Archive for March, 2014

Products of a good Putnam County education

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Two of our newest copy editors are proud graduates of the Putnam County schools system.

One is a Winfield High graduate. The other is a Hurricane graduate.

Yet they’re close friends.

They’re also excellent new contributors to our newspaper.

Kelsey Thomas is a Scott Depot native, a Winfield High graduate and a Marshall University graduate.

Andrea Rectenwald is a longtime Hurricane resident, a Hurricane High  graduate and also a Marshall University graduate.

I want to tell you about them because they’ve got local roots and also because, as copy editors, they toil behind the scenes. You might not see their names or faces in the newspaper too often, even as they make us look good with their page designs, clever and accurate headlines and clutch catches of mistakes.

Me: Did you have early journalistic experiences?

Thomas: I did, I did. My mom always said I should be a journalist when I grew up, but I never believed her. When I applied for college, I was forced to choose a major. I scrolled to one of the first on the list… “advertising,” and thought, “That will do for now.” That’s what got me into the school of journalism. I switched over from there. My first news writing class gave me terrible anxiety, but when it was over, I (for some reason) went back for more as an editor. I also wrote for a small online magazine for a while in college. I got to interview a lot of interesting people — including my favorite author Augusten Burroughs and Clint Eastwood’s daughter! That’s when I really knew I was going to grow up to be a journalist.

Rectenwald: My first journalistic experience wasn’t until my sophomore year at Marshall University. Advertising is/was in the School of Journalism, so I took a few required classes including Graphics of Communication where I learned InDesign. After that class my professor recommended me for the Executive Editor position at The Parthenon for the Summer 2010 session. Since the staff was small that summer, I was able to be a reporter, photographer, editor and designer.

Me: You guys are buds from Marshall, right? Please explain that.

Thomas: Andrea and I have quite a complex relationship. We had classes together at Marshall and also worked at the same movie theater at some point, but I was afraid to talk to her because she was so cool. Thus, it wasn’t until we were randomly placed together as roommates at Snowshoe post-college that the budship began. The rest is history.

Rectenwald: Kelsey and I have crossed paths so many times over the past six years, but we didn’t become best buds until we lived and worked at Snowshoe together. We have a mutual love of napping and butterfly gummies. She’s the bee’s knees.

Me: If you are a Winfield General, what is your position on the Hurricane Redskins?

Thomas: Winfield’s clearly the better choice. After all, we are the “Town of Champions” — that sign was erected during my tenure as a General. (However, I am sure I didn’t contribute to that — though I did go to states for tennis my senior year. One of my first opponents hit the ball so hard I covered my face with the racquet instead of hitting back.)

Me: If you are a Hurricane Redskin, what is your position on the Winfield Generals?

Rectenwald: Hurricane is clearly the better choice – from academics to athletics. The rivalry is fun though and I enjoyed attending the Hurricane/Winfield football game every year. Go Redskins!!!





Congratulations to the Daily Mail’s annual DFMie finalists

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Digital First Media announced the winners of its second annual DFMies (silly name, cool contest) and the Charleston Daily Mail’s entries were not among the top finishers. (We had a winner last year, Zack Harold.)

No shame in that. As the company itself says, Digital First Media‘s more than 800 multi-platform products reach 67 million Americans each month across 18 states. So it’s a pretty big company and there are a lot of good people doing terrific work. Any competition is bound to be stiff.

We’re proud to have two finalists who are big-time contributors to what we do.

Zack Harold

Zack Harold

One was Zack Harold, the Daily Mail’s life and community engagement editor. Say that job title with me three times fast.

Zack actually won the award for work he did when he was one of our Statehouse writers. He was a DFMie finalist in the “live coverage” category. (It took the entire staff of the New Haven Register to defeat him. Darn you, New Haven Register!)

I entered Zack for his coverage of an environmental protest at the West Virginia Capitol. Here is my entry, which included, by necessity, some weird third-person references to myself:

On Aug. 21, reporters heard over the scanner that an environmental protester had chained himself to a barrel of dirty water right in front of the West Virginia governor’s mansion.

We dispatched photographer Tom Hindman and statehouse reporter Zack Harold to the scene. Zack asked, “Do you want me to tweet about it?”

Editor Brad McElhinny said, fatefully, “Yeah, sure.”

Zack tweeted the blow-by-blow account and produced a Storify to post in his Capitol Notebook blog, plus a story for the next day’s newspaper.

But the extra twist of interest occurred when a journalistic debate broke out over Twitter.

McElhinny summarized the debate and posted it as a Storify in his editor’s blog.


Katy Brown

Another finalist for our paper is not actually a member of our staff. It’s Charleston resident Katy Brown, who was highly considered for the “community blogger” category. Here’s how the category was described: “Entry is not a staff member, but someone in your community who blogs for your website or blogs independently, linked to from your website and part of your Community Media Lab or other network. Entry should include no more than 100 words of explanation and no more than three links to works.”

(The winner of the category is a Golden State Warriors blogger from the San Francisco Bay area. Very different from The Mommyhood, I tell you.)

So the entry had to be pretty short, barely bigger than a tweet. I summed up Katy’s contributions this way and provided these links.

Katy Brown blogs like clockwork for the Daily Mail’s “Mommyhood” blog and has gained a community following for her posts that range from humorous to poignant. She enjoys participating in the comments section and chats with readers via Facebook and Twitter. She’s an asset to our site and is a destination read.
Fruitcakes and nutcases


Rules for an Unstructured Summer

In informing us that Katy was a finalist, Digital First’s Steve Buttry wrote this note to her:

You probably have never heard of a DFMie, but I want to let you know that Mommyhood was a finalist for one.
Digital First Media, the parent company of the Charleston Daily Mail, conducts an annual awards program to recognize editorial excellence by our newsroom staffs. Because we value our relationships with community bloggers, we include an award for the best community blog in our 70-plus daily newsrooms. Brad McElhinny nominated you for a 2014 DFMie and you were one of three finalists for the award. (Another blogger won the award, though.)
Thanks for your contributions to the Daily Mail and congratulations on this recognition!
Well done to Zack and to Katy. Keep up the good work, and we’ll get ’em next year.
(And congratulations to the deserving recipients of this year’s DFMies.)


Welcome (almost) to our new website

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Come Monday (unless there’s a delay), readers will see the Charleston Daily Mail on a redesigned website.

The changes will relate to functionality more than appearance, and that’s on purpose. We don’t aim to confuse you. Our aim is to serve you better.

First a word of caution, though. We’re still learning to use this site. And we’re still ironing out some kinks.

So, although it will be new, it might not look like an improvement at first. Please bear with us.

This is a developmental version of our new website. It's similar to what exists, but should be more functional.

This is a developmental version of our new website. It’s similar to what exists, but should be more functional.

The new website should get better in several ways:

— It’ll be a flexible design, meaning it adjusts to whatever kind of screen you’re on. Ever try to read a story on a smartphone that you have to pinch and squeeze and move around until you can read it? This aims to resolve that problem.

— As time goes by, suggestions for more stories to read should get smarter. The system is designed to relate related content. You follow me there? Similarly, we should have an easier time providing in-article links to related content.

— It’s going to make it easier for us to build photo galleries. People love to click click click the photos by our great photo staff.

— Behind the scenes, we’ll have an easier time determining what content is resonating with people and what is less so. We’ll have greater efficiency too. What we’re doing links directly links our print workflow to our digital workflow. (They were separate systems before.) This doesn’t affect you directly, but we’re pretty excited.

We’re moving from an airplane to a rocket ship. Please excuse us while we learn to use the controls.

Meanwhile, join us on our digital journalism adventure:




He’s Mr. Multimedia

Monday, March 17, 2014

Marcus Constantino is a can-do kind of guy. You might see his work in the form of stories, photo or video. He received praise recently for his compilation of an interactive, multimedia timeline from the West Virginia water contamination.

Marcus is a December graduate of Marshall University and grew up in the Bluefield area. He was an intern here at the Daily Mail in 2012, when he showed similar ability to tell stories in a variety of ways. Keep looking for his name because you never know what kind of story it might show up on. Here’s a little bit more about him:

marcusName:  Marcus Constantino

Lives in: Belle, W.Va.

Hometown: Bramwell, W.Va.

Position at the Daily Mail:  Multimedia reporter

Graduated from: Marshall University

With a degree in: Online Journalism

Twitter handle: @amtino

1. What was your first job? Part-time radio station weekend guy. I mostly worked the soundboard during WVU games and NASCAR races, but nudged myself on air whenever I could.

2. What made you want to become a journalist? I designed a website for my high school newspaper (check it out – go Beavers! ) when I was in 10th grade. I was already interested in photography at the time, so the newspaper website gave me an outlet for my photos, motivation to get better at it, and naturally led me into storytelling through words, too.

3. What do you like most about your job? Traveling to different parts of my beautiful state and meeting interesting characters and hearing great stories.  The least? Breaking news that hits RIGHT when I’m about to get off of work.

4. What do you do in your spare time? Photography (especially sports), and occasional work on the radio.

5. What’s your favorite journalistic effort you’ve produced? An 18-minute video documentary on the international student experience at Marshall University.

biebs6. Name a personal item that is or will be on your desk: A talking Justin Bieber action figure, given to me by Brad McElhinny when I completed my summer 2012 internship at the Daily Mail (he’s been to the Great Wall of China!

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

8. What’s your TV show? Book? Family Guy. The Rocket Boys.

9. What’s your favorite place in West Virginia? The New River Gorge Bridge.

10. What’s one newsroom quirk you were surprised about? The availability of large exercise balls as desk chairs.

Charleston Daily Mail recognized for water crisis coverage

Friday, March 7, 2014

I’ve been proud of the Charleston Daily Mail”s coverage of the water contamination that hit our community Jan. 9.

Our main goal during the situation was to inform and help our community. Nevertheless, I’m pleased to see our staff be recognized for its work.

Digital First Media recognized the Daily Mail with a monthly “DFMie” for the region that includes its publications in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Here is our entry, followed by some very nice comments by judges:

1A Evening 01-10-2014.qxd (Page A1)On Jan. 9, residents of Charleston started reporting an unusual smell in the air. Some compared it to licorice, others to Robitussin. By that evening, it was clear the situation was much more serious. The chemical, which was being stored in tanks along the Elk River, had entered the intake valve at West Virginia American Water and contaminated the water supply for 300,000 people across nine counties.

The Daily Mail staff immediately started a live blog using CoverItLive to give residents immediate updates. The live blog ran for a week as residents were urged to not consume their water, not to bathe and not to use it for everyday activities such as washing dishes or laundry. The live blog got 44,831 views and 7,439 clicks.
One more important number wasn’t a web stat: The Daily Mail staff, along with the Charleston Newspapers circulation department and Trane Heating and Cooling, distributed 900 cases of water, a day after the crisis hit, to community members who had none.  We also used our blogs, our Twitter and our Facebook to let people know other places they could find bottled water being distributed.
Other highlights of our early coverage included two explanatory videos about how the crisis happened. The first, by Elaine McMillion and Dave Boucher, got 1,281 views in our NDN player and 4,208 on YouTube. A second by McMillion and Marcus Constantino got 582 views in NDN and 357 on YouTube.
Since that first day, in a water crisis that has lasted more than a month, the Daily Mail staff has written more than 100 accounts of the crisis — which has taken a few more turns, including a lack of knowledge about the effects of the chemical, several revisions about the amount of chemical that actually leaked, a late warning for pregnant women not to use the water even after the initial ban was lifted, the later revelation that yet another chemical leaked and the ongoing odor that remains in people’s water lines. Eventually the story became distrust.

1A Evening 01-15-2014.qxd (Page A1)By Jan. 15, the Daily Mail was asking residents how long it would be until they would willingly drink their tap water again — a question accompanied by an iconic front page and a story and video by Marcus Constantino.
On Jan. 22, when a little more time had passed, the Daily Mail staff sampled bottled water to pass recommendations with a lighter touch to a community that was now committed to the bottled version for the long haul. People seemed to appreciate the Life page levity.
The response to our coverage, in terms of readership and numbers, has been impressive. But what the stats really mean is we do and have done a good job of informing our community by whatever means we can. Residents seem to appreciate our effort and our commitment to this story.

The Digital First Media awards are judged by the staffs of other newsrooms. The judges had kind words about the Daily Mail’s coverage:

The Charleston Daily Mail deftly managed the Elk River contamination, providing all-angles coverage without diluting content. The show-stealer is the artistry of videographer Elaine McMillion in “West Virginia Water Woes, 36 Hour Recap,” which is also a testament to the explanatory reporting skills of David Boucher. This video is not just informative – it’s striking. I was further impressed by the work of reporters Marcus Constantino and Matt Murphy; a hot shower well-earned by all.

Another judge:

It excelled all judging criteria areas, especially the digital skills and community engagement.  The live blog was timely and provided an immediate forum for compelling and relevant information that the community needed to know and engaged in.  The explanatory videos were well made and good supplements to the written stories.  They took extra steps in community service with their bottled water distribution and their lighter bottled water review.  Overall,  it was a really nice package of stories using the online medium.

And another:

The Charleston Daily Mail staff put together a comprehensive and engaging coverage of the West Virginia water contamination crisis. This was journalism at its finest, getting in front of the story and keeping the public informed. Their use of social media was also a perfect example of today’s journalism without sacrificing the foundation and basis of newspaper reporting that people come to expect from us. Their use of social media put the story in a new light and helped reach as many people as possible in an evolving and vital story. It was simply not enough to run it in print. The live blog, the videos, the how-to videos all were exactly what the public needed from their local community newspaper organization. I personally liked the humanitarian element of passing out water bottles and assuaging community fears during a tumultuous time. I personally would have loved to been on the “bottle water tasting committee.” All in all, it all came together for this staff. The people certainly lost faith in the water company and their government, but they certainly gained trust in their local newspaper. Kudos.