Archive for January, 2015

Congratulations Whitney Burdette and the other excellent WV political writers

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Fix blog for The Washington Post has a fun tradition: an annual list of best political reporters.

Any such list is subjective, of course. And the list relies heavily on crowdsourcing (because who can regularly read or listen to the political reporting from each and every state). Reporters were nominated through social media and then finalized by The Fix.

Whitney Humphrey

Whitney Burdette

We’re proud to have one of West Virginia’s names on the list, Whitney Burdette. This is actually Whitney’s second year in a row to make the list. In between, she had a baby, which is no small feat in itself.

West Virginians apparently came out in droves for Hoppy Kercheval of MetroNews because he’s singled out by The Fix for his large number of mentions. We’re pleased to note that we often run Hoppy’s insightful commentary on our editorial page.

The other reporters representing West Virginia were Phil Kabler and Eric Eyre of The Charleston Gazette. West Virginia is fortunate to have a vigorous and lively press pool covering what goes on under the dome.

Well done everyone. Now, the Legislature’s in session so get back to work.

UPDATE: Public broadcasting’s Ashton Marra and Jonathan Mattise pf The Associated Press have been added to the list. Congrats!

The list, now somewhat lengthy, has a distinctly Charleston feel to it. That’s natural since it’s capital reporters covering the Capitol. But if you’re looking for an out-of-Charleston viewpoint, check out the work of Beckley’s Pam Pritt or Parkersburg’s Michael Erb, who covers state issues for the Ogden Newspapers in West Virginia.

And for a new-to-Charleston viewpoint, I’d recommend Joel Ebert, who just got to town but who is doing a bang-up job for the Daily Mail.




Watch while we talk with Charleston council candidates

Monday, January 26, 2015

For many years, Charleston Daily Mail editors have met with candidates for state and local offices to discuss issues and to consider political endorsements. This is not an uncommon practice for newspapers, of course. Most do this in some form or another.

We're getting out of the office. It's pretty exciting.

We’re getting out of the office. It’s pretty exciting.

A few years ago, we got the bright idea that we’d live blog our candidate meetings for citizens who wanted to follow along wherever they might be. Then we added a little Logitech camera for livestreaming. The image is so-so and the sound isn’t much better, but at least you can see what we’re doing and get some impression of the candidates.

Now, with Charleston municipal elections upon us, editorial page editor Kelly Merritt got another bright idea: to get out of the office and into the community.

So for some of our meetings, we’re heading over to DigiSo: “West Virginia’s first co-working initiative for digital entrepreneurs, start-ups, innovators and creative industry professionals.”

DigiSo’s location is on Charleston’s West Side, so that’s where we’re meeting Charleston City Council candidates who seek to represent West Side wards.

DigiSo is helping us stream those sessions, so expect the production quality to be better than what we’re used to providing.  (We’ll probably be back to our own office and back to the little Logitech camera and Snowball microphone for future meetings, so don’t get too accustomed to higher production values.)

If you’d like to follow along, head over to reporter Matt Murphy’s County Courthouse, City Hall blog. 

Our sessions will begin about noon, although we sometimes run slightly late if we’re making warmup conversation or waiting on someone to arrive.

Here’s the schedule and candidates who may attend:

Jan. 27 Wards 1, 2, 3 — Jones, Slater, Claar, Kirk, Deneault, Overstreet, Nguyen, Lee *

Jan. 28 Ward 5 — Nichols, Ashworth, Cooke Faegre, Bonar *

Feb. 2 Ward 6 — Marlowe, Seabolt, Talkington, Farrell *

Feb. 3 Ward 7 — Chestnut, Knauff, Hawk, Kerns, Williamson *

Feb. 10 Ward 10 — Hightower, Steele **

Feb. 12 Ward 12 — Salisbury, Jenkins **

Feb. 18 At large Republicans — Lane, Johnson, Hoblitzell **

Feb. 24 At large Democrats — Davis, Richardson, Ware, Ireland, Ceperley, Ballard, Henderson, Sheets **

Feb. 25 Mayor — Jones, Scott, Thompson, Monroe ***

* Location at DigiSo

** Location TBD, likely at Charleston Newspapers HQ

*** Location TBD, maybe back at DigiSo








‘A Bad Taste in West Virginians’ Mouths’

Sunday, January 25, 2015

I was checking out what The Washington Post does with its YouTube page and was sort of surprised to find a recent item with a West Virginia connection.

The Post had posted (well, that’s some repetitive phrasing) an animated editorial cartoon about the Freedom Industries leak that contaminated the water supply for 300,000 West Virginia American Water Company customers last year. (Remember that? Here’s a handy timeline of the water crisis, in case you forgot).

Anyway, I cringe when I see bathroom humor on our comics page, bracing for comments from readers. That’s the angle the Post cartoon took in its animated “A Bad Taste in West Virginians’ Mouths.” But anything goes on the Internet. Or, at least, more goes. So I wondered how it would be received once a West Virginia audience became more aware of it.

Well, if you’d like to see the illustration, click here. (Embedding is disabled on the link, as are comments.)

Initial thoughts via Twitter:


Sunday, January 25, 2015

We take our coverage of the Governor’s State of the State seriously — but recognize it’s like eating cauliflower.

So the past couple of years we’ve offered an activity for those who want to have a little fun with their public policy.


Conceivably, since the Bingo card was the same for everyone, all players could win. We offered up a vaguely described prize: some sort of Charleston Daily Mail swag to one winner chosen at random. Looking at social media, it appeared quite a few people were playing along but only a few people actually emailed in their Bingos: Bobby Johnson of Charleston, George Hohmann of Charleston (our retired business editor), Mike Mallow of Franklin, Warren Perrine of Parkersburg and Justice Hudson of St. Albans. It was few enough that, instead of just picking one, I sent each a Daily Mail mug.

They seemed to like the prizes. Thanks to everyone who played.


Didn’t notice the change in your paper? Good.

Thursday, January 22, 2015
This is a copy of the last page the Daily Mail produced using Quark Express, part of its old publication system.

This is a copy of the last page the Daily Mail produced using QuarkXpress, part of its old publication system.

At left is the Friday, Dec. 26, 2014, edition of the Daily Mail’s Sports agate page, which has scores, stats and standings from local, college and pro teams. It probably doesn’t look too much different from the one in today’s paper. And that’s good.

Why? If you’ve been a longtime subscriber to our print edition — and if you aren’t, click here — the only changes you noticed in your paper probably came with the design we updated last winter. But from the production standpoint, a whole lot of things have changed.

About a year and a half ago, Charleston Newspapers contracted with SaxoTech, now News Cycle Solutions, to update a computer and programming system that had been in place for about 20 years, which is a long, long time, given the rapid pace of technology.

For an analogy of what was required, consider the components that comprised the old home entertainment center: a tuner, a turntable, a tape deck, a compact disc player, speakers, a VCR and a television set — about seven machines needed to provide music and video. These days, you can access all that with your average smartphone.

The Daily Mail, Gazette and Kanawha/Putnam Metro departments were using multiple programs that weren’t fully integrated; one was for writing stories, another for photos, another for page layout and one for uploading to the Internet. Our publications needed a central hub to give these programs a home where they could “talk” to each other better.

So SaxoTech helped us corral these disparate elements into a “content management system” that made it easier get text, photos and video together for a story, both in print and online. It took several months first to translate the way our newsrooms worked into its new CMS environment; it took a couple more to teach our staffers how to use it.

Meantime Charleston Newspapers’ IT department was doing the gruntwork of making sure our computers here in the city could speak with SaxoTech’s cloud-based hubs in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. (And here I will give my kudos to our techs for pulling this process off: Diana Morris, Jenny Lilly, Bill “Woody” Horn, Rob Maupin, Steve Campbell, Joel Armstrong, Ron Phillips, John Jarvis and Steve Jones — I salute you. And a tip of the hat, as well, to our pre-press manager, Kent Sowards.)

I took a selfie of SaxoTech reps Susan Gallant, left, and Beth Hilbig at the end of the first week of the paper's go-live with its new content management system.

I took a selfie with SaxoTech reps Susan Gallant, left, and Beth Hilbig at the end of the first week of the paper’s go-live with its new content management system.

We went live with the new system on the first week of March with our implementation team — Susan Gallant and Beth Hilbig, who’d been our trainers from Day One — on-site to hold our hands, answer our questions and trouble-shoot any glitches in production. (To them I give thanks for their patience and guidance as we made the six-month transition.)

This is the first Sports agate page made entirely in inDesign, part of the Daily Mail's new CMS.

This is the first Sports agate page made entirely in Adobe InDesign, part of the Daily Mail’s new CMS.

While the newsroom was abuzz with nervous energy and the stumbles that come with doing something new, our papers rolled off the press with nary a hitch.

But — and there’s always a “but” — because it took a little while longer for our designer (me) and programmer to get our agate type formatted, we had two sections of the paper that were still done using the old system.

The News Digest weather package for page 3A was up and running in the new system by August. And by the end of December, the Sports agate page was ready to roll. So finally, and with little fanfare, the Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014, edition of the Daily Mail became the first to be completed entirely in the new CMS.

And no one noticed. Which is fine by us.

WVU chief Gee whizzes by, leaves a couple of presents

Monday, January 19, 2015

West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee keeps such a busy schedule that it takes a team to keep him shuttling from appointment to appointment.

He was in town last week for the start of the new legislative session and stopped by the Daily Mail newsroom to take a few questions from reporters.

His time was limited, so it was sports editor Chuck McGill and city/county reporter Matt Murphy who had the chance to bend his ear.

Murphy pressed Gee on the fate of West Virginia University Tech in Montgomery now that WVU had purchased the former Mountain State University property in Beckley. Given that its sudden availability was “like manna from heaven,” Gee was circumspect in his school’s plans for the two campuses.

Think that response was open-ended? Consider the unexploded bombshell he left with McGill when he said of a renewal of playing in-state FBS-school Marshall University in football. Gee said if new WVU athletic director Shane Lyons was open to sitting down with Marshall AD Mike Hamrick to discuss the possibility, “I have no problem with it whatsoever.”

And then, like the Cat in the Hat, he was gone.

Gee’s intelligence, attentiveness, energy and gregariousness lends itself to a rock star-like following among his supporters at the schools he has led. So I was not immune to imposing on him for the chance at a selfie as he was leaving with my alma mater’s popular president.

Indulgences like those, his spokeswoman Becky Lofstead said with a grin and a roll of the eyes, is what makes visits last longer than planned. Still, brief though it was, his presence in the newsroom gifted the paper with a couple of timely stories in the public interest.

Congratulations to Chuck McGill, sportswriter of the year (again)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I’m a few days late on posting this congratulations, but hey it’s been busy…

Chuck McGill

Chuck McGill

So: Congratulations (again) to Charleston Daily Mail sports editor Chuck McGill, who has been selected as West Virginia’s sportswriter of the year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.

McGill also won last year, plus in 2011.

His work is stellar, plus he’s a good guy to be around. Some of my favorite McGill pieces from the past year weren’t necessarily about Xs and Os but were more about life.

One was about  Brycen Miller, who was playing in his last Public Courts tennis tournament because he was going to go through a complete transplant of his stomach, large intestines and small intestines. This story was so amazing that any more summary by me won’t do it justice. Trust me: click the link.

Another was McGill writing about his own son. This is an annual column. If you’re not a regular visitor to the sports pages — or even if you are — read last year’s and this year’s.







How West Virginia newspapers played the death of former Gov. Arch Moore

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The death of former WV Gov. Arch Moore at age 91 was big news for the entire state. Moore’s death was announced, though, shortly before press time in most West Virginia newspaper newsrooms. Still, most scrambled to give the charismatic and controversial three-term governor’s death the prominent treatment it merited. Here’s a look at the front pages in some of West Virginia’s larger communities: dailymail The Charleston Daily Mail staff ripped up its original page 1, which had included a photo illustrating the current incredibly cold weather and a story about Marshall University’s interim president, to go big with the Moore story. Staff updated a story left behind by former West Virginia government reporter Ry Rivard to include reaction from the Moore family and from current West Virginia leaders. The newspaper’s iconic Charley West figure, who usually offers a quip about the news, was updated to demonstrate sadness over Moore’s passing. Gazette The Charleston Gazette, with which Moore famously feuded (regularly calling the paper “The Morning Sick Call”) also went big with the former governor’s death. The Gazette’s story was written by longtime statehouse reporter Phil Kabler. Both the Daily Mail and Gazette went dominant with black and white photos, a rarity these days. wheeling Couldn’t get a big image of the Intelligencer in Wheeling. Moore was from the Northern Panhandle, so the Wheeling paper treated Moore’s death as that of a native son. A mainbar was accompanied by a sidebar with reaction from Marshall County. 



The Parkersburg and Martinsburg newspapers gave the story similar treatment, with the Moore headline stripping across the top of each paper. Reporter Michael Erb wrote the article that appeared in Wheeling, Martinsburg and Parkersburg, although each was tweaked by editors for the particular publication. Each of those newspapers is in the Ogden chain, so sharing material was a natural.


The Moore story didn’t make the front page cut for the Dominion Post in Morgantown, according to the image posted at the Newseum. Not sure if this was a deadline issue or what. On page 1 was a swearing-in for a county commissioner, a weather story and the 80th anniversary of the birth of Elvis. A scan of the online edition shows the Moore story on 5A. 

Update: Below is the Dominion Post front page from Friday. The newspaper went big with Moore at the top.