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Inside Appalachia Adds More Mountain Voices To BPR Airwaves

Mason Adams/Inside Appalachia
In a recent episode, Inside Appalachia host Mason Adams went on a wildflower pilgrimage to Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia where he saw a rainbow among the trees.

BPR is launching several new programs this Sunday including a show centered on the voices and stories of Appalachia. BPR spoke with the hosts of Inside Appalachia ahead of this weekend’s debut: 

Lilly Knoepp: I’m Lilly Knoepp, the regional reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. I’m here with West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s show Inside Appalachia and hosts Mason Adams and Caitlin Tan. We are so excited that BPR is going to air your award-winning show very soon. Thanks so much for being here with me today.

Caitlin Tan: Thanks for having us!

Mason Adams: I’m glad to be here!

Lilly Knoepp: So Inside Appalachia really covers the region and a broad range of issues. Could you tell me a bit about the podcast and how you like to choose your stories and how you think about what Inside Appalachia covers?

Mason Adams: Inside Appalachia cover Appalachia, which is a part of the country that touches a number of different regions extends across multiple states and we look at stories that matter to the people of the region. It’s good if stories have resonance. As a listener first and then as a reporter and then as a co-host, I’ve always appreciated stories around the region whether it's Southwestern Pennsylvania or Southeastern Ohio or Eastern Tennessee or Western North Carolina. I can always hear in those stories themes and nugget that speak to me here in Western Virginia.

Lilly Knoepp: Absolutely looking at your recent episode, it's everything from a wildflower pilgrimage to Kentucky Poet Laureate Crystal Wilkinson to economic and healthcare access stories in the COVID-19 pandemic, so it really spans that whole breadth of the region and currently y’all are heard on 13 stations in West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee so we will become a part of that.

Caitlin Tan: I’m particularly excited we have some upcoming stories and we are trying to get into other parts of Appalachia that maybe we didn’t even realize were in Appalachia or other areas that aren’t part of Appalachia that really technically feel like Appalachia. So we are always trying to keep it fresh you know.

Mason Adams: The boundaries of Appalachia are kind of squishy but one thing that I love is the way that the region overlays so many different parts, so many different regions, of the United States that we tend to draw lines around our identities but it's in Appalachia where you really see this inclusivity in all of these groups coming together; it’s a region that includes parts of New York and Mississippi, Ohio and North Carolina and then I think the stories that we tend to tell have resonance that touch people across the region.

Caitlin Tan: We’re big believers at the show that everyone has a story and I think our Folkways project has proven that.

Lilly Knoepp: What is Folkways grant for folks who might not know about the grant and know how it has funded your work at the station?  

Caitlin Tan: The Folkways reporting project started about three years ago and that is how I came on to the team with Inside Appalachia. I actually moved from Wyoming and came out to West Virginia but the whole goal was it’s a grant funded project to bring more stories about Folkways and to bring awareness. So the focus specifically was material culture so things that you can touch and feel and see. And so through that we have had reporters spread out through six states within the central Appalachian area and the team of reporters keeps growing each year. I think we have over 20.

Mason Adams: I came on as a freelancer to tell a couple stories a year. One of my favorite folkways stories that really resonated with me aired recently. It was a Nicole Musgraves stories about a punk rocker in Eastern Tennessee who got bored during the pandemic started playing the banjo. One thing led to another and next thing you know this punk rocker is interacting and learning from a person in their 80s who has made banjos for most of their lives. Since that story aired, the master has passed away but it was awesome to be able to capture that story, capture that moment during the pandemic.

Lilly Knoepp: That sounds like a really amazing story I can’t wait to hear that and for our listeners at BPR to hear more of y’alls stories. Is there anything else that you want to say to these new listeners in WNC that are about to meet y’all?

Caitlin Tan: Just welcome, we want to hear from everyone so definitely write into us. Welcome to the family.  

Mason Adams: I love WNC – I went there a lot growing up. It’s where I did my first newspaper job back in the early 2000. I’ve consider the people of Western North Carolina to be a vital part of the readership and audience for my work since the beginning of my career 20 years ago. I’m excited that Inside Appalachia is going to be aired on Blue Ridge Public Radio.

Lilly Knoepp: Thanks! Mason Adams and Caitlin Tan hosts of Inside Appalachia – we can’t wait to hear y’all on BPR.

Starting this weekend, Inside Appalachia airs Sundays at 2 pm on Blue Ridge Public Radio along with our the other new additions to our lineup: Code Switch, Life Kit and Our Body Politic - all now on Sundays.

Find details about our new weekend schedule here.

Lilly Knoepp serves as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina. She is a native of Franklin, NC who returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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