Archive for the ‘Bragging rights’ Category

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.




Great shot by Tom Hindman, great honors for Charley West

Monday, August 11, 2014

Great shooting by Charleston Daily Mail photographer Tom Hindman, who was honored with the West Virginia Press Association’s Photo of the Year award.

scoutsThe photo was one Tom shot during last summer’s Boy Scout Jamboree in Fayette County, WV. It showed a sea of scouts standing at attention. It was a grabber for us at the time — we played it big on the front page. And the West Virginia Better Newspaper Contest judges (who are journalists from another state) liked it too.

The thing is, this isn’t Tom’s first time being honored for great shots.

Yep, it was Tom’s third straight year to win the Photo of the Year award.

Brilliance, plus consistency.

That photo also placed first in the news feature photo category. Hindman also won best sports photo and placed third for best news photo.

Other Daily Mail staffers did well too. The Charleston Daily Mail was awarded with “General Excellence” for racking up the most points among West Virginia newspapers its size for stories, photos, headlines and designs.

The Daily Mail’s edition marking the state’s 150th birthday was recognized for best single issue.

Daily Mail Editor and Publisher Brad McElhinny won best columnist. Neediest Cases, the newspaper’s annual effort to help those in need during the Christmas season, placed first for service to the community.

In all, the newspaper won 26 awards. The other awards were:

• For Best Lifestyle Columnist, “Chickens in the Road” writer Suzanne McMinn placed first and “Ask the Vet” Allison Dascoli placed second.

• Former Life Editor Monica Orosz placed third for Best Lifestyle Page.

• Former staff writer Candace Nelson placed third for best written news story.

• The staff received second place for best headline, third place for best special sports section, second place for best sports page, and first and second place for best front page.

• Graphic artist Kevin Cade received second and third place for best cartoon or drawing.

• Orosz won second place for best lifestyle feature writing.

• Writers Matt Murphy and Dave Boucher placed third for governmental reporting.

• Business Editor Jared Hunt won third place for coverage of business and labor.

• Photographer Craig Cunningham won second place for feature photography.

• Opinion Editor Kelly Merritt won third place for best editorial page.

• Former editor and publisher Nanya Friend won second place for best columnist.

• Managing Editor Philip Maramba won second place for best newspaper design.

Congrats to everyone for another year of great work.

(Oh, and want to have access to these great pictures and vigorous WV journalism on a regular basis? Subscribe by going here: or call customer service at 304-348-4800.)


Recognition for reflecting on the WV water crisis

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Well done to Charleston Daily Mail multimedia reporter Marcus Constantino, who has been recognized for his compilation of a useful and interesting interactive timeline of the WV water contamination.


Marcus Constantino

The timeline, which Marcus compiled using a program called Timeline JS, organized news links, photos, videos, social media and reports — making it one-stop-shopping for people who want to look back at what 300,000 of us went through this past winter.

The project won a monthly award from Digital First Media for April for the region including West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Journalists from other Digital First Media publications judge the work. Here is what one judge said:

The timeline compilation provided a clean and clear path through what otherwise would have been a daunting array of reporting for someone unfamiliar with the story. I feel that I journeyed from the position of ignorant visitor to an interested and affected local following the trail of stories, reading about the incident as it unfolded. Great work from the reporters gathering the information, writing solid stories, shooting helpful and informative video.

Another judge said:

They say journalism is the first draft of history, and the Daily Mail’s interactive timeline of the chemical leak provides a comprehensive document of a significant community and statewide event. There’s photo, video, links to previous news stories and primary source documents, all presented in an easy-to-follow, visually appealing format. That is no small feat, given the amount of information packed into the timeline. Readers get a sense of how events unfolded over the course of particular days and over the course of weeks and of both the immediate impacts and the long-term policy implications as the state tries to get more regulatory control over this industry. This is a true community service that uses the digital techniques to their full capacity.

This was the third month in a row that Daily Mail staff has won this award. Staff won in January for overall coverage of the water contamination, and then staffers Billy Wolfe and Matt Murphy won in February for their project to distribute abandoned photos from Lindsay’s photo studio back to people in our community.






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?





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.)


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.

Congratulations to Tom Hindman, Ashley B. Craig and the Daily Mail staff

Monday, August 12, 2013

As an editor guy, I’m usually happy these days when other people succeed.

That means I was really happy this past weekend at the West Virginia Press Association’s annual convention, where Daily Mail staffers were honored.

Especially notable was photographer Tom Hindman, who took home a whole stack of awards, including one for photo of the year.

Tom’s award was for this photo of a great big moon with an airplane flying across. Tom said his wife, Diann, told him to take out the trash — and when he noticed how striking the moon looked he stayed outside for two hours until the airplane flew by and he got this shot.

Tom also won the Best Feature Photograph category for that shot. He also won second place for Best News Photography and for Best Photo Essay. And Tom won another third-place award in the Best Feature Photograph category. Go Tom!

Ashley B. Craig

Ashley B. Craig

I was also really happy for crime reporter Ashley B. Craig, who won first and second place in “Best News Feature” plus first place in Legal Issues/Courts. From an editor’s point of view, Ashley is a great big miracle because she just walked into our newsroom one day a few years ago, hoping for a chance to write some stories and wrap up her college degree. We gave her a chance and she was pretty good — so good that she earned herself a job and is now one of our best, most reliable reporters.

The Daily Mail actually swept the Best News Feature category. Ashley took first and second place with “Memorial to troopers grows” and “Family revives toddler who fell in pond.” Reporter Zack Harold won third place with “Rescued pooch gets new home, Arlington neighbor gets dog.”

Ashley B. Craig also won first place for Best Coverage of Legal Issues/Courts with “Boyfriend had long record of arrests.” Daily Mail courts reporter Cheryl Caswell won second place in the category with “Shawn Lester pleads guilty/ Plants fears for witness safety.”

In all, Daily Mail staffers were honored with nine first-place, 13 second-place awards and two third-place awards. The Daily Mail placed first in General Excellence among the state’s largest newspapers by amassing the largest point total in the contest categories.

Other first-place awards by Daily Mail staffers were:

Best Sports Section, sports editor Chuck McGill and his staff; Best Lifestyle Columnist, Philip Maramba; Best Business/Labor Coverage, Jared Hunt; Best Lifestyles Feature Writing, Dave Boucher; Best Sports Pages, McGill and his staff; and Reporting of Governmental Affairs, Zack Harold.

Other second place awards were:

Best News Headline, Ashlee Maddy; Best Front Page, Philip Maramba; Best Single Issue, staff for the Oct. 31, 2012 edition; Best Sports Section, Chuck McGill and his staff; Best Written News Story, Zack Harold and Jared Hunt; Best Sports Columnist, Mike Casazza; Best Lifestyle Columnist, The Food Guy, Steven Keith; Service to the Community, the Daily Mail’s Neediest Cases appeal; Best News Photography, Tom Hindman; Best Lifestyle Pages, Monica Orosz; Best Photo Essay, Hindman.

Congratulations to all the great journalists I work with.

And congratulations to other journalists doing great work elsewhere around West Virginia.



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.

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!



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).