Column: Public broadcasting ‘bright lantern’ in ‘dark mine’ of W.Va.

Spending my summer 2016 interning for West Virginia Public Broadcasting and its seminal live music program, Mountain Stage, with Larry Groce provided me with my most beneficial educational experience. It reaffirmed my love for the Mountain State, and it reaffirmed what I want to pursue for my professional career. And now? It’s on Gov. Jim Justice’s chopping block with his proposed budget cut.

From the moment I walked into my first Mountain Stage show as an intern, I felt like part of the family. Every person from the show staff were willing and happy to teach me how a West Virginia-made, nationally-distributed program is created. And when I was given the opportunity to make an audio documentary for the show’s most prized episode, the 1991 performance from R.E.M, I felt the most trust I’ve felt in my life.

Mountain Stage has always supported young talent. Just look at the number of emerging artists included in each of Mountain Stage’s shows, or the work I was able to do as a Marshall University student alongside established media professionals, or even the work of young West Virginia natives like Mountain Stage assistant producer Joni Deutsch, who chose to stay and work (and thrive) in West Virginia. If WVPB and Mountain Stage were to vanish, young professionals would be forced to become part of the exodus of the state, seeking work in their field elsewhere.

In a world where so much bad press for West Virginia occurs, I was surrounded by the good of West Virginia. I saw my West Virginia music friends William Matheny and Qiet accomplish a goal they had both worked long and hard for by performing on the show. I saw Joni Deutsch become the first female and youngest guest host, not to mention the second guest host in the show’s history. I saw a bright lantern in the dark mine that West Virginia sometimes feels like. We need to keep this lantern shining bright.

Leaving this internship was hard because of the rapport I had with the staff and because it meant leaving exactly what I want to do in life. Leaving the internship is even harder now as the governor’s potential budget cut looms overheard, which if approved, will remove both WVPB and Mountain Stage from the Mountain State.

I was a donating member to WVPB before, during and after my internship because I know this service is worthwhile to West Virginians and because I want other college students to join this family through internships, too. Students, fans and West Virginia friends are so much better because of it.

Nathan Thomas can be contacted at [email protected].