Ohio Valley ReSource

WKU Public Radio is part of a new regional journalism collaborative known as the Ohio Valley ReSource.  It's made up of public media stations across Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia.  The collaborative will focus on the changing economy in the region and its effect on jobs, healthcare and infrastructure. 

Each station taking part in the Ohio Valley ReSource is hiring a reporter to contribute to the effort.  WKU Public Radio's reporter is Becca Schimmel, who will be based in the Bowling Green newsroom. 

The Ohio Valley ReSource is made possible by member stations and through a grant from the Corporation For Public Broadcasting. 

Ways to Connect

Still from White House video

“Why don’t you just fire the guy?”

The question came in a press availability with President Trump soon after he learned that federal agents, acting on information from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, had raided the offices of his personal lawyer, Robert Cohen.

The president visibly warmed to the question. Arms crossed, he answered, “Many people have said, ‘You should fire him.’”


Glynis Board

Ohio-based utility FirstEnergy Solutions made waves last month when it asked the Department of Energy to grant it an emergency order to help keep coal and nuclear plants operating across the Ohio Valley.

The request even hit the president’s radar. Speaking earlier this month at a roundtable event in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, Donald Trump said the administration was examining the utility’s request.

"We'll be looking at that 202, you know what a 202 is, we'll be looking at that, we're trying," he said.


Kara Lofton, WVPB

When Oklahoma teacher Sally Salmons saw momentum building toward teacher protests in her state, she immediately reached out to family ties and educators in West Virginia. She said teacher walkouts in the Mountain State provided her and colleagues across the state with the courage they needed to take a stand.

“We looked at West Virginia and said, ‘Now’s the time to get on it.’ I think it gave us confidence to really, finally cross that line,” she said.


office of the Surgeon General

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams threw his support behind syringe exchange services as an important tool to address the Ohio Valley’s high risk of needle-borne disease associated with the opioid epidemic.

Adams visited Florence, in northern Kentucky, for an event to encourage more people to get trained to administer the overdose-reversal drug naloxone. Dressed in a full, dark uniform with gold stripes on his sleeves, Adams demonstrated his technique with the potentially life-saving nasal spray.

“Let’s show them how this works,” he told a crowd of health officials and media. 


Nicole Erwin

Billy Hobby’s days are largely filled by two things: church and pool.

“I play everyday, mostly,” Hobby said, sitting next to his wife, Barbara.

“Well, I enjoy watching him play,” Barbara Hobby said. “He’s got health problems, can’t go out of town and play all the time.”

Billy and Barbara were in Cadiz, Kentucky, about 20 miles from their home in Princeton so that the 86-year-old pool player could compete in a weekly tournament.


Howard Berkes/NPR

The American College of Radiologists, a professional organization representing radiologists, is asking Kentucky to repeal a new law that changes how coal miners receive benefits for black lung disease.

The law’s changes to Kentucky’s workers’ compensation system removed radiologists from the claims process, even though radiologists are specialists in reading in X-rays and are generally considered to be the most qualified among doctors certified to diagnose black lung disease.

“This is a matter of life and death for many people and politics should be left out of it,” wrote William T. Thorwarth Jr., a radiologist who serves as the organization’s CEO. “We hope that the Kentucky legislature will rescind this new law and work with the medical provider community to save more lives.”

Nicole Erwin

China buys more than half of the soybeans grown in the Ohio Valley. So China’s threat this week to place a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soy means farmers would be caught in the crosshairs of a trade war.

Even though tariffs haven’t taken effect, markets are already showing signs that commodities traders are growing nervous. The tariff anxiety comes as U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue visits the region this week. 


Mary Meehan

Greg Lee, Kentucky’s HIV/AIDS educator, started the town hall on a somber note.

“How many people in this room know someone who has died of an overdose death?”

It was a standing-room only crowd. Most hands went up.

“Amazing,” he said, sadly.

The meeting was at the Bourbon County Public Health Department, just next to the county’s drug rehab center and down the hill from a playground where used needles are found far too often.


Howard Berkes, NPR

William McCool is a 64-year-old former coal miner from Letcher County, Kentucky, with an advanced form of black lung disease. Health experts say the condition is entirely preventable with dust control measures in mines. But today, more miners in Appalachia are being diagnosed with severe black lung than ever before.

“I’ve worked all my life, I’ve seen a lot of coal go down the beltline,” McCool said, pausing to catch his breath between phrases. “Somebody’s made money, but the cheapest thing the company’s got is the worker. Everything else costs them all kinds of money but they can get workers.”

Deep In Gun Country, Students Speak Out On Gun Violence

Mar 26, 2018
Nicole Erwin

Gun culture runs deep in much of the Ohio Valley, where hunting is a revered tradition and the majority of state lawmakers in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia boast “A” ratings from the National Rifle Association.

But even here the growing national student activism on gun safety is taking hold in the wake of recent school shootings. With some three dozen events in the region coinciding with the national March For Our Lives protest, more students from the region are deciding to speak out.

The Ohio Valley ReSource sampled some student viewpoints from around the region.


ARC and NORC at Univ. of Chicago

President Donald Trump’s call to implement the death penalty for drug traffickers grabbed headlines Monday. But public health officials within the Trump administration are stressing other elements of the president’s plan to address the opioid crisis.

Acting Director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Anne Schuchat, outlined her agency’s plans for the Ohio Valley, which has some of the nation’s highest rates of addiction and overdose deaths.


Becca Schimmel

Bottles of bourbon make their way through the assembly line at Maker’s Mark, one of ten distilleries on the Kentucky bourbon trail. They’re cleaned, filled, capped and then dipped in the company’s signature red wax, a tradition that started with the wife of the distillery’s founder, Bill Samuels.

"She took red sealing wax, she put it in her family's deep fryer right there in the kitchen, dipped the first bottle of Maker’s Mark right there in her kitchen,” a tour guide explained. “She brought it out to Bill Samuels Sr. as he was sitting there in the kitchen and he hated it. Well, you see who won."


Tre’ Sexton, courtesy Bluegrass Solar

Arlie Boggs Elementary sits between Kentucky’s two tallest mountains in a remote area that once had a booming coal economy. Ten years ago there were over a thousand coal miners employed here in Letcher county. Today, there are just 28.

“We were left with many unemployed miners,” eighth-grader Nicholas Sturgill said, as he and two classmates gave a presentation to a small crowd of students and teachers at an education summit in Pikeville, Kentucky.

“Paying bills had become a hardship for many. We wondered what we could do to reduce costs in our homes and our schools,” he said.


Nicole Erwin

Jeff McGrew stood in line with about 30 other west Kentucky farmers awaiting certification that they’ve been trained to apply the herbicide Dicamba. The two hour session explained the Environmental Protection Agency’s new restrictions on use of the controversial herbicide. The session left Mcgrew uncertain about whether to use the spray.

“I'm undecided right now but I'm leaning towards not spraying it,” he said. “I don't think in our area we're going to have much of any place that there will be enough area that we won't have buffer zones or other sensitive crops and I'm not sure that it's going to work out for us.”


Alexandra Kanik

Health officials in the Ohio Valley are investigating outbreaks of disease associated with needle drug use in what is emerging as a new public health threat from the region’s profound opioid addiction crisis.

In northern Kentucky the health department is tracking a cluster of 43 recent HIV cases, about half of which are related to needle drug use. In West Virginia, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just released a report on 40 new HIV cases diagnosed in 2017 in 15 mostly rural counties.


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