Archive for April, 2014

Chuck McGill, good tennis player and great sportswriter

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Congratulations to Daily Mail sports editor Chuck McGill for a pair of honors.

Chuck already knew he’d been named the sportswriter of the year for West Virginia by the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

Chuck McGill

Chuck McGill

Now comes word that Chuck has won the related Tennis Media Award, the inaugural version of that honor.

This is a particularly fitting honor for Chuck, who was a high school tennis player at Dupont. He was himself the subject of tennis journalism in a 1998 story by the Daily Mail’s Mike Cherry. In the West Virginia State Tennis Tournament that year, the 17-year-old McGill won a first-round, three-set, No. 1 singles AAA match before his eventual elimination.

Chuck had been 7-5 during the regular season. He was a self-taught player who worked a summer at the Players Club to pay for some private lessons.

Chuck was also an emerging master of the quote. Asked by Cherry to describe his disadvantages on the court, McGill responded: “Experience and I’m short.”

Chuck has not let those factors get in the way of his sportswriting career.

He’ll be honored by the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association this June in Salisbury, N.C., along with 104 other state sportscasters and sportswriters of the year, National Sportscaster of the Year Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick (NHL on NBC), National Sportswriter of the Year Peter King (Sports Illustrated), and Hall of Fame inductees Marv Albert (CBS, Turner Sports) and Rick Reilly (, Sports Illustrated, author).

While he’s there, Chuck will also pick up the tennis award hardware. The story he submitted was one from last summer about Tera Winfree, a Campbell’s Creek resident who underwent a 2009 double lung transplant but rallied to continue her competitive tennis interest. Winfree competed last summer in Charleston’s Public Courts tournament.

“Congratulations to Chuck McGill and all the winners for helping to spread the word about tennis and its benefits, for both adults and children,” said stated Jolyn de Boer, executive director of the Tennis Industry Association, which sponsors the award. “We’re very pleased to see these wonderful stories about how tennis touches and improves lives in all ways. The TIA is the main source for all types of tennis information and research, and we’re looking forward to continued collaboration with the NSSA and its members.”

Chuck has made the Daily Mail proud with his great work.

But if he gets the chance to make an acceptance speech, I hope he does better than his first quote in that 1998 Mike Cherry story.

As Chuck said back when he was 17 and on the other side of the notepad, “It’s really hard to put into words.”


Old photos and new honors

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Congratulations to the Daily Mail’s Billy Wolfe and Matt Murphy, who have earned appreciation from our community and from fellow journalists for their project to distribute pictures that were left behind in 2000 after Lindsay’s Studio in Charleston’s East End shut down.

Wolfe, an assistant city editor, and Murphy, who covers local government, were named winners of Digital First Media’s February awards program for the region that includes Pennsylvania, New Jersey and West Virginia.

More importantly, they have provided a great service for members of our community by reuniting families with photos that might otherwise have gotten lost.

oldpicsMurphy and Wolfe, along with staffers like Ashley B. Craig and Zack Harold, have gathered up boxes of photos, taken pictures of hundreds of the original images and uploaded them onto the Charleston Daily Mail’s Facebook page. Many of the photos have also appeared in the daily newspaper, where they’ve been popular content.

Residents who identify friends and family have come in to our office to claim the pictures.

The project began with a germ of an idea from a Charleston Urban Renewal Authority meeting: “Thousands of photos of Kanawha Valley residents have been found in a building purchased by the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority, and officials want to connect as many of them to their subjects as possible. “

The idea sprouted into a story and then snowballed.

“Basically, I was interested in doing the story after hearing about the studio during a CURA meeting,” Murphy said. “Either the same day or the day after I wrote the story, Billy came up with the idea to try to get some of the photos from the studio to put on Facebook. Billy’s the one who contacted Ric Cavender (East End Main Street director) and after Billy started the project, I got in touch with CURA director Jim Edwards to get back into the building.

“When the story  ran, we had both 1A photos claimed the same day. We also had the photo of a little girl in a follow-up story that week that was claimed the day the story ran in the paper. “

The Digital First Media judges — fellow journalists — thought Matt and Billy were crazy. But they said so in an admiring way:

With limited resources and busy beats, it is hard to argue with any reporter or news agency that shies away from seemingly labor intensive projects where the impact is somewhat unknown. But the Charleston Daily Mail used ingenuity to take what would seem like a daunting task and turned it into an impactful, digital project that touches the very core of their readers. 
Using Facebook as the medium, the staff created a digital database of their community’s past with these photos and, in essence, collaborated with their readers to tell this story. Doing it in such a way made a great project possible, when traditional methods may have needed too many resources. Smartly done and presented.  

Another judge said:

I definitely have to go with the Charleston Daily Mail submission. It’s an outstanding cross-level project, utilizing both time-honored newspaper tactics and social media angles. It’s a useful community effort, but still engaging enough to grab the attention of people who don’t live in the area. I think it’s an excellent example of what journalism can be in the Digital First world.

Murphy said the effort was worthwhile and grew because the original duo got valuable help.

“Our original intent was to put a couple hundred or so photos online, but it’s grown, especially because Zack and Ashley have helped A LOT. As of today about 99 of the photos have been claimed out of about 1,200 we’ve cataloged so far.”

The Daily Mail’s role in the distribution is winding down, with a grand finale expected during a popular upcoming community event.

“We’ll be organizing a public viewing/claiming event during the East End Yard Sale from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 10,” Murphy said. “From there, we don’t know. The library might house them at some point.

It’s been a fun journey into the personal histories of our town’s residents and a popular community engagement project. All in all, a success.


This is one of hundreds of photographs that were placed on the Daily Mail’s Facebook page for people to identify. Do you know these young sports fans?





Dick Hudson, a lasting influence

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Longtime readers of the Charleston Daily Mail may remember Dick Hudson, whose career in the sports department spanned from 1935 to 1970.

Dick Hudson

Dick Hudson

Our current sports editor, Chuck McGill, wrote about Hudson just last summer. The elder sports editor was turning 100 years old and gave Chuck a great, vivid interview. As Chuck pointed out, Dick Hudson’s bylines appeared in the Daily Mail during five different decades.

We’re sorry to report that Hudson died last week, the same day the Charleston Daily Mail put out an edition celebrating 100 years of publication.

“Dick represented the best of what was right about sports,” said one of my own old bosses, Sam Hindman, a former publisher, executive editor and city editor at the Daily Mail.

Here’s Dick Hudson in his own words, excerpted from “Daily Mail Memories” from 1998:

I was a “student” at West Virginia Wesleyan College when Phil Conley, publisher of the West Virginia Review magazine, took me to the Daily Mail for an introduction to Samuel Grady Damron, managing editor. Mr. Conley and my dad, Joe Hudson, were friends.

From that interview I was hired in the summer of 1934 to help during vacations at $7.50 a week. Ted Ramsay was sports editor and Con Hardman his assistant. I covered the Charleston Senators baseball team of the Middle Atlantic League that summer and helped Hardman otherwise.

Ramsay retired to enter the publicity business in Miami Beach and I was offered the assistant sports editor’s job after the first semester of my junior year at Wesleyan. I accepted because I was out of money and sociology courses anyhow. And who could resist a full-time job at $15 a week and be allowed to spend about 60 hours a week on the job?

We had the Saturday and Sunday editions to work on every Saturday which meant a work day from 7 a. m. until about 1 a.m.  Overtime? What’s that? There were two of us in the department with about 18 columns of space daily and about 45 on Sundays. If one member was sick or on vacation, the other was left to handle all of it.

I became sports editor in December of 1939 and George Holbrook was moved from the reporters’ side of the room to sports, where we had a great relationship for many years.

I worked under three managing editors — Mr. Damron, Vint Jennings and Charlie Connor — before resigning in 1970 to work at the Jacksonville, Fla., Journal on the news desk.

Many came and went as aides in the Daily Mail sports department, like Kent Hall (yep, the ex-mayor), Bert Wolfe (auto magnate), Ben Brown, who became an official in New York with the Associated Press after several executive spots in Minneapolis, St. Louis, etc.; John Olesky, who has worked in Dayton and Akron, etc., since his Daily Mail days. Don McClure, who worked in Akron and San Francisco and with the Peace Corps.; Keith Walters, executive on several papers since leaving; Harmon Marks; Bill Jacobs, an influential attorney in Parkersburg; Jack Lewin, who became an executive of some sort with the tobacco industry in Kentucky … and others.

We had later deadlines and none of the modern computers, etc. (thank God) you have today. It was paste, scissors and heavy pencils. We scratched errors (most of them), cut and pasted and were aided considerably by the linotype operators and proof readers.

We didn’t have the personnel to travel very much thus less personal interviews, etc. That’s the big change for the better.

As for writing, Mr. Damron was of the “old school,” as they say, reading almost every proof before the deadlines. He wouldn’t tolerate such phrases as “a number of days” or “he was sick for some time.” He would ask “Just what NUMBER” or “How many days,” etc. Poor spelling drove him wild.

He was a little man, no nonsense, but could be fiery. A local attorney known as “Hogeye” Gordon came in the office raising the devil about some story. An argument resulted and Mr. Damron pushed him down the steps. That night someone threw a rock through the front door. Can you imagine the lawsuits if you’d push a lawyer down the steps today?

My first real interview after joining the paper in 1935 was with a lion tamer. His name was Schneider with one of the big traveling circuses. The reporters were at the dog wagon across the street, or working, and the city editor, Marlin Lundry, told me to interview the lion tamer. He was a nice guy who didn’t think much of Clyde Beatty, the flamboyant and better-known circus lion tamer. Schneider pooh-poohed the danger of the job, unlike Beatty.

Lundry said it was a good interview EXCEPT that my last paragraph should have been the lead. Oh, what the hell!

There were so many “characters” coming and going in those 35 years — with the war, etc. etc. — that they blend into a hazy memory. One eager young guy did a great job and wrote a column, but had trouble spelling, especially when he asked, “How do you spell Jesus … with a J or a G?” He finally found some staffer who knew.

I know you don’t want all this stuff, but here it is.

Another thought:

When I left here in the summer of 1970, Sam Hindman was hired for the sports department. I wonder what Sam’s future would have been had I remained. Who knows?


A Top 10 front page focusing on tablets in the classroom

Monday, April 7, 2014

Congratulations to Charleston Daily Mail designers who came up with this Newseum Top 10 front page.

The Newseum often uses themes to determine its Top 10, and today’s had to do with wordplay:

The headlines in today’s Top Ten are more than a nice play on words. They made our list because they summed up the featured story in a few effective words; were clever without being too cute; and were simple without being overly simplistic.

The Daily Mail’s centerpiece focused on changing technology in classrooms. The design started with a concept by writer Samuel Speciale, who is a typography enthusiast. Graphics artist Kevin Cade got the image of the tablet ready to go. Managing editor Philip Maramba brought the centerpiece and headline together. And copy editor Samantha Ricketts brought it all home.



Daily Mail memories

Friday, April 4, 2014

I took over as editor from here from Nanya Friend, and, believe me, that’s big shoes to fill. Nanya is smart and organized and well-respected and beloved.

Luckily for me, she is also supportive.

Nanya Friend

Nanya Friend

All that to say, my tenure also has coincided with the 100th anniversary of the Daily Mail. Already big shoes and now a big milestone. The current staff and I did not want to let down those who got us here. For our coverage, we relied on the great personal and professional stories of those who put out the paper day after day for 100 years. Wonderful material produces wonderful stories.

One resource that I found handy was an unlikely one — a booklet from a 1998 retiree picnic where current staff and retirees shared stories about their time at the paper. It’s a treasure trove with tales from people like photo legends Chet Hawes and Earl Benton, sports scribes like Don Hager and Dick Hudson and great editors like Charlie Connor. (I was lucky enough to have attended the picnic.)

My predecessor, Nanya, also has some great tales in the booklet. And mostly they’re not tales of the news, which we all love chasing, but instead they’re tales of the other thing we love — the people we work with. (And here’s another takeaway point: Treasure the time you spend with those you enjoy working alongside, even in times of stress. Earl Benton and Robin Toner, both mentioned below, have passed away. Others have moved on with their lives and careers.)

Here’s what Nanya wrote:

The thing I have loved most about my years at the Daily Mail has been the great privilege of working with smart, funny people. I could tell stories about all of them but here are some of my favorites:

Earl Benton — by far the biggest hustler I ever met. He was beating the Gazette on stories when I was cutting teeth. I suspect he still sleeps with a live scanner beside his bed and a full tank of gas in his car. Many of us have Earl Benton stories, but I take special pride in this one:

One the night of the general election in 1980, Earl and I were sent to Moundsville to spend the evening at Arch Moore’s headquarters. Despite the pack of reporters around us, Earl got us into Moore’s private office for an interview and picture after Moore conceded to Jay Rockefeller. All in a day’s work for Benton. But what did I achieve that night?

Earl let me, a female reporter in her 20s, drive to and from Moundsville. We even took my car and he actually fell asleep for a short while on the way home. I was walking on air because world-class photojournalist Earl Benton trusted me enough to get there and back on a big story.

Robin Toner — one of the most aggressive and intelligent reporters I ever worked with. She now works for the New York Times. When she came to the Daily Mail, she was a passionate liberal and had to learn not to let it show in her copy. When Earl and I returned from Moundsville that same election night in 1980, I trudged wearily into the newsroom. It was 2 or 3 a.m., and the newsroom was full of sleepy reporters trying to muster enough energy to pound out their election stories. It had been clear for several hours that Jimmy Carter had lost his bid for re-election.

As I walked by Robin’s desk, she looked up at me, her eyes blazing with fury and spit out a question that was more of an accusation:

“Did YOU vote for Reagan?”

Now that Robin is the mother of twins, I’m sure she’s the picture of neatness. When she was at the Daily Mail, her basement apartment on Charleston’s West Side was a place you entered if you’d had all your shots. One day as we sat in her living area, I glanced across the room and asked her about the small dark lump on the floor. She walked over, looked down and laughed. A mouse had expired, apparently of old age, in the middle of the room.

David Greenfield and Jim Smith — two great guys who have gone on to great things since their Daily Mail days. Dave is publisher of the Canton Repository in Ohio, and Jim is senior vice president of Thomson Newspapers. This incident will let you know how these two operate in a crisis.

I was sitting at a computer right outside Dave’s office, working on a story. I leaned back, hands behind my head, and gazed upward to think. To my horror, I saw a bat hanging from the ceiling tile. I can’t remember how I got all the way across the newsroom, but I know I got there quickly. Dave and Jim frantically screamed instructions as other writers and editors cleared the area.

Finally Dave jumped on a chair, Jim handed him a trashcan and — fwop — the bat was trapped. It hadn’t moved, mind you. It was right there on the ceiling tile, but Dave had it imprisoned. He looked down at us with a goofy expression.

It took several more minutes for someone to figure out how to slide something flat between the ceiling and the trashcan, knock the bat in the can and pitch it out the window.

I’m glad no bats have shown up since Dave and Jim left.

Carolyn Karr Charnock — now the director of Metro Communications but a former Daily Mail reporter. We knew when we hired Carolyn that she had dabbled in stand-up comedy in college, and I distinctly remember warning her about the improper use of humor in a serious news story. Little did I realize how wacky she really was.

One day when I was working part-time, I got a call from Greenfield. He was organizing a retreat for all the editors, and he wanted me to sit on the city desk one Friday and run the show. Everything would be planned in advance so getting the paper out would be no sweat.

And things did go very smoothly. The reporters were quite cooperative, glad to have the editors out of their hair for a day.

As the final edition deadline passed, I noticed Carolyn moving about the newsroom. She was taping things to the floor and setting up strange contraptions.

“What are you doing?” I asked. No answer. And she didn’t stop.

This went on for quite a while. Copy editor Andy Stout began to help her. I kept asking questions, but they weren’t talking. I began to get nervous. The natives were definitely restless, and I was responsible.

Eventually they seemed to be finished. That’s when everybody else got involved. Carolyn and Andy had set up a nine-hole miniature golf course throughout the newsroom. It became clear that the staff, while the bosses were enjoying golf and other amenities at Pipestem, was going to spend the afternoon playing putt-putt.

I gulped. I watched. I finally played. I must say, we had a great time.

Late that afternoon, as I headed for the MacFarland Street door on my way home, I encountered Greenfield and Publisher Terry Horne on their way in. Just back from Pipestem. The putt-putt course was still in place upstairs, and that’s where they were headed.

So what did I do? I heartily welcomed them back and walked back up the stairs with them. As we entered the newsroom, I said something like, “Look here, ha, ha, ha. Why don’t you try it out?”

I jammed golf clubs into their hands. They were too dumbfounded to do anything but play.


Happy 100th, Charleston Daily Mail

Thursday, April 3, 2014

This week and off and on for the rest of the year, our newsroom will be celebrating 100 years of the Charleston Daily Mail.

One key aspect of the newspaper’s history, we discovered, was the many incarnations and sporadic production it experienced early on. The period agreed upon to mark the celebration was early April, 1914, when former Alaska Gov. Walter Eli Clark bought the newspaper out of auction and set it on course for 100 years of regular publication. Thank you, Governor Clark!

Clark was a unique and interesting figure — and a fitting one for early newspaper lore, as you might read in Zack Harold’s story about him. Other leaders at the Daily Mail — like publisher Lyell Clay, Pulitzer Prize winner Jack Maurice and still more like editor Charlie Connor and photographers Earl Benton and Chet Hawes and lifestyles editor Julianne Kemp — would have been an inspiration for anyone to work beside. Oh, wait! I did work with Julie for a few of her 50 years at the Daily Mail! That was, in fact, a treat.

Their influences surround us every day as we still put out a paper that we hope they’d enjoy reading.

This masthead -- filled with a who's who of Daily Mail leaders is on a framed newspaper behind my desk.

This masthead — filled with a who’s who of Daily Mail leaders is on a framed newspaper behind my desk.


This motto established by Governor Clark is still on a plaque on a pillar in the Daily Mail office

Jack Maurice's career and Pulitzer Prize are nicely framed. I couldn't angle the reflection of the overhead lights out of the picture, though.

Jack Maurice’s career and Pulitzer Prize are nicely framed. I couldn’t angle the reflection of the overhead lights out of the picture, though.

This is the Charleston Daily Mail building as it appeared many years ago. This corner of the building still looks very similar.

This is the Charleston Daily Mail building as it appeared many years ago. This corner of the building still looks very similar.


Here’s what the Charleston Daily Mail newsroom looked like in December. 1968, compared to today.


‘Hollow’ and Thunderdome

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Yesterday really was an emotional rollercoaster at the Charleston Daily Mail as our staff reacted to the fates of friends.

We were thrilled to see our former colleague and continuing collaborator Elaine McMillion (now Sheldon) among the winners of the 73rd annual Peabody Awards for her production of ‘Hollow,’ which focuses on life in southern West Virginia.

Elaine McMillion

Elaine McMillion

As we have often said, because we like to claim her, Elaine was twice an intern at the Charleston Daily Mail. She continues to sometimes collaborate with our staff, as she did for coverage of the contamination of the Elk River and the Kanawha Valley’s water supply.

The Peabody is big-time.

As Elaine told the Daily Mail’s Zack Harold, she submitted “Hollow” to the Peabody Awards in January, “thinking my chances were pretty low because most of the people that win are with networks or affiliated with some corporation.

“I never thought we’d be in the same list as ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘House of Cards.’”

Congratulations Elaine!

Meanwhile, we were sorry to get news the same day that some of our friends from Digital First Media are losing their jobs.

Steve Buttry visits the Charleston Daily Mail for a seminar with newsroom staff

Steve Buttry visits the Charleston Daily Mail for a seminar with newsroom staff

DFM, which manages (but does not own), the Charleston Daily Mail, shut down its New York-based centralized newsgathering hub with the audacious name “Thunderdome.”

The move meant that some of our friends, including DFM’s editor-in-chief Jim Brady, Thunderdome managing editor Mandy Jenkins and digital transformation editor Steve Buttry — all recent visitors to the Daily Mail newsroom — will be looking for other jobs.

Their visits and their outlook have influenced much of what we do at the Daily Mail, including an emphasis on community involvement and a belief in serving web and mobile readers as well as traditional newspaper readers.

Digital First CEO John Paton wrote in his blog that the Thunderdome shutdown means a turnabout to focus on local. Although the Daily Mail is affiliated with Digital First Media, I wouldn’t expect big changes here. The company manages our newsroom but all other functions — like advertising and circulation — are self-contained within Charleston Newspapers. And our focus is local anyway. Always has been.

Nevertheless, we’ll miss our Thunderdome friends, who are always welcome to come visit us anyway. Good luck in the future, guys.



Political candidate interview season

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

This week we resume a tradition at the Charleston Daily Mail — candidate interviews.

Each election season, Daily Mail editors and reporters meet with candidates for contested statewide offices and for races in Kanawha and Putnam counties. (There are probably more races that are of interest to our readers, but there are only so many of us and only so much available time.)

There are two purposes:

  • To get a sense of the candidates and make endorsements.
  • And to inform the public about the candidates and their positions, whether the candidate winds up being endorsed or not.

voteEach day over a few weeks, editors and a reporter gather around a table with candidates from the various races. Usually we begin with a general introduction and move on to questions — some broad and some specific. This is not exactly like “Meet the Press.” Some of the answers perform loop-the-loops and some of the questions might not be fully on point. Sometimes the conversations wander around like a family dinner chat.

Traditionally, the reporter who covers the session cobbles portions of the candidates’ responses into a story for the newspaper. These are helpful to readers and voters but they can be challenging to write because there is no way to convey the full group conversation within the confines of a short newspaper story.

A couple of years ago, we started asking reporters to live blog the meetings on our website. This helped to provide a broader picture of the conversation and also swept away a little bit of the mystery of the meeting processes.

Then we got the notion to add livestreaming video to what we were doing. Now those most interested in the election could follow along live — or go back and watch later. Don’t be too impressed by the technology of this — we are not pro videographers. Our images are small, shaky and blurry. And sometimes it’s hard to hear. Still, it seems like a worthwhile effort to give citizens an insight into the candidates, the questions they’re asked and the responses they give.