Archive for July, 2013

Reader comment: Muddy boots as a sign of respect at the Boy Scout Jamboree

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Reporter Candace Nelson had a nice follow-up article in the paper this week about some figures that will live at the The Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve permanently, even though the 2013 Jamboree has drawn to a close. They are 10 bronze statues that depict some of the major donors and supporters of the site.

ScoutStatue01_I130729210919Among them is Lonnie C. Poole Jr. — an Eagle Scout, a Silver Beaver Award recipient and a board member and past president of the Occoneechee Council. Poole’s significant gift established the Lonnie C. Poole Jr. Gateway Village as the main entrance to The Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve.

Poole’s likeness was cast by artist Jamie Lester, a Morgantown resident and West Virginia University graduate. It was installed at the Jamboree welcome center. And according to a reader, it became a favorite sight for those attending the Jamboree:

Ms. Nelson,

I enjoyed reading your article and seeing the pictures of the bronze statue of Distinguished Eagle Scout Lonnie C. Poole. While at the Summit, I took several pictures of friends at that location.

I also wanted to share with you that indeed, the Scouts enjoyed this statue.  They enjoyed it so much that they added mud to his boots, making him look like the rest of the gang at the Summit.  My job for the 2 weeks while there was working in BaseCamp B4.  We heard about Lonnie’s boots long before we saw them.

Thank you for your positive article on a great experience!


Kandra Dickerson,

Central Region Area 5 Commissioner



Congratulations to Dave Boucher

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Congratulations to reporter Dave Boucher, who has won a monthly award from Digital First Media for his coverage of the controversial film “Oxyana,” which focuses on prescription drug abuse in southern West Virginia.

Dave Boucher

Dave Boucher

Dave, who is a seemingly tireless reporter, invested his time and interest in the story, using the film as a launching point for a discussion of southern West Virginia, prescription drug abuse and ethics.

He started with three stories about public reaction to “Oxyana,” a look at what the actual numbers of prescription drug abuse reveal and a discussion of possible solutions — and continued to cover the film and public debate after that.

Here’s what one of the judges said:

Wow, this was an easy choice to make. I’m going with the terrific series by Dave Boucher of the Daily Mail. These stories were really well written, and each time the lede captured my attention right away. Combine that with resource after resource, and it was like a book I could not put down. Of course, the subject had a lot to do with why it was so good. But Mr. Boucher did the type of reporting that should make any of us proud. Really a fine, fine job.

This is Dave’s entry. It explains his reporting approach and the results:

The state of West Virginia and filmmakers have a sordid history, leaving residents a little hesitant to work with any film crews. Not surprisingly then, citizens of the small town of Oceana were up in arms over descriptions of their home in a documentary called “Oxyana.”
Although most of the roughly 1,400 residents of the Southern West Virginia town haven’t seen the film, the depictions in trailers and descriptions online infuriated many. They say the descriptions depicted a town with no hope, decimated and overwhelmed by drugs. They accused the filmmaker of skewing the facts in order to make a quick buck.
At the same time, they admit there is a drug problem in the county. Several residents called a community meeting to discuss the documentary and the area’s drug problem.
After learning about the community meeting, I decided I’d like to see the film and head to Oceana. The filmmaker declined to comment or send a copy, so I relied on the trailers, several online descriptions, a review from a West Virginia documentary filmmaker who had seen the film and a participant in the film who had also send the documentary. I also spent a day in the town, talking to law enforcement, business owners and a pastor.
It raised a larger question that lead to a three-part series: perception of Oxyana vs. reality of Oceana when it comes to prescription pill abuse in Southern West Virginia.
First, I wanted to look at the documentary itself and how the town felt about the documentary. Many residents thought statements made by people in the trailer were not true, and it was the filmmakers fault for putting them in the movie. At the same time, all of the participants are residents, which means some obviously feel there’s a problem.
In the second piece, I tried to find the facts and figures of prescription pill abuse in the area and Southern West Virginia as a whole. More than 65 people have died from drug-related incidents in the county since 2011. Babies are born addicted to drugs, typically Oxycodone, at a far higher rate in the local hospital than nationally. I also looked at the history of OxyContin usage in Appalachia, and how abuse of the addictive drug became so prevalent.
Finally, the third piece looks at possible solutions to the problems. Those include increased economic development efforts, which can help battle the rampant poverty of the area. It can also give people hope.
Since the series ran, there has been increased attention to the area and the problem. Sen. Joe Manchin, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall and other officials attended the community meeting in Oceana, which attracted more than 200 local people. Local and national media outlets, including The Denver Post, picked up the stories as well.
Dave’s award represented the DFMie for May in the Pennsylvania/New Jersey/West Virginia cluster of Digital First Media, which manages 70-plus daily newspapers across the country.
Other finalists in the cluster were Chris Dunn, Brandie Kessler and Samantha Dellinger of the York Daily Record for a map of local veterans memorials and L.A. Parker and Matthew Osborne of the Trentonian for live coverage of Operation Dreamlift, which took some local children with special needs to Disney World for a day.
Way to go Dave, and keep up the great work.

Straight outta Kanawha

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Not only do we cover your community — a lot of times we hire our newsroom employees from your community.

That’s certainly the case with our three newest newsroom contributors — all proud products of the Kanawha County school system.

Whitney Humphrey

Whitney Humphrey

Whitney Humphrey is a 2007 Riverside High School graduate. She has joined our copy desk, where she’ll be editing stories, writing headlines, laying out pages and helping with our online offerings at Daily and on social media. Follow her on Twitter: @W_HumphreyWV

Whitney is a Marshall University graduate and a former employee of the State Journal, where she was a state government reporter.

But her interest in journalism began long before that.

My journalism ‘career’ began when I was editor-in-chief of The Sixth Grade Scoop in middle school. Our little newspaper lasted one edition.

Whitney is a veteran of Charleston Newspapers’ FlipSide program, which is written for and by area teens. It’s managed by the Charleston Gazette’s Amy Robinson and, before her, Marina Hendricks.

I loved FlipSide and got to do some really cool things, including attending the Youth Editorial Alliance conference in Nashville as a teen fellow. That was in 2005, I think. FlipSide gave me more freedom to explore my creative side. I always knew I wanted to write, I just didn’t know how to go about accomplishing that. FlipSide, and Marina and Amy, really opened my eyes to the things I could do through journalism. So here I am. I’ll always be proud of my alma mater, and I’m thankful for the teachers who would read my FlipSide articles and tell me what a bright future I had.

Tom Bragg

Tom Bragg

Tom Bragg graduated from Nitro High in 2002. He’s in the sports department, where he’ll be writing and editing. We’ve given Tom the reins of Charleston Newspapers’ High School Huddle website that focuses on prep football. He’ll be managing content, including stories, photo galleries and video.

Tom is a Marshall University graduate. He previously worked on the Daily Mail’s news copy desk and was sports editor at the Times-West Virginian in Fairmont. He has been a minor league baseball correspondent for Follow him on Twitter: @TomBraggSports.

Tom also is a veteran of the FlipSide program. So this entire exercise of talking to new employees about their early journalism education has underscored to me just how important that program is.

I was a Flipsider during my junior and senior years. I also attended Capital for 10th grade during the 1999/2000 school year and wrote for the school newspaper (I think it was called The Prowler).

I was also on the news crew in the 8th grade at Andrew Jackson Middle School. We did a daily broadcast with announcements and sports updates. The whole thing was done by students and it was super fun.

Kelly Merritt.    Charleston Daily Mail/Craig Cunningham 6/25/13

Kelly Merritt

Kelly Merritt is, how should we say this … the most experienced of the new hires.

He’s a 1979 graduate of South Charleston High School.

Kelly is our editorial page editor, where he’s responsible for all the opinion content, including staff editorials, columns and letters to the editor. Follow him on Twitter: @EKMerritt

I’m not sure there was any FlipSide back when Kelly was in high school. But he seemed to have early — although nearly thwarted — journalistic aspirations.

I didn’t know what career track I wanted to do in high school, but I did write at least one article for the student newsletter about student involvement and interest in politics. The editor – last names Parsons – first name I don’t recall – completely re-wrote my article — and he added a line about where students ranked on the “totem pole of political efficacy.”

Mr. Kimble, the teacher for the American Government class that Parsons was in with me (along with Yeager Airport’s Rick Atkinson) gave Parsons absolute hell for taking the easy to understand piece I wrote and making it sound like a political science Ph.D. dissertation.

Kelly comes to the Daily Mail after a 30-year career as a professional communicator.

A 1984 Marshall University graduate, he has held communications jobs at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Gulf States Utilities in Beaumont, Texas, and spent most of his career at Columbia Gas Transmission in Charleston.

At Columbia, he interacted regularly over the years with Charleston Daily Mail business reporters Phil Nussel, Chris Stadelman and George Hohmann.

He most recently served as communications manager for the Division of Science and Research of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.

And, yes, he stays in touch with South Charleston High.

As for high school, I have been involved with my alma mater as football PA announcer, Grand Reunion Planning Committee and athletic boosters president (ugh).

I stay in touch with my college professors George Arnold and Ralph Turner and am a 20 year MU football season ticket holder. Go Herd!

From one end of the Kanawha Valley to the other, I’m glad to have all these hometown contributors on our staff.

Memories of Charlie Connor, the gentleman editor

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A week ago our newsroom and community learned of the death of Charlie Connor, a former editor and a true gentleman.

A lot of great tributes to Charlie came out, including one from the Register-Herald in Beckley, where he had been publisher from 1981 to 1987. Another was an editorial in our own paper. Normally our staff editorials are unsigned, but I’ll tell you this one was written by the Daily Mail’s retiring editorial page editor Hanna Maurice, who had worked with Connor here and who turned out a heartfelt, personal tribute to Charlie. I know writing it wasn’t easy for her.

Here’s a nice description from that editorial:

He was empathetic, encouraging and thoughtful with everyone he ever met – an example of that rare breed who brought grace to every aspect of his life.

charlieI only encountered Charlie a couple of times, but that’s certainly the impression he gave me. Once I called him on the phone because I was writing a story about the 40th “birthday” of the Daily Mail’s front page mascot, Charley West. Charlie had helped create Charley in 1958. Charlie was, true to character, gracious and gave me all the time I needed.

The other time I met him at a picnic for Daily Mail retirees in 1998. Talk about time flying. It’s hard to believe 15 years have passed since that picnic and how many of the great writers and editors who attended have since died. If you’re a longtime reader you’ll recognize names like Dan Hose, Richard Grimes, Bob Kelly and Adrian Gwinn. Even longtime owner Lyell Clay was able to attend.

In my office at the paper, I found a collection of short stories (and some photos) of newspaper life from staffers who attended the picnic.

It’s a treasure trove, but mostly I’d like to share a story Charlie Connor wrote about his time at the Daily Mail:

I graduated from Marshall at mid-semester in 1948, got married the next week, and took the train from Huntington to Charleston the next week to accept a promising job at the Daily Mail. I knew very little about Charleston’s physical layout.

Arriving at the C&O Depot on a cold January day, I inquired where the Daily Mail was located. A station agent told me “on Hale Street” and I proceeded there, entered the newsroom and was greeted by Dallas “Tex” Higbee, the managing editor. Good so far.

Except, I soon learned, this wasn’t the Daily Mail but the Gazette.

Mr. Higbee was magnanimous when he learned I was from Marshall and looking for a job. “Why not work here?” he asked. “We’re short a reporter.”

I thanked him and said I’d be back if the Daily Mail’s Vint Jennings failed to hire me. Jennings, then city editor, did hire me and that was the beginning of a wonderful 33-year relationship until I moved to Beckley to become a publisher. I recall my beginning salary was $5 more than the Herald-Dispatch offered in my hometown, Huntington.

charlie2I might add that three months after I began working at the Daily Mail, a cute redhead moved in from a triumphant two-year career in New York as a budding ballerina. Her name? Julie Kemp.

I understand she has established a 50-year-plus record at the Daily Mail and has no intention of retiring. She’s a better (wo)man than I’ll ever be. I love you, Julie.

Okay, one more?

It was another cold winter day when Sam Hindman dragged his wife, eight months pregnant with Kim (now an assistant Kanawha County prosecuting attorney) into the Daily Mail newsroom after a snowy trip from Bluefield. He was looking for a larger opportunity than on the Bluefield newspaper where he worked.

I had recently become managing editor and was being very careful with my first hires. Sam, being the bright person he is, impressed me. I offered him $140 a week to start.

“But I’m already making that in Bluefield,” he said.

“But you’ll have a better chance of making a name for yourself in Charleston,” I countered.

He took the job and we all know what’s happened since. He’s the Daily Mail publisher, has a wonderful wife and home, plays a lot of golf, and generally enjoys the fruits of his labor both here and in his past years as a Thomson Newspapers executive.

$140 to start. Not bad pay, Sam. Aren’t you glad you took the job?

I know a lot of great, talented editors have occupied this office before me. I haven’t met many of them, but I’m glad I met Charlie.


Look! Hovering above you! It’s the WV news drone!

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Charleston Daily Mail newsroom in West Virginia got a great gift from a retiring editor: a flying drone that streams live video. Now how will the newsroom use the drone?

Congratulations (again) to Zack Harold

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

We lobbied for your vote for Zack Harold to go to the Online News Association annual conference.

And guess what! He gets to go!

Zack-Harold-259x300Zack is one of five journalists nationwide to receive a scholarship from Digital First Media for his registration fee and hotel for the conference in Atlanta.

The conference has cool stuff like lessons in data journalism, tech trends for journalists and a keynote speech by ol’ Mr. Presidential Forecaster Nate Silver of

He was one of 20 finalists already, but he needed our votes to win.

So thank you!



A visit from the digital transformation editor

Monday, July 22, 2013

Steve Buttry, the digital transformation editor for Digital First Media, is coming for a visit to our newsroom.

As I take it, digital transformation means continuing to value your loyal readers in print — but also recognizing that many people are coming to the news in new ways, including their computers, their tablets and their smart phones. We want to welcome readers who come to us in those ways, serve them and encourage them to make our news and photos a habit.

Steve has made a habit recently of visiting newsrooms with new editors. That is us!

I’m glad Steve is coming, because he has a lot of great advice. So he will be arriving Tuesday and staying through Friday, conducting some workshops and having some individual conversations with people on our staff.

Steve Buttry is making a return visit to the Charleston Daily Mail

Steve Buttry is making a return visit to the Charleston Daily Mail

Here are some topics we’ll be talking about:

  • At noon Tuesday, Steve has to hop right onto an online discussion of liveblogging on ScribbleLive, which is an online live event site. He invites you to tune in!
  • Later, we’ll be discussing Thunderdome, the news dissemination arm of Digital First Media. If you want to learn more about Thunderdome, they have their own blog.
  • We’ll also be talking about beat blogging. The Daily Mail has several beat blogs, including ones for WVU sports, Marshall sports, West Virginia state government, local government in Kanawha County, and health. We want to have them to keep you up to speed on current events more regularly and delve more deeply into topics you are interested in.
  • We’ll have a discussion of “Tout,” the quickie video app. Digital First Media is a partner with this company. It’s one that other newsrooms are finding some success in using it for 15 to 45-second videos that flow directly onto widgets on their websites. You might be familiar with similar services such as Vine or Instagram video.
  • Search engine optimization. Basically, this is creating headlines that are highly Googleable.

Anything else you think we should discuss with the digital transformation editor?

Who wants Zack Harold to go to ONA 2013?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Zack Harold, political writer for the Charleston Daily Mail, has been nominated for a Digital First Media scholarship to go to the Online News Association conference in Atlanta in October. Zack is among 20 journalists from across the country being considered for a scholarship to the convention.

Vote early and often for Zack Harold

Monday, July 15, 2013

I promise you, gentle reader, that this blog will not always be about Zack Harold.

But I do appreciate that the Daily mail politics writer is giving me fodder — and another reason to be excited.


This time, Zack has been nominated for a Digital First Media scholarship to go to the Online News Association conference in Atlanta in October.

He’d love to go.


It has cool stuff like lessons in data journalism, tech trends for journalists and a keynote speech by ol’ Mr. Presidential Forecaster Nate Silver of

Zack is among 20 journalists from across the country being considered for a scholarship to the convention.

Here’s the catch: only the 5 who get the most votes and support will win an ONA13 pass and hotel room for the conference.


And, West Virginians, YOU can help!



Anyone can vote.

Finalists are encouraged to campaign in their newsrooms and on social media for themselves as loudly or as quietly as they see fit. The five to garner the most support will be our five winners.

Lest you need a reminder, West Virginians came through for the pepperoni roll in a national contest just a few months ago.

Let’s do the same for Zack — West Virginian, good guy and deserving journalist.

The polls will close Friday, July 19, at 8 p.m. (ET).




Congratulations to Zack Harold on a big award

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Back in December, when our newsroom first heard reports of a big explosion in Sissonville, our newsroom mobilized.

A few reporters and photographers went to the scene of what turned out to be a pipeline explosion so strong it melted the interstate. Others stayed in the office trying to make sense of what was happening and passing on the information to a very concerned local population.

In the latter category was reporter Zack Harold, who used a curation website called Storify to provide information in real time. Zack pulled social media updates from officials and reporters into one easy-to-read post meant to help people learn quickly what was happening.

His Storify effort received more than 4,000 views.

And I’m proud to say Zack has been honored nationally for the effort.

This week Digital First Media, which manages the Daily Mail’s newsroom along with more than 70 others around the country, announced that Zack was a national winner in its very first DFMies awards. He won the category for use of social media.

DFMie judges explained why this was a winner:

Zack Harold’s Storify of the Sissonville explosion is a great example of how journalists can use social media to provide useful information during a breaking news event. Harold showed a great deal of insight into what people would want to know during the event — where to go for shelter, which roads were closed, reports of any injuries — and what they might want to know afterwards, like how asphalt actually melted during the gas line explosion. He also guided those who weren’t familiar with Storify as a tool, by reminding them how to use it along the way. By giving multiple accounts of the accident, gathering pictures from social media, and pulling from the official emergency response messages, he was able to give a well-rounded picture of what was going on in real time.

Zack came to the Daily Mail as a green but eager recent graduate of the University of Charleston. When he interviewed, I remember him mentioning an interest in digital stuff. He was the guy who ran his church’s website, and he had an interest in video too. I thought those attributes were interesting but I didn’t give them a lot of thought.

Now, as more and more people are getting their news through their computers, their tablets or their cell phones, I certainly have a greater appreciation of those interests.

I’m pleased that Zack has taken an interest in alternative ways to spread the news and proud that he’s being recognized for it.

If you want to keep an eye on what Zack is doing, be sure to read our state government blog, the Capitol Notebook, which includes a weekly email newsletter, The Capitol Notebook Week in Review.

Or read his work in the newspaper, where Zack is one of the Daily Mail’s state government reporters.