to show support for the protesting miners and their families. (Photo by Lou Murray)

I’m an editor at Inside Appalachia, a weekly themed radio program based at WV Public Broadcasting. We recently published a story that I’m particularly proud of, produced by folkways reporter Nicole Musgrave. The story follows two campers at Girls Rock–a summer music camp in Whitesburg, KY, for female, gender-fluid, non-binary, and trans youth–as they discover how the rich Appalachian tradition of protest music sung by women maintains its relevance today.

On the surface, songs like Florence Reece’s labor anthem, “Which Side Are You On?”–which draws on the ballad and old-time music traditions–might not seem to have much in common with the punk tradition that inspire many Girls Rock campers and organizers. But there’s more in common than meets the ear. Listen here…

#Ojeda4Congress on NPR

Went down to Pineville, WV, to record a meet-and-greet with U.S. House candidate Richard Ojeda, sponsored by the United Mine Workers of America, for NPR News. It was lots of fun talking to Wyoming County voters about what they’re thinking about going into the election; many were teachers who had been galvanized by Ojeda during the spring’s big strike action in Charleston.

Read the full story…

Cedar Grove Radio Documentary

Cedar Grove is a story about transition–bridging the past and the future. The hour-long radio documentary reveals surprising hidden histories through the work of renowned novelist Mary Lee Settle and the voices of women from her hometown of Cedar Grove, WV. The piece was co-produced by me, Allegheny Mountain Radio, and West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

Settle is the author of 21 books, including her five volume fictional opus, The Beulah Quintet, which spans two continents and 300 years of Appalachian history. Beulah Land is a fictional place grounded in the reality of Settle’s family homeplace at Cedar Grove, a town in West Virginia struggling amid coal industry decline. West Virginia native Catherine Moore visits Cedar Grove and interviews the “real” residents of Beulah Land, searching for stories of survival and resiliency in the face of enormous challenges.

The scenes and characters that emerge take us through wilderness, Underground Railroad operations, the coal mine wars of the early 20th century, and John F. Kennedy’s visit to the Cedar Grove in 1960.

A collaboration with photographer Roger May also produced a robust visual document of life in present-day Cedar Grove. Original music by Caleb Samples. Funding provided by the West Virginia Humanities Council and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

For audio, photos, and more, visit the project website. 

Two New Projects

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 1.00.59 PMThe Paint Creek Audio History Project is a geo-located series of radio stories featuring the voices of people who live on beautiful Paint Creek, WV. These ten stories became the basis of an audio driving tour delivered via mobile app, as well as a new website for the Paint Creek Scenic Trails Association.

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Cedar Grove draws from the writing of Mary Lee Settle and a chorus of voices from her hometown of Cedar Grove, WV. The project features a photography collaboration with Roger May. Gibbs Kinderman is the executive producer, the editor is Ben Shapiro. Cedar Grove was co-produced by Allegheny Mountain Radio and West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and me.

These projects would not have been possible without support from The West Virginia Humanities Council, the National Coal Heritage Area Authority, the Fayette County Commission, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

PRI’s Living on Earth

Art “Bunny” Hayes, rancher – Tongue River (Montana) (Photo: Clay Scott)

Art “Bunny” Hayes, rancher – Tongue River (Montana) (Photo: Clay Scott)

Earlier this year, I collaborated with producers Clay Scott of Mountain West Voices and Reid Frazier of Allegheny Front to produce a half-hour radio doc about the state of coal in America today. Portions of it recently aired on PRI’s Living on Earth:

Living With the Rise and Fall of King Coal” — Coal was a vital industry in Appalachia for a century, but its environmental effects and economics have undermined its power, leaving many once employed by the industry floundering. In a special team report from West Virginia Public Radio, the Allegheny Front, and High Plains News produced by Clay Scott, we explore the past and future for coal mining areas and the people that live there.

The story I contributed to the documentary, about an East Kentucky strip miner turned farmer, spurred this piece on PRI’s main news site, about the mourning of coal’s gradual decline in Appalachia.

BBC’s Digital Human

Diane Schou of Green Bank, WV, pictured with her catalogued list of the symptoms of electrosensitivity.

Diane Schou of Green Bank, WV, pictured with her catalogued list of the symptoms of electrosensitivity.

I recently collaborated with the BBC show Digital Human to produce a piece about the electrosensitive community in Pocahontas County, WV. I traveled to Green Bank to spend some time with Diane Schou, who moved to the mountains to escape health issues she says are related to the electromagnetic radiation we’re all exposed to in our daily lives. Green Bank is a designated Radio Free Quiet Zone because of a radio telescope located there, so cell phones and wireless technologies are banned. Diane and about 50 other electrosensitive people have sequestered themselves in its protective zone.

The Digital Human episode is called “Magic,” and it’s a pretty thoughtful reflection on all the ways we treat technology as a supernatural force:

Arthur C. Clarke’s 3rd law goes “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” So does that apply to the modern digital world? Aleks Krotoski asks the question with some surprising results. From people living under the ‘curse’ of electro-sensitivity to the rituals we all go through to ward off evil spirits like updating our anti-virus software.

Listen here.

View a gallery of my photos of Green Bank here. 

Building Barns Out of Coal Tipples: Appalachia’s shifting economy

Since the days when mules carted coal and miners were paid in company credit, coal has certainly been king in Central Appalachia. But now, in a trend not widely noted outside the region, far fewer people make a living in mining there. West Virginia, for example, had 132,000 miners in 1950. Today there are fewer than 20,000, and that number is falling. Nearly every day, Appalachians awake to news of mass layoffs and mine closures.

It’s no one thing. There is cheap and newly-abundant natural gas. Limits on coal-burning power plants. Increased competition from Wyoming, where coal is cheaper to mine and lower in polluting sulfur. And finally, after over 100 years of intensive mining, Appalachia’s coal seams are simply becoming mined out.

Producer Catherine Moore has witnessed this moment. She travelled the back roads of West Virginia from county to county, like Logan, where about 130 laid off miners from Patriot Coal gathered with their families for an emergency meeting held by the state’s workforce development program. Each miner was given a booklet called Surviving a Layoff. Inside, how to write a resume, give a good interview. But something else caught Catherine up short. Listen here…

EXCERPTED FROM “Moving On But No Way Gone: Coal in America,” A 30-MINUTE RADIO DOCUMENTARY COMMISSIONED BY HIGH PLAINS NEWS, AIRING NATIONALLY SPRING 2015.

The Road That Howard Built

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Excited for the first rough cut this piece for The Paint Creek Audio History Tour–a collection of tales about a storied place called Paint Creek, WV, from the voices of people who live along its banks. The history tour will be available via a GPS-activated mobile app and a website, coming in summer of 2015. The project is supported by the WV Humanities Council and the National Coal Heritage Area Authority.

In this segment, Pax native Howard Hughes–one of the founders and leaders of the Paint Creek Scenic Trails Association–tells of the bane of his youthful existence. Howard’s great-great grandfather, a surveyor, founded Pax. Howard’s grandfather was an accomplished stone mason who built many beautiful structures still standing today. His father was a hard-working coal miner who helped fuel American industry during WWII. And Howard, well, Howard built something too.

Produced by Catherine Moore & Jessie Wright-Mendoza. Edited by Catherine Moore.

Coal Layoffs and the Future of Southern WV

Boone County, WV, has lost more coal mining jobs than any other county in the nation, according to a recent analysis by SNL Financial–that’s a fifth of the county’s total labor force. Reporter Catherine Moore went in search for the human side of these staggering figures at the WV Coal Festival, held every year at the end of June in Madison. She talked to residents about how the layoffs are affecting everyday life in Boone County, and how they’re thinking about the future of their home. Listen here…

This short radio doc for WV Public Radio about the human impacts of coal layoffs in Boone County aired regionally on Inside Appalachia and Appalshop’s WMMT, as part of my work as an Appalachian Transition Fellow working with What’s Next, WV?.