MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Some of the bloodiest and most important moments in the American labor movement happened in the coalfields of southern West Virginia. But most who live beyond its rugged mountains, and even many who live in them, don’t know the stories.
Doug Estepp is trying to change that, one busload of tourists at a time.
Estepp grew up in a coal mining family in Mingo County but never heard much about the early 20th century “mine wars” as a child.
The term covers many events in the long, violent struggle to unionize: a deadly gunfight on the streets of Matewan; the largest armed insurrection since the Civil War in the woods above Blair; the firing of machine guns from an armor-plated train on striking miners and their families in the Holly Grove tent colony.
Estepp set out this past summer to tell the tales. With no experience in the tour-bus industry, he took 80 people on two inaugural trips to prove that a region perhaps best known for mine disasters could become West Virginia’s next big destination.
Estepp, a full-time employee of the U.S. Treasury in Martinsburg, made enough money to break even, and he’s expanding in 2012 with six trips, including departures from Beckley, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Hampton Roads, Va., and Washington, D.C.
His tour stops show everything from the squalor of company-run camps to coal barons’ mansions in Bramwell.
He’s also taking his customers’ advice and expanding the trips to four days, allowing more time to visit with active and retired miners and the people who re-enact the Matewan Massacre.
"I literally have to drag folks back onto the bus from that one," Estepp says.
I have to say I picked the two worst days (weather-wise) to shoot. It hasn’t stopped raining and looks like it’s going to continue and may turn into snow. I will try to make the most of my trip anyway, but I’m worried I won’t return to Boston with alot of outdoor shots of the towns in McDowell County. I guess I have all next summer! Today, I am interviewing Alan Johnston, an amazing musician here in Iaeger, as well as Pete Ballard, Jean Battlo and Tom Acosta.
A new online magazine has been launched to explore urban centers of Appalachia. “The Hillville” is a weekly magazine that provides news, features, columns, profiles of people and places that will appeal to and engage urban Appalachians. Instead of just focusing on the mountain culture of Appalachia, the publishers, Niki King and Beth Newberry, strive to “create a place where we can explore our identities — mountain and metropolitan — together, as a community.”
"…Making an interactive documentary is not as simple as placing chunks of linear content online, nor does it necessarily mean implementing game-like structure…"
If you’re interested in strategies to present and tell stories across platforms you should check out this article.
It focuses alot on Australia and Canada’s efforts in leading interactive documentary storytelling and gives insight into new ways of thinking about storytelling. It also talks about new distribution/marketing methods and how content online brings in a self-generated and unique audience.
"Audiences do not have to wait years for a television broadcast; they can watch content online immediately…Knowing where to look for productions online can be difficult, however, and local broadcasters have begun acquiring international interactive productions to host on domestic sites."
WELCH — Students at Mount View High School will be beginning a renewable energy project today aimed at learning more about solar energy and incorporating it into their local community, one of the first of its kind in the nation.
Stephen Bloom is not a popular man in Iowa these days.
The University of Iowa journalism professor’s article in The Atlantic, which drew widespread criticism for its sweeping generalizations about the state and its people. Bloom referred to rural Iowans as “an assortment of waste-toids and meth addicts.” In the same paragraph he mentioned lack of education, rotted teeth and pale skin.
The Bloom vs. Iowa debate has put the spotlight once again on the sometimes uncomfortable relationships urbane faculty members from cosmopolitan areas of the country may have with the communities where they live, whether differences are political, cultural or just the griping that comes with being forced to buy groceries at a Piggly Wiggly instead of Whole Foods.
McDowell County schools continue to struggle despite a decade under state control, with West Virginia’s worst dropout rate and lagging behind all or most other counties in reading, science and math. The county also suffers from one of the lowest median incomes in the country, and ranks high for the percentage of residents living in poverty, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau figures. Drug abuse and prescription painkiller overdoses are an issue as well.
Organizers say Reconnecting McDowell envisions the county’s schools becoming hubs for much-needed social and health-related services. With some areas lacking even dial-up access to the Internet, the project aims to expand broadband and cell phone coverage. Other thorny topics facing the partnership include economic development, transportation and housing.
"Over the past couple of days, I have spoken to several residents of McDowell County — in person and over the telephone — who appear to be both hurt and angry over the news segment. I can’t blame them for their anger."
"Having grown up in McDowell County, getting slammed by the outside news media wasn’t anything new. We grew accustomed to out-of-town, and often out-of-state, news organizations coming in with a single objective — to make McDowell County look bad. They would, of course, always go searching for a run-down shack somewhere in the mountain, as well as an abandoned or dilapidated building, and of course the creek. For some reason, the outside news media always films the creek when they come into McDowell County — just as the Australian news team did."
"But that doesn’t mean we still don’t get slammed from time to time. The news team from Australia apparently came to McDowell County with one mission, and that was to make McDowell County — and apparently the entire state of West Virginia — look bad. I hate it when journalists do that. I really do. You are not telling the true story when you film a run-down, or abandoned building, but fail to also film a bank or new multi-million dollar high school just down the road, not to mention the federal prison at the giant industrial park in Welch or even the WalMart supercenter in Kimball. And why would any out-of-town film crew ignore the unique story of the Kimball War Memorial?"
A recent column in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph discusses the Australian Broadcasting piece on McDowell County and lists topics the show failed to discuss. Read the full column here
“Everything in the segment was 100 percent correct,” he said. “But it’s only one side of the story.”
• Not shown is the new multi-million dollar, state-of-the-art River View High School constructed just a few miles down the road.
• Not shown is the five-screen Marquee Cinemas in the middle of downtown Welch. How many small towns have a five-screen cinema smack dab in the middle of their downtown, within walking distance from homes?
• Not shown is the Walmart supercenter in Kimball, or the Magic/Goodsons/Wendy’s shopping center on U.S. Route 52.
• Not shown is the new Southside Elementary School, the new Mount View Middle School or the new Bradshaw Elementary School.
• Not shown is the Pioneer Bank in downtown Iaeger — not far from Fanning Funeral Home, which was shown.
• Not shown is the large Anawalt dam and fishing area, the new Martha Moore Memorial Park in downtown Welch or the new Hatfield-McCoy Trail in Northfork.
• Not shown is the Indian Ridge Industrial Park, the Coalfields Expressway construction site and the new federal prison.
• Not shown are local landmarks such as the Sterlin Drive-In in Welch, Cape Coalwood Park in Coalwood, the Kimball War Memorial or the new housing project under construction on Tom’s Mountain in Welch.
LYONS, Neb. - In a large area of the northwest part of Wisconsin, young adults continue to move away, leaving what the Center for Rural Affairs calls “bookend generations:” Only the youngest and oldest residents remain.
Center research director Jon Bailey has just written a report about this trend. It affects young adults in large areas of the Midwest and Great Plains, who stay home only while they’re young, he says.
"When they turn 18, the population of rural places really starts to change. People in their 20s, 30s, 40s - working-age young adults and older adults - begin to move to the more urban places of their region."
The interactive doc definitely has it’s own aesthetic/scrapbook feel. When I first experienced the piece I felt it was a bit overwhelming and lacked solid storytelling but my opinion was changed after a second viewing. I have now walked away with a huge appreciation for the amazing sound design in the project. Welcome to Pine Point combines photographs, sound and video clips, interviews, music, and narration to explore the memories of people from the town. Experience it for yourself here
The National Film Board of Canada’s Welcome to Pine Point continues to rack up kudos.
The interactive transmedia documentary, created by The Goggles’ Michael Simons and Paul Shoebridge and produced by the NFB, won Best in Web series at last night’s Digi Awards in Toronto. The series was also awarded two Webbys this year.
The awards wrapped up the 2011 nextMEDIA conference with winners named in 17 digital media categories.
I haven’t had alot of time to fully check out this site but from what I can tell it is pretty visually interesting! Check it out. Looks like more of a visual diary than an interactive storytelling site.
Documentary Educational Resources is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1968 for the purpose of producing and distributing cross-cultural documentary film for educational use. DER supports filmmakers who have long-term commitments to the people that they film; and filmmakers who work collaboratively with their subjects to produce a film with integrity.
They also focus on distributing media that has the power to overcome barriers to cross-cultural understanding. “Media can be the first step in growing sensitivity and awareness of other cultures. This in turn may lead to tolerance and acceptance and eventually give way to appreciation and admiration of other cultures.”
This is an exciting step forward for the project that will allow us to start applying for grants under a non-profit status. DER will also handle all tax-deductible donations given to the film, as well as the give guidance on fundraising and distribution.