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100 Days in Appalachia awarded two grants for expansion across campus and throughout the nation

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100 Days in Appalachia, a media outlet incubated at the West Virginia University Reed College of Media’s  Media Innovation Center, continues to expand with two new grants that will have a big impact on how the program educates both students and the nation’s media. The digital publication is a collaboration with  West Virginia Public Broadcasting (WVPB) and  The Daily Yonder, of the Center for Rural Strategies.

100 Days has garnered a national reputation as a go-to source for real stories coming out of Appalachia, told by the journalists and community members living and working there. What started as a way to combat stereotypes in the first 100 days of the Trump administration has turned into an ongoing, evolving project that is not only changing the way our country perceives the region but is also experimenting with new digital storytelling and community engagement techniques.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Facebook Journalism Project (FJP), with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, recently awarded grants to support two integral components of 100 Days – an interdisciplinary approach to social documentary storytelling and an editorial advisory board and reporting toolkit to ensure proper coverage of Appalachia.

The $250,000 Mellon grant will support the integration of 100 Days into the curriculum at WVU, providing funds to develop three new cross-disciplinary courses, provide faculty training in new media technology and lay the groundwork for a potential new major in social documentary storytelling. The new courses will engage students and faculty from Journalism, English, History, Linguistics, Folklore, Cultural Geography, Religion and other disciplines that are working areas of Appalachian identity, history, and culture.

“This grant will enable us to have a long-term presence on campus,” said Dean Diana Martinelli. “We’ll be able to share innovative digital storytelling techniques with a wider array of faculty and students beyond the Media Innovation Center.”

While the Mellon grant focuses on a more robust educational platform at WVU, the FJP Community Network grant aims to help improve national coverage of our region. As we enter the 2020 election cycle and anticipate heavy coverage of a region previously dubbed “Trump country,” this grant will help ensure accuracy in reporting about Appalachian communities.

The funds will support a pilot network of context editors who will advise reporters covering the region using community-vetted content that does not perpetuate stereotypes about the region. Community members will also be trained in topics like news judgement, fact-checking, photo editing and media law and ethics to engage Appalachians in the decision-making processes of journalism. This advisory community will provide context for reporters and editors at local, regional, national and international media outlets to prevent the extractive storytelling that was experienced during the 2016 presidential race.  

The FJP grant will also be used to produce a toolkit with guidelines on how – and how not to – cover the region during the upcoming election. It will include a database of Appalachian reporters, editors, photographers and videographers available for hire by national outlets.  

“Our goal is to provide resources to national and international media outlets who often continue to portray the region in simplistic ways,” said associate professor Dana Coester, the creative director and executive editor of 100 Days. “While we have built new networks and collaborations between our region and the rest of the world since we launched in 2016, we still have work to do to ensure Appalachian voices are included in national conversations.”

FJP and the Lenfest Institute are among a handful of other 100 Days funders who are deeply committed to community-based, nonprofit journalism. Founded in 1969, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is among the nation’s largest supporters of the humanities in higher education and the arts.

100 Days was among 23 inaugural recipients of the FJP Community Network grant. The FJP “works with publishers around the world through trainings, programs, and partnerships to help strengthen communities by connecting people with meaningful journalism.” The Lenfest Institute’s mission is to “develop and support sustainable business models for great local journalism.”  

These grants were made in conjunction with the   WVU Foundation , the nonprofit corporation that generates and provides support for West Virginia University.