On November 8, 2016, Donald J. Trump was elected 45th President of the United States, and on November 9, a group of media students and innovators at West Virginia University (WVU) knew what their newest project needed to entail—a truthful outlet from which Appalachia could be heard.
100 Days in Appalachia launched in January 2017 primarily as a pop-up news website, but one year later, has gained a momentum fueled by a culture that refuses to go unheard—with stories begging to be told and an administration overwhelmingly supported by the region.
“[Our goal is] to resist and reject stereotypes about the region, and to resist journalism that doesn’t do a good job conveying the public’s truth about themselves,” explained 100 Days Creative Director and Executive Editor Dana Coester. “Our project is nonpartisan, and our foremost goals are to tell a different story about the region to the world—and to break away from polarizing, one-dimensional content that does no community any good.”
100 Days relies on both professional and student journalists to produce important and compelling content for the audience far beyond Appalachia. While publishing individual stories, it also features a few project series—like Coester’s current project directing a film about Muslim identity within Appalachia.
“Whatever you think you know about Muslims or Appalachia, think again,” she stressed. “I’ve learned that, even in close proximity, through personal relationships with members of the Appalachian Muslim community, it is all too easy for a journalist to get something wrong or out of context for that individual or community. That’s a journalism problem, and a social problem. So, this project is collaborating with community members to do the context creating and storytelling that makes journalism as true, accurate, and nuanced as it can be for a wider audience.”
In addition, 100 Days also produces a weekly newsletter compiled with stories based on topic, influence, and relevance. Journalism graduate student Emily Martin produces the weekly newsletter. She graduated with a journalism degree from WVU last year, and explained how 100 Days is illuminating stories through authentic reporting.
“100 Days in Appalachia is enhancing and digging into the Appalachian narrative by finding and telling the stories the national media outlets haven’t told. This region is filled with hardworking, interesting people who have so much more to give than just a red vote.”
Since its launch, 100 Days has received some noteworthy grants—allowing it to expand: a Benedum Foundation grant, which helps to fund contributing editors and pay freelance journalists from the region, and the Democracy Fund grant, which provides partial funding for contributing editors.
Coester trusts the potential 100 Days has met and exceeded as a publication, and believes it can continue to build as a media brand for the region. “I’d like to be able to carry it through to the next presidential election and beyond, and one of my top priorities is to explore models to make 100 Days a sustainable non-profit news site.”
As the nation moves into the second year of a Trump presidency, one thing is certain: Appalachia’s voice continues to rise.By Lena Camilletti