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100 Days in Appalachia awarded $1 million MacArthur Grant

Aerial view of Appalachian town

100 Days in Appalachia, an independent nonprofit newsroom that was incubated at the West Virginia University Media Innovation Center, was awarded its largest grant to date: $1 million from the MacArthur Foundation.

Dana Coester, a professor in the WVU Reed College of Media, founded 100 Days in Appalachia in January 2017 with support from the College of Media, West Virginia Public Broadcasting and The Daily Yonder. While it was initially meant to narrate the first 100 days of a new presidential administration from within Appalachia, it has since become a go-to source and media outlet for the region.

“100 Days is an enduring narrative and economic engine for the region and Appalachian media makers,” Coester said. “Sustaining media in communities without generational wealth is a persistent challenge, and any investment in 100 Days in an investment in the voices and young people of this place.”

In 2023, the MacArthur Foundation collaborated with donors from across the country to launch Press Forward, a national initiative to strengthen local newsrooms, improve infrastructure for local news production and dissemination, close inequalities in journalism coverage and advance policies that expand access to local news.

100 Days will use the support of this multi-year grant to increase reporting capacity with an emphasis on serving the needs and realities of young people in Appalachia. This includes launching the Generation Zeitgeist vertical, a “Dystopia Beat,” music and cultural reporting, and other related programming and outreach to GenZ and Gen Alpha in the region.

Since its creation, 100 Days has been an innovative working lab for students in the WVU Reed College of Media focused on experiments in audience development and digital publishing and has provided several paid student internships and jobs for alumni. Similarly to the model of hiring Appalachians to report on Appalachia, 100 Days employs GenZ and Gen Alpha journalists to report on issues of importance to their peers.

“Being able to stay here in Appalachia and my home state of West Virginia while doing work that has a positive impact on local communities is fulfilling and means the world," said Kristen Uppercue (BSJ, 2019; MS IMC 2021), deputy editor for special projects at 100 Days in Appalachia. "I’ve been able to really explore my community and roots in the region while getting creative in supporting our team in their award-winning work. It’s been a dream come true to have these opportunities so early in my career and with colleagues who have supported and uplifted my unique perspectives and ideas, allowing me to feel such a sense of pride in not only where I come from but also where we’re heading as a team and region.” 

100 Days is committed to being part of a larger community of local and regional media across the country and will also use the MacArthur funding to improve digital and physical safety and peer support for local journalists reporting on such specialized topics as addiction, religion, elections, mis/disinformation, political violence and extremism.

“Our 100 Days journalists are sharing diverse regional content, perspectives and voices,” Coester said. “These are important cultural narratives that continue to serve as influential counterpoints to national, often harmful, narratives of the region.”

100 Days in Appalachia has received several accolades, including being named among the best in MediaShift Rankings (2018), receiving two multi-year Report for America positions (2019 to present), being selected for the Poynter Table Stakes Program (2021) and winning a national Edward R. Murrow Award (2021). 100 Days has previously received funding from the Benedum Foundation, the Park Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Democracy Fund and the Mellon Foundation.

To learn more about 100 Days in Appalachia, visit