Southern Agenda

Appalachian Airwaves

For two decades now, a weekend public radio show from Charleston, West Virginia, has helped unify and demystify one of the country’s most misunderstood regions, all while introducing listeners to wonders like a newly discovered Appalachian Mountain millipede named for Taylor Swift: the Swift twisted-claw, or Nannaria swiftae. Inside Appalachia, which marked its twentieth anniversary in 2022, has built a loyal fan base with surprising feature stories and deeply reported news coverage delivered in a friendly style that feels like a front-porch chat with a neighbor. West Virginia Public Broadcasting premiered the newsmagazine as a statewide project, but the weekly show quickly picked up a following beyond the Mountain State’s borders. Now it’s distributed to stations in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, and listeners around the world download its podcast version. One night the show might profile the artist who developed the NO HATE IN MY HOLLER T-shirt and hashtag that spread across the region in 2017; another week it will dive into the hot-dog-topping sweet yellow slaw famous in Marmet, West Virginia. Producer Bill Lynch says that in the coming year, he anticipates episodes on how 1980s Appalachian trends endure in pop culture, and a “State of Folk” report examining how the folk arts continue to evolve. “More people are paying attention to the region,” he says. “We are a little foreign, a little exotic. We don’t necessarily go the way people expect us to go.”