Archive for February, 2014

What should our newspaper’s Everyman and woman name their cat?

Friday, February 28, 2014

This year, the Charleston Daily Mail is celebrating its 100th anniversary. And one way the newspaper likes to celebrate is to bestow a new animal upon the household of Charley West and his long-suffering wife Ginny, the illustrated punsters who comment on each day’s news.

Ethane cracker, the WV economy and Tom Witt

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Tom Witt, retired economics professor at West Virginia University, stopped by the Charleston Daily Mail this week to discuss the development potential of an ethane cracker with members of the editorial board.

Tom_Witt_Informal_Head_September_2006Witt is now professor of economics emeritus at WVU and also now owns his own economics consulting business. Witt put together a study estimating the economic impact of a cracker, a big plant that takes the raw natural gas material and breaks it down into secondary components that go on to be used in the chemical industry.

He’s been on a bit of an ethane cracker barnstorming tour the past few days, starting with an appearance in Parkersburg, the potential epicenter of WV ethane cracker development. Witt then told WV legislators a cracker could  create more than 2,000 permanent jobs and a $2 billion impact on the region’s economy in coming years.

The big issue seems to be infrastructure. A big new pipeline would be needed to get natural gas from regional wells to the cracker plant. How the pipeline would be developed remains to be seen. Public-private partnership is one possibility.

Witt sat down with Daily Mail editors including editorial page editor Kelly Merritt, editorial writer/ columnist Don Surber and myself to discuss these issues. His appearance resulted in this editorial, supporting the cracker’s development in Wood County.

Here’s what Professor Witt had to say when he came by:

Hey, who’s the new education writer?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

If you’re a regular reader of the Charleston Daily Mail, you probably notice new names from time to time. You see the work and the name, but we don’t always tell you much more.

SAMThe Daily Mail has a new education writer, Samuel Speciale — a Kanawha County native and a graduate of Marshall University.

Sam started here Feb. 10. On his third day of work, he had a marathon state school board meeting. On his fourth day of work, he was snowed in by 7 inches of overnight accumulation.

Look for him for coverage of Kanawha County schools and other West Virginia education issues.

Wanna know more? Read on:

Name:  Samuel Speciale

Lives in: Elkview, WV

Hometown: Elkview, WV

Position at the Daily Mail:  Education Reporter

Graduated from: Marshall University

With a degree in: Print Journalism

Twitter handle: @WVschools

1. What was your first job? Fast food.

2. What made you want to become a journalist? A love for storytelling and slim job opportunities for creative writing majors.

3. What do you like most about your job? The least? Telling stories about interesting people. Covering long meetings.

4. What do you do in your spare time? Photography, dabbling in graphic design, binge watching Netflix or playing guitar.

5. What’s your favorite journalistic effort you’ve produced? Writing and designing Huntington’s 160-page comprehensive plan.

6. Name a personal item that is or will be on your desk: A good pen and leather notebook.

7. Your favorite blog you read or Twitter feed you follow: @chicagobulls

8. What’s your TV show? Book? House of Cards. The Divine Comedy.

9. What’s your favorite place in West Virginia? Capitol Street in Charleston.

10. What’s one newsroom quirk you were surprised about? The list of refrigerator rules.

Charleston Daily Mail needs a copy editor

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

As I’ve said before here, copy editors are the unsung heroes of what we do. And we’re looking for a good one.

dailymaillogoWe’re looking for someone we can rely on to catch our mistakes before they hit the press or the web. And we’d like for the same person to make our content inviting for people to read.

The person we’re looking for could already have newspaper copy desk experience. Or the ideal candidate could be a recent journalism school graduate. Or maybe the right person has an English degree and a flair for design and/or social media.

Are you the right person?

Here’s an advertisement we have running at

Want copy editor for team-oriented workplace putting out award-winning product

The Charleston Daily Mail in West Virginia’s capital is seeking a copy editor/designer. We’re at an exciting moment. We just redesigned the newspaper and are embarking on a new content management system meant to give our content greater display and flexibility.

Responsibilities include copy editing, designing inside and section front pages, and maintaining and optimizing the publication’s Web presence. We’re affiliated with Digital First Media.

Ideal candidates will have two to five years of newspaper experience, strong copy editing skills and a bachelor’s degree in journalism or related field. We have won multiple General Excellence Awards from the state press association, have a hard-working staff, foster a supportive work environment — and enjoy Saturday nights off. Please e-mail resume and design and writing samples to Daily Mail Editor Brad McElhinny at

Doonesbury revisited and revisited and revisited and revisited

Monday, February 17, 2014

We took a bit of criticism (and also got some praise) for dropping ‘Doonesbury’ from our comics lineup last fall.

doonesburyThere were a couple of reasons: Doonesbury was among our most expensive comics, and it had been on a lengthy hiatus as Garry Trudeau focused on a new comedy for Amazon’s digital offerings. The cost-benefit just wasn’t adding up any more.

Now comes word that ‘Doonesbury’ is going on long-term hiatus.

It seems the strip will still be available — but as reruns. Here’s the notification that editors like me got from the syndicate that distributes the strip:

As the anticipation builds leading up to Garry Trudeau’s return to the origins of “Doonesbury,” we’ve had many requests for a statement from Trudeau to help editors introduce the “Classic Doonesbury” comics to their readers, who will begin seeing these strips on March 3. Here’s what he had to say:

“Welcome to ‘Classic Doonesbury.’ In selecting the strips for this retrospective journey, we’re going deep, literally back to Day One. Revisiting four weeks of strips from every year of syndication, I hope to hit many ‘Doonesbury’ high points, focusing on how the characters (over 75 of them) got involved with one another. Since their lives have always been bound up in the events of the day, it should be a kind of déjà vu for my peers, and maybe a ‘What were you people thinking?’ for newer readers. I hope all of them will enjoy the trip.”

I know all of us here at Universal Uclick are looking forward to winding back the clock and returning to the big house by Walden Puddle where we first met Mike, Mark, B.D., Zonker, Joanie and the whole gang.



Were media ‘gullible’ during WVchemleak coverage?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

CNN’s ‘Reliable Sources’ used a segment to focus on coverage of the water contamination in West Virginia. One question that sparked controversy: Have the media been unreliable with their coverage?

Charley West staff taste-tests the water

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Like other segments of Kanawha Valley society, members of the Charleston Daily Mail staff are divided on their use of the local water, which — as you might have heard — was contaminated Jan. 9 when a coal-cleaning chemical seaped into the river that feeds the water plant.

Some members of our staff recently started drinking the tap water again a few weeks after the all-clear was given.

Others still don’t trust it, not even for bathing or laundry.

Multimedia reporter Marcus Constantino toured the West Virginia American Water plant this week and came back with samples of the water, straight from the plant. He and others from the staff decided to taste it. They put up the results live on the Internet.

My own feeling is, the water might be fine coming right from the plant but I’m still not too sure about what’s in the pipes and lines. I absentmindedly took a swig from the water fountain at work the other day. Let me tell you, it would not pass a taste test. It was weird.
I haven’t smelled anything funny in the water at home for several weeks but we still have the bottled version. We’re just not there yet in terms of trust.

What about you? Are you drinking the water yet?

New look for the print version of the Charleston Daily Mail

Monday, February 10, 2014

If you picked up a print version of the Charleston Daily Mail today and thought it looked different, your eyes were not deceiving you.



The paper has gone through a re-design — the product of a lot of thought and long hours by Managing Editor Philip Maramba.

The print re-design is part of an overall effort to freshen up all of our products, including both the newspaper and our website. The website revamp will come in a few weeks, in mid-March.

The goals of the print re-design included displaying photography better and giving stories a little more room to breathe.  Plus, the news quipster Charley West is bigger.

Here’s a little bit more about the re-design.

I like it. But I got one call already this morning with an unfavorable review. The caller said the new design looks derivative, like some he’d seen in Florida.

What do you think? I’d like to hear your (polite) opinion.

Here’s what the front page of the paper looked like today, compared to Friday.

























 Update: Newspaper design guru Charles Apple weighs in on the Charleston Daily Mail redesign on his blog. A positive first impression, it seems.



Comics controversy, with Dogbert

Friday, February 7, 2014

My feeling about controversial content on the comics page is you might as well steer clear.

Two reasons spring to mind:

a) The comics page is an entry point for kids to reading the newspaper. It’s the most likely page to be read by children. That’s not to say some jokes won’t be above their heads but usually there’s no reason to shock and horrify.

b) There are plenty of other pages in the newspaper to wander into controversy — intentionally or unintentionally. Might as well save your chips for something that really matters to you.

Naturally, some content on the comics page sometimes becomes questionable. That’s the case this week — and ‘Dilbert’ is the culprit.

dilbertLast week, editors like me got a note from the comics syndicate that supplies that strip: “Please take a moment to review the ‘Dilbert’ daily comic strips for release Feb. 7 and Feb. 8, 2014, which are now available in your account… They contain dialogue that some readers may find objectionable.”

Alarm bells!

So we took a look at Dilbert and couldn’t quite figure out what was going on.

Looking back, and having read about the controversial strips, it seems writer Scott Adams was trying to impart a gay rights message. (Here’s his blog about it.) But without much context, it was hard to tell what was going on.

Dogbert, Dilbert’s sassy sidekick, issues a commentary on the illegality of homosexuality in India and then pronounces Asok the intern to be gay. Meeting over. “Good, because I have a lot of gay stuff to do,” Asok says.

Strip over. Shoulders shrug.

Was this a pro- or anti-gay message? We had no idea.

Was the cartoon strip character Asok willingly or unwillingly pronounced gay by Dogbert?

What is “gay stuff”?

Was it funny?

What was going on here?

Those of us who looked at it were genuinely puzzled. Scott Adams had not yet blogged about his message. There were few clues to discern how readers were supposed to react.

Without much to go on, we decided to pass on it and take the substitutes. Other newspapers decided differently.

I got a message Friday night from a reader, Donald Griffith: “Please don’t censor Dilbert.”

I’m not sure what we did was censorship.

You can still see Dilbert elsewhere if you choose.

But in this case we steered clear.

UPDATE: The second panel of this Dilbert arc actually wound up running Saturday in the combined Gazette-Mail — by accident, I guess. So it goes. I still don’t get it.

Water, WVPress and WV legislators

Thursday, February 6, 2014

West Virginia legislators and members of the West Virginia Press Association get together every year to talk about public issues. Perhaps unsurprisingly the big topic this year was the local water supply, which thousands of people don’t trust after a chemical leak tainted it more than a month ago.