Who We Are

100 Days in Appalachia is the independent nonprofit newsroom of Appalachia Free Press. Our founding partners are West Virginia Public Broadcasting and the Daily Yonder, of The Center for Rural Strategies, headquartered in Eastern Kentucky, and 100 Days was initially incubated at the West Virginia University Media Innovation Center. We have an open-source, co-publishing model and share content from Appalachia’s diverse communities with regional, national and international media organizations. Read more about 100 Days in Appalachia’s mission, funding and collaborating partners here.

To contact a member of the 100 Days team, email [email protected].

MEET OUR STAFF

Dana Coester (@poetabook) is the editor in chief for 100 Days in Appalachia. Dana also serves as creative director for the West Virginia University Media Innovation Center where she leads the Center’s Innovators-in-Residence program. She is passionate about community media, women in technology and privacy and social equity in emerging technology. Dana is currently directing the documentary film Raised by Wolves about youth and online hate in the region, as well as the documentary film Muslim in Appalachia.

Ashton Marra (@ashtonmarra) is the executive editor of 100 Days in Appalachia, helping guide the work of our team of editors, contributors and reporters, as well as producing originally reported content. She is also the co-founder of Reporting on Addiction, a collaborative project of 100 Days and the Opioid Policy Institute, working to train professional and student journalists in solutions-focused journalism methods that help break cycles of stigma often perpetuated through media coverage of our communities. Ashton is a teaching assistant professor in the West Virginia University Reed College of Media. She’s spent more than a decade working as a professional journalist in West Virginia, Ohio and New York City for both public media and commercial news outlets. Her work, covering stories like the 2012 Aurora Colorado movie theater shooting, West Virginia’s 2014 chemical spill and the 2015 trial of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, has appeared on both national and international airwaves on radio and television.

Saba Ashfaq leads community outreach and program development for one of our collaborating partners, The Rural Youth Digital Resiliency Project. She is also an associate producer and lead participant in 100 Days in Appalachia’s “Muslim in Appalachia” documentary project helping to forge trust and relationships between Muslims in the community with journalists and other community members. She is a producer and featured in the documentary film Raised by Wolves that peers into online Appalachian youth culture. She served as a research fellow for America Indivisible, a coalition effort to address rising bigotry against members of Muslim communities and those who appear to be Muslim from Black, Arab, Sikh, and South Asian American communities by reinforcing American values of equality, pluralism, and strength through diversity. In these roles she has traveled through the U.S. and abroad to learn about rural Muslims and build solidarity among many diverse communities. She is also an advocate and a voice to create better policies for children and building inclusion among minorities affected by bigotry and Islamophobia. She has a Masters in Public Health specializing in Social and Behavioral Sciences and has a deep record of service and community engagement and community organizing.

Joel Beeson is a recovering photojournalist and special correspondent for 100 Days in Appalachia. Beeson investigates the rise of para military and extremist groups in Appalachia, the risks among young people for radicalization to extremist ideologies and opportunities for mentorship and interventions through veterans groups. A professor at the WVU Reed College of Media, Beeson has M.A. and B.A. degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia and received his doctorate in American Studies at the Union Institute and University. Beeson’s work has been honored by the Congressional Black Caucus, and he is the recipient of The Lionel C. Barrow Jr. Award for Distinguished Achievement in Diversity Research. He comes to journalism practice from a background of rural community organizing based on grassroots cultural organizing methods, union organizing, racial justice activism and work in the disability rights movement as a disabled person. Beeson oversees our investigative reporting and research teams and ensures empathy-based, ethical standards of conduct are followed to protect the data, dignity, and rights of all participants.

Skylar Baker-Jordan (@skylarjordan) is the contributing editor for community engagement of 100 Days in Appalachia, where he oversees our newsletter products. In this role, Skylar provides weekly analysis, commentary, or reporting on a topic of interest in Appalachia – often tied in with breaking news of the week. He also curates our “Appalachian News Roundup,” finding events and stories from across Appalachia that may be of interest to our readers. Skylar also oversees our Creators & Innovators Series, recruiting different artists and activists to take over our newsletter every Thursday for a month. Highlighting the talent and diversity of Appalachia, our Creators & Innovators series gives a platform to those Appalachians who are challenging the narrative of our region while doing important work in their communities. In addition to his work at 100 Days in Appalachia, Skylar is a regular contributor at The Independent, where he writes about politics and public policy, often as they pertain to life in the mountains. Before that, Skylar spent several years writing and reporting on British politics, both as a freelance journalist and as a former contributing editor at TheGayUK Magazine. His reporting has allowed him the privilege of interviewing such a diverse array of people as an Oscar-winning actress, Grammy-winning rock stars, members of parliament, and a baroness. His work has appeared at Newsweek, Salon, HuffPost UK, Business Insider, and of course 100 Days in Appalachia. He currently lives in East Tennessee.

Tyler Channell (@tylerchannell) is the lead web developer for 100 Days in Appalachia via his news revenue startup PaywallProject. Through PaywallProject, he provides publishers with a turnkey digital subscription platform to help grow paid subscribers. He’s helped local newspapers throughout Appalachia and beyond generate more than $700,000 in new sustainable revenue from digital subscriptions. Tyler formerly taught multimedia journalism and video editing at the WVU Reed College of Media.

Laura Harbert Allen (she/her) is a Report for America corps member covering the intersection of religion, politics and culture for 100 Days in Appalachia. Prior to joining 100 Days, she contributed to podcasts such as Making Contact, Us & Them, Freakonomics Radio, and Inside Appalachia. She also studied audio documentary at the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) at Duke University and has served on the staff for creator retreats at CDS. Laura has been a public media host, reporter/producer, and manager, first at Public Radio East in New Bern, North Carolina, then at West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and WEKU-FM in Richmond, Kentucky. She also worked for eight years as the communications director with the West Virginia United Methodist Conference. Laura will complete her Ph.D. at the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University in 2022, where she has taught media criticism and audio storytelling/podcasting for the past three years. Her doctoral research on the 2018 West Virginia Teacher and Public-School Worker Strike examines the power of the grassroots to craft their own narrative through social media and how that narrative emerged in mainstream media coverage.

Chris Jones is a Reporter for America corps member leading investigative coverage at 100 Days in Appalachia. He is a United States Marine Corps veteran, who served four years in the infantry and as a machine gun squad leader in Afghanistan, Jones was also an EMT in Pittsburgh. A freelance photojournalist most recently based in Brooklyn, New York, since 2015 he’s covered the war in Afghanistan as well as political and breaking news coverage in the U.S. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today and The Village Voice. In 2019 he worked as a monthly contributor for Pacific Standard magazine.

David Smith (@dvdmthdvd) is a multimedia producer and helps lead the audience development for 100 Days in Appalachia. He is a senior lecturer at the West Virginia University Reed College of Media teaching visual journalism and multimedia storytelling. Before coming to WVU, David was a visual journalist for 10 years in North Carolina, Alabama, Ohio and West Virginia. He is passionate about teaching and modeling curiosity and experimentation in students at the College of Media. Smith is co-producing a documentary film on Muslim identity in Appalachia with Dana Coester as well as the 360° video series “Muslim in Appalachia” excerpted in 100 Days in Appalachia.

Taylor Sisk is a health care journalist whose work frequently focuses on how health care practices and policies affect people’s lives. His primary beat is primarily rural Appalachia. Appalachia – most especially central and southern Appalachia – experiences some of the poorest health outcomes in the nation It’s challenged by high rates of chronic diseases, the proliferation of opioids and methamphetamines, an aging population, a struggling economy, poor access to care and diminishing health care services. Sisk’s objective is to tell these stories to a general audience, to underscore the challenges and to point to community-based solutions that, in most cases, can serve as a model for communities anywhere. Ongoing areas of focus include health disparities, evidence-based treatment for substance-use disorders, the ripple effects of the closure of a rural hospital and the role of community health workers in addressing their neighbors’ health care and other needs. Sisk is also now part of team of journalists that’s taking part in a 100 Days in Appalachia-led initiative delving into the effects of political extremism in the U.S. today. His role is to examine the intersection of extremism and health care, most particularly the dissemination of misinformation. In addition to 100 Days in Appalachia, Sisk’s work has appeared in The Daily Yonder, the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, HuffPost, MedPage Today, National Geographic, STAT, USA Today, Washington Monthly and Yes! Magazine, among other print and digital publications.

Rainesford Stauffer (@rainesford) is contributing editor of 100 Days in Appalachia’s Appalachian Youth Creators project. In this role, she recruits and manages the editorial process for young people throughout the region, working with them to turn ideas into pitches, and pitches into essays, op-eds, and reported pieces. The Youth Creators Project centers the belief that young people’s perspectives are critical to nuanced writing and reporting, and to better understanding the past, present, and future of the region. Rainesford’s role focuses outreach and cultivation in addition to editing, collaborating with wider 100 Days team and young writers to craft, fact-check, and publish their work, for which they are compensated. In addition, Rainesford assists the Rural Digital Youth Resiliency Project in coordinating and hosting focus groups with middle and high school students in rural areas, focused on the experiences they’re having online and the impact of social media. Beyond her work at 100 Days, Rainesford is a freelance writer and reporter whose work has appeared in publications including Teen Vogue, Scalawag, Vox, The New York Times, and other publications. She’s the author of An Ordinary Age, a narrative nonfiction book about young adulthood that was named one of the Best Nonfiction Books of 2021 by Esquire Magazine, and All the Gold Stars, forthcoming from Hachette Go. She is currently serving as writer-in-residence with the Kentucky Student Voice Team. Rainesford is committed to creating opportunities for youth engagement in journalism and media, and centering the voices of young adults themselves.

Black and white headshot of girl with long hair, white shirt and cardigan.

Kristen Uppercue is the deputy editor for special projects at 100 Days in Appalachia, managing databases behind the scenes and assisting in editorial projects, including the upcoming “Mountain Grown” photo series from Curren Sheldon depicting the lives of male and nonbinary youth in Appalachia. She also works with Reporting on Addiction, a collaborative project of 100 Days and the Opioid Policy Institute, working to train professionals and student journalists in solutions-focused journalism methods that help break cycles of stigma often perpetuated through media coverage of our communities. Kristen completed her bachelor’s degree in journalism and master’s in integrated marketing and communications from West Virginia University, where she first began working with 100 Days as a student editor. Kristen is assisting Dana Coester in the documentary film Raised by Wolves about youth and online hate in the region. She is a young adult passionate about moving the media industry forward, combating mis- and disinformation on social media, as well as researching online culture, including influencers, platforms and current trends.

Jesse Wright (@JWrightWV) is the chief data officer and an occasional contributing editor/producer at 100 Days in Appalachia, helping to implement data-informed editorial decisions, along with adding visual and audio storytelling. Jesse has produced several collaborative reporting projects with partners, such as the co-published audio doc United We’re Not with Reveal on America’s and Appalachia’s deep divides. He is trained as a coach in the American Press Institute’s Table Stakes program. Jesse is a former news director at West Virginia Public Broadcasting (2015-2020). He holds a B.S. in journalism from WVU, where he also serves as a teaching assistant professor.

FOUNDING CONTRIBUTORS

Gina Dahlia (@ginadahlia) is the founding general manager for 100 Days in Appalachia. She is also the executive producer of WVU News, a National Emmy-award-winning student newscast at West Virginia University. Gina also serves as managing director for the WVU Media Innovation Center, and is an award-winning filmmaker. Her documentary, “The Monongah Heroine,” aired on PBS in December 2007, receiving worldwide press. The film focuses on the widows left behind from the December 6, 1907, Monongah, West Virginia, mine disaster. Gina’s journalism career spans 25 years, where she has held many roles in the field. She has worked as a TV news anchor and reporter at a CBS affiliate and later as a weekly newspaper columnist, feature and business writer and restaurant critic. She also spearheaded the campaign of current U.S. Senator Joe Manchin when he ran and won the office of West Virginia Secretary of State in 2001.

Nancy Andrews (@nancyandrews), a contributing reporter and photographer for 100 Days in Appalachia, is a 2018 Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellow studying natural gas pipelines in Appalachia. Previously West Virginia University’s Ogden Professor of Media Innovation, Nancy was part of the 100 Days in Appalachia founding leadership team and created a series of 100 portraits from across Appalachia called ‘100 Voices.’ In the industry, Nancy ran the digital operations of the Detroit Free Press winning four national Emmy Awards and two Edward R. Murrow Awards. She led explanatory projects such as the SABEW award-winning project, “How Detroit Went Broke.” As a Washington Post staff photographer, Nancy earned Photographer of the Year awards from the White House news Photographers Association and the Pictures of the Year International from University of Missouri, National Press Photographers Association. She’s published two monographs, “Family: A Portrait of Gay and Lesbian America” and “Partial View: An Alzheimer’s Journey.”

Bob Britten (@TheBobThe) leads the PolitiFact collaboration with 100 Days in Appalachia. He has worked, studied and taught in journalism for 16 years, beginning as a reporter for the Greenville (Pa.) Record-Argus and working as an editor, designer, art director and infographics reporter. He has been a faculty member at the West Virginia University Reed College of Media since 2008, where he teaches courses in visual communication, social media and media law and ethics. Most recently, he designed and taught the College’s new course in sensor journalism. He makes beer and reads comic books.

Crystal Lewis Brown (@c_lewisbrown) is a founding Democracy Fund contributing editor who led a reporting series on Religion in Appalachia as well as helped develop the content strategy for the project. A freelance journalist, editor and digital content strategist with more than 14 years of writing and editing experience, she has previously worked as Director of Editorial Operations for SheKnows Media, and held positions with Gannett and the U.S. Army. She has bylines in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mommy Nearest, Doorsteps.com and Health.com, among others. She has also led and produced branded content projects for brands like Red Lobster, Discover Personal Loans, Natural Balance, Starbucks, Signature by Levi Strauss & Co., and more. Crystal is an alumna of the Poynter-NABJ Leadership Academy for Diversity in Digital Media at the Poynter Institute and the New York Times Student Journalism Institute. Crystal has an M.S. in journalism from Florida A&M University and received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of South Alabama.

Lovey Cooper (@loveycooper) is a founding contributing editor, who reported on the intersection of politics and culture in Appalachia. Born and raised in rural North Carolina, Lovey is a graduate of the school of journalism at Appalachian State University. In recent years, she has contributed to award-winning projects and reports tackling issues of poverty and equity in America’s K-12 education system, and worked to increase the ease of access to federal and state policy experts and public information for journalists at small and large outlets nationwide. Her work appears in The Atlantic, Vice, Rewire News and Education Week. She currently serves as the managing editor of Scalawag Magazine, and is the voice behind the This Week in the South newsletter.

Mike Costello (@costellowv) is a founding contributing editor and a chef, farmer and storyteller from Harrison County, West Virginia. A lifelong West Virginian, Mike operates Lost Creek Farm, a historic 180-acre farm and traveling kitchen, with his partner Amy Dawson. Through his work, Mike utilizes food as a vehicle to share stories about the depth, complexity and diversity of a region that’s often misrepresented and drastically misunderstood. Mike graduated with a degree from the West Virginia University P.I. Reed School of Journalism in 2007, where he began exploring Appalachian foodways and was part of multiple award-winning student projects.

Annemarie Dooling (@TravelingAnna) is a founding contributing editor and Knight Foundation Innovator-in-Residence leading students and faculty in experiments in audience development and social distribution for 100 Days in Appalachia. Annemarie currently leads audience growth and retention for the Wall Street Journal. Previously she was at Vox Media, and managed audience growth and development for both Vocativ and Yahoo. A self-proclaimed online communities expert who has worked at the Huffington Post and AOL, Annemarie previously served as a community advisor at Salon where she consulted on expanding user participation.

Tim Marema (@tmarema) serves as a co-publisher for 100 Days in Appalachia as vice president of the Center for Rural Strategies and editor of The Daily Yonder. At The Daily Yonder, Tim has created innovative ways to automate the localization of national news stories for rural and small-town community media (a project supported by a Knight Foundation Innovation Fund). His localized stories have reached more than three million rural residents through weekly newspapers and small radio stations, covering such topics as the economic impact of Social Security in rural counties, the increase in food-stamp participation during the Great Recession and the county-level impact of Medicaid expansion in Kentucky. Tim grew up in Eastern Kentucky and now lives in East Tennessee.

Contributing photographer Roger May (@walkyourcamera) is an Appalachian American photographer and writer based in Charleston, West Virginia. He was born in the Tug River Valley, located on the West Virginia and Kentucky state line, in the heart of Hatfield and McCoy country. His photographs, essays and interviews have been published by The New York Times, The Guardian, The Atlantic, Al Jazeera America, National Geographic, The Oxford American, Le Monde diplomatique, Photo District News and others. In February 2014, he started the crowdsourced Looking at Appalachia project.

Thomas McBee is a consulting editor for 100 Days in Appalachia. Thomas is the editorial director for growth at Quartz, where he and the team have quadrupled Quartz’ traffic in the last two and a half years through editorial initiatives promoting growth. He is also a freelance writer whose work can be found in the New York Times, Playboy, The Atlantic, The Rumpus and more. Thomas is the author of the award-winning memoir, Man Alive and is currently working on his second book, Amateur. Additionally, he is a professor in the social journalism graduate program at the City University of New York.

Jan Pytalski is a founding special correspondent with 100 Days in Appalachia, covering policies from Congress and the White House that impact the region. He currently works as an associate editor with The Daily Yonder. Jan is a transplant to the United States from Poland, where he began his journalism career working for Reuters in Warsaw. Prior to his work as a reporter, he spent over a decade working as a translator.

Keith Reed (@K_dot_RE) is a Democracy Fund founding contributing editor and in addition to editing and reporting with 100 Days in Appalachia, has helped guide student reporting in the College’s capstone and reporting initiative with Morgan State University. He has been a journalist for 17 years, having served as a senior editor at ESPN the Magazine, a staff writer at The Boston Globe and a contributing writer for Vibe, Essence, Ebony and numerous other publications. He has also lent commentary on the economy, culture and sports to CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, NPR and many other outlets. A past board member of the National Association of Black Journalists, he was selected for three terms, including two as the organization’s national treasurer.