Welcome to the Ohio Valley ReSource, a journalism partnership that aims to rethink how we use our resources in a shifting economy. With support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting seven public media outlets in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia formed the ReSource to strengthen coverage of the area’s economic transition and the social changes that come with it. It’s a big story for our region – maybe the big story. Here’s how the ReSource will report it.
(Click on a station to learn more.)
Covering an Economic Shift
The historic economic base of the Ohio Valley’s river cities, farm lands, and coal country is experiencing a dramatic shift. Globalization and international trade have reduced the heavy industries that sustained many towns and cities. Some former tobacco areas still search for a new money-making crop. And coal, once king, is in sharp decline as cheaper, cleaner fuels become more abundant.
The communities caught in this economic shift are also undergoing wrenching social changes. Dwindling tax revenues undermine delivery of basic social services. Small business places, union halls, and other centers of public life are diminished. And a profound addiction crisis compounds the region’s longstanding health problems.
Making a Living Defined Lives
Jobs in this region mean more than just making a living. For many women and men, work also helps define their lives and their communities’ sense of identity. People take great pride in helping to power, feed, and supply the rest of the nation. As the economy shifts, so does this sense of cultural identity. For communities dealing with the loss of traditional jobs, the question “What do we do now?” is related to another, deeper one: “Who are we now?”
The philosopher Richard Rorty wrote that the best way to cause long-lasting pain to people is by “making the things that seemed most important to them look futile, obsolete, and pointless.”
When people are told that the coal they mined, the tobacco they grew, and the industrial products they made are obsolete and pointless, well, is it any wonder that so many fall into addiction or follow a demagogue?
The social, public health, and environmental costs of products like coal and tobacco are real, of course, and should not be ignored. But the region’s historic contributions to the country are also real and deserve recognition.
These connections among economic activity, cultural identity, and social change will be at the core of our journalism.
The Role of Regional Journalism
Good journalism at the regional level can be an important service to those communities finding their way through this economic and social shift.
Because the ReSource team of eight journalists is based in partner stations across the three states, we can build upon the strength of these host newsrooms and their local connections.
Because we cover a broad area – from Kentucky’s western tip through the Ohio Valley and across West Virginia’s mountains – we can provide communities with a regional perspective on the issues affecting them.
We will use audio, data, and video to tell the human stories behind our region’s economy, energy, environment, health, food, and infrastructure. Our goal is to promote understanding, engagement, and a cross-pollination of ideas among those tackling the region’s toughest problems.
I hope you will find this ReSource a valuable one.