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This project is the third of a multiyear joint effort between the Reed College of Media at West Virginia University and the School of Media & Public Affairs at The George Washington University, to collaborate using journalistic principles and practices to investigate important issues affecting the people of West Virginia and Washington, D.C. 

This year’s project saw eight students at WVU and GWU, along with two faculty members, investigate four communities in West Virginia and the District of Columbia to learn where the members of each community look to find information and truth. These journalists sought to identify who the community looks to for the most credible information, i.e. gatekeepers, trusted sources for community information, as well as what key events and issues are the most critical for information dissemination in those communities.

In West Virginia we explored the Black community on the West Side of Charleston, and the community around western Monongalia County.  In D.C., we explored the LGBTQ community in Dupont Circle and the Anacostia community, a largely Black community in the 7th and 8th Wards. Our journalists spent time in these communities and talked with the people who lived there about the information they received from the outside world, the information they want the outside world to know about them, and the news they want to read, watch and listen about their own communities.

In the end, we learned as much about ourselves as we learned about the people in these communities. We also were able to bridge many gaps between what journalists think about people in these outlying communities and what people in these outlying communities think about journalists who want to tell their stories. Hopefully, we are all the better for these conversations. 

The project kicked off in November with a joint panel between the Reed School of Media and the School of Media & Public Affairs called “Who Informs the Citizenry: Finding Trust and Truth in a Fractured Age,” where journalists and media experts from around the nation discussed with each other and students from the universities about where people get their news and who do they trust.

This website is the culmination of this work. Here you can find video, audio and text stories created through the above conversations, along with the history of these communities, characteristics, and maps of the communities as they exist today, interviews and information about the people who live in these communities, their relationships and interactions with their fellow citizens and their perspectives on truth and information on and about their communities.

The project was jointly led by two faculty members: 

Portrait of Mary Kay McFarland

Mary Kay McFarland

associate teaching professor at West Virginia University

Spent a decade covering West Virginia for public media, including becoming the first multimedia editor at the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Jesse J. Holland

Jesse J. Holland

Assistant professor at George Washington university

Former White House, Supreme Court and Congressional reporter for the Associated Press and an assistant professor of journalism in the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University.

The students from The George Washington University were Ayah Mahana, Catherine Burgan, Miles O’Reilly and Tara Suter. The students from West Virginia University were Jed Sammons, Hope Talbert, Emilee Kessler and Ciara Litchfield. 

Tara Suter

Tara Suter

Sammamish, Washington

Portrait of Ayah Mahana

Ayah Mahana

Princeton, New Jersey

Portrait of Cate Burgan

Cate Burgan

Nashville, Tennessee

Portrait of Miles O'Reilly

Miles O'Reilly

New York, New York

Portrait of Emilee Kessler, who is from Amberson, Pennsylvania

Emilee Kessler

Amberson, Pennsylvania

Portrait of Ciara Litchfield

Ciara Litchfield

Minerva, Ohio

Portrait of Jed Sammons

Jed Sammons

Charles Town, West Virginia

Hope Talbert

Toledo, Ohio

The web designer was Austin Rupp. 

Austin Rupp

professional technologist at WVU

The project was funded by Scott Widmeyer who has played a senior role over the past three decades in strengthening public affairs communications and supporting a wide range of journalistic endeavors. The founder of Washington-based Widmeyer Communications, his firm is now part of Finn Partners, a growing global communications firm where Scott serves as founding managing partner and chief strategy officer in Washington, D.C.

Scott Widmeyer

founding managing partner and chief strategy officer in Washington, D.C.