Dear Friends of the Daily Yonder,
My relationship with the Daily Yonder began in the fall of 2011 when friends introduced me to the publication. It wasn’t long before I was a regular reader, checking in to see rural news reported by rural people. I liked the way folks in the Daily Yonder spoke for themselves. As a coal miner from Southeastern Kentucky, I was frustrated by the way politicians and lobbying groups such as Friends of Coal and the Kentucky Coal Association kept claiming to speak for coal mining communities. I knew things were different from what they were saying. The Yonder gave me the evidence I needed to confirm this.
The readers of the Daily Yonder were just the audience I needed as a new writer. You took a chance on me.
Through the Daily Yonder, I learned a lot about my native coalfields. And I found myself becoming more educated about rural communities across the country. I started to see that my part of America had a lot in common with other rural places.
Four years later I found myself in a small auditorium on the campus of the University of Kentucky listening to friends and family performing old time songs from the area I was from. This small event sparked my interest in sharing my own stories about growing up in Southeastern Kentucky and about my career as an underground miner. I called the friends who had introduced me to the Daily Yonder. They happened to be the sons of Dee Davis, the Daily Yonder’s publisher. Soon I was on the phone with Dee and the Yonder’s editor. They were interested in what I had written so far, and they wanted me to share more with the readers of the Daily Yonder. When they offered me the chance for a weekly column based on my experiences as an underground miner, I ran with it.
The readers of the Daily Yonder were just the audience I needed as a new writer. You took a chance on me. You were interested in what I had to say about mining and growing up in Southeast Kentucky. And I began to develop as a writer.
It didn’t stop there. Within the first six months of writing for the Daily Yonder, I found myself being interviewed by the New York Times, National Public Radio, local news stations, and other outlets. Grassroots social-justice organizations asked me to be part of their issue campaigns. Universities wanted me to speak at special cultural and historical events. West Virginia University Press asked me if I was interested in writing a book. I was overwhelmed. The people reaching out to me truly wanted to hear what I had to share.
Today, my voice is no longer silenced and kept on the sidelines. I’m part of the conversation about mining and the future of Southeast Kentucky. I’m grateful to the Daily Yonder for taking a chance on me. I wasn’t the first writer they worked with this way, and I know I won’t be the last.
Gary B. Bentley