Archive for the ‘Great editors’ Category

This is the Daily Mail

Thursday, June 25, 2015

We had a discussion in our office this week with a retired editor, and she brought along a document I’d never seen. It was called, “This is the Daily Mail.”

dmAs a 20+ year employee (and now its editor), I’d like to think I know what the Charleston Daily Mail is, either because of experience or oral tradition. But it was great to see what amounted to a mission statement thoughtfully typed out.

These days, I would probably add some mumbo jumbo about platforms, including website, apps and social media.

But in terms of our role in the community and the goals we should strive to reach every day, this still stands. I hope we live up to it.

Since it was written on typewriter, what follows is my typing straight into WordPress:


1. The Daily Mail is, first of all, a newspaper. Its primary obligation is to the news. The news is its principal commodity. Its major efforts should be directed at gathering and processing the news. In this it is guided by several considerations.

a) The motto: Without, or with, offense to friends or foes, I sketch your world exactly as it goes. (This is the reason it calls suicide by the right name.)

b) The Daily Mail is a family newspaper whose circulation, in the main, is concentrated in the home. (This is the reason it does not dwell upon the lewd, obscene and bestial or pander to the taste for sensation and scandal.)

c) The Daily Mail is a Charleston newspaper. Its ambition is to be the newspaper without which the reader cannot get the picture or “feel” of this community.

2. The Daily Mail is a responsible newspaper.

a) It strives, first of all, to be right — factually, morally right.

b) Where it cannot be right, it must be fair.

c) Where it has not been fair, it is quick to make amends.

3. The Daily Mail is a force for leadership.

a) It initiates causes which in its judgement are beneficial to the community, opposes those which in its judgment are detrimental. Similarly it espouses and opposes causes which originate elsewhere.

b) It is an independent newspaper with partisan leanings, not a partisan newspaper with independent leanings, which is to say that it is an independent Republican paper because it is conservative, not the other way around.

c) On its editorial page and elsewhere in the selection of criticism and opinion, it seeks to keep open the market place in ideas. It has its own opinions and ideas, but it does not undertake to suppress the ideas and opinions of others.

d) In looking toward the future, the Daily Mail tries to keep just a little ahead of public opinion, its job being to shape it, not to reflect it, to prompt action, not to concur in it, to point toward, rather than to look back upon.

e) In this direction, the Daily Mail’s editorial weapons are, first of all, the facts, then good sense and logic, followed by conscience as a guide to what we think is best, plus the courage to say so. Note: A newspaper can embrace too many wrong causes for its survival — wrong in the sense that they are unpopular — but the Daily Mail does  not mind challenging the common wisdom when the need arises.

d) All these add up to something like a personality, which may be described in this way:

The Daily Mail is a Charleston newspaper. It is (or should be) a complete newspaper, the honest, independent, reliable newspaper whose stock in trade is the truth as we know and can determine it.

The Daily Mail is also the conscientious, concerned newspaper, as anxious to serve as it is eager to profit and ready to gamble that as it succeeds in the first it cannot fail to succeed in the second.



Out of newspapers, but still making headlines

Monday, June 23, 2014
2014-06-22 15.08.23_nanyaheadlines

Former editor and publisher Nanya Friend leads a mini-seminar with Daily Mail copy editors on headline writing on Sunday.

This is Nanya Friend, former editor and publisher of the Daily Mail, who announced her retirement about this time last year.

Hers was one of a slew of retirements we experienced in 2013 — George Hohmann, business editor; Hanna Maurice, editorial page editor; Cheryl Caswell, court reporter; and Monica Orosz, features editor.

Their combined years of newsroom experience tallied well over a century and left those who remained to carry on wondering how we were going to make up for the loss of so much institutional and professional knowledge.

Luckily, none of them retired away from the area. And even more so, they’re still helping us.

From supplying emergency food supplies at the start of the winter water crisis to leaving stores of over-the-counter medications — antacids, pain relievers and such — they’ve continued to keep the newsroom fortified and fit. (George even continues to employ his ace reporting skills as a freelancer covering local city council meetings for us.)

Nanya was kind enough to share with our copy editors her time and wisdom in a headline writing seminar this Sunday. She passed along not only tips for writing good headlines, but her own opinions on what works and what doesn’t and why. (As I later told our copydesk staffers who hadn’t worked with her, “Now you know why we’re the way we are.”)

I told her afterward that she and our former managing editor, the late, great Bob Kelly, cast long shadows in our office and that we often wonder to ourselves what they would do in certain situations.

Truth be told, as the latest occupant of Bob’s office, I still talk to him, bemoaning the state of the world and the industry and asking for clues to life’s puzzles.

But I’m glad to know that the rest of our predecessors are still just a phone call, email or text message away for advice and, in the case of this weekend, real, practical lessons.

While it’s not in the direct, daily contact we enjoyed while they still worked with us, we continue to learn from them in the hopes of carrying on the legacy of excellence that they left us.

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?


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.


Great catch! You get the fish!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

We hate to make mistakes, although they certainly do happen sometimes.

Last week, for example, we accidentally had two versions of the same court briefs written in different ways — and they both got in the paper. That was my fault. I proofed the page they were on and totally missed the similarities.


At least sometimes we give readers a chance to question whether we’re awake. But we really do try to catch these things. It’s just that we’re usually trying to process a large amount of information all at once in an environment that’s more like a police dispatch center than a library — all on a daily deadline.

That’s why we have the fish.

Everybody needs a motivational tool, and the fish is ours. Actually, it’s more of a reward — a wooden fish that goes to the person who makes a big catch.

The fish made its debut under the reign of Becky Calwell, who was our news editor for many years. She got it from her husband Ben and brought it to the newsroom.

Becky Calwell

Becky Calwell

That fish once belonged to Ben Calwell. I brought it to work to give out to the copy editor who made the “best catch.” I’m sure I stole that idea from someone. I went to a copy editing conference one time in Baltimore. Maybe that is where I got the idea. I’m not sure how we decided who received it, but we all recognized a really big catch—something that would have been really embarrassing or even libelous had it gotten in the paper. I never really liked when it was staring at me either!

The fish reward has continued under our current news editor, Ashlee Maddy.

Ashlee Maddy

Ashlee Maddy

Becky bequeathed him to copy desk when she left, so we could continue the tradition. The winner of the best catch displays him on their desk until the next best catch, at which point we say, “Great catch! You get the fish!” I also find his appearance slightly creepy, but love what he represents.

At the moment, the fish resides on the desk of Whitney Humphrey, who caught a typographical error so small I could barely see it.
Good eyes! You get the fish!


Memories of Charlie Connor, the gentleman editor

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A week ago our newsroom and community learned of the death of Charlie Connor, a former editor and a true gentleman.

A lot of great tributes to Charlie came out, including one from the Register-Herald in Beckley, where he had been publisher from 1981 to 1987. Another was an editorial in our own paper. Normally our staff editorials are unsigned, but I’ll tell you this one was written by the Daily Mail’s retiring editorial page editor Hanna Maurice, who had worked with Connor here and who turned out a heartfelt, personal tribute to Charlie. I know writing it wasn’t easy for her.

Here’s a nice description from that editorial:

He was empathetic, encouraging and thoughtful with everyone he ever met – an example of that rare breed who brought grace to every aspect of his life.

charlieI only encountered Charlie a couple of times, but that’s certainly the impression he gave me. Once I called him on the phone because I was writing a story about the 40th “birthday” of the Daily Mail’s front page mascot, Charley West. Charlie had helped create Charley in 1958. Charlie was, true to character, gracious and gave me all the time I needed.

The other time I met him at a picnic for Daily Mail retirees in 1998. Talk about time flying. It’s hard to believe 15 years have passed since that picnic and how many of the great writers and editors who attended have since died. If you’re a longtime reader you’ll recognize names like Dan Hose, Richard Grimes, Bob Kelly and Adrian Gwinn. Even longtime owner Lyell Clay was able to attend.

In my office at the paper, I found a collection of short stories (and some photos) of newspaper life from staffers who attended the picnic.

It’s a treasure trove, but mostly I’d like to share a story Charlie Connor wrote about his time at the Daily Mail:

I graduated from Marshall at mid-semester in 1948, got married the next week, and took the train from Huntington to Charleston the next week to accept a promising job at the Daily Mail. I knew very little about Charleston’s physical layout.

Arriving at the C&O Depot on a cold January day, I inquired where the Daily Mail was located. A station agent told me “on Hale Street” and I proceeded there, entered the newsroom and was greeted by Dallas “Tex” Higbee, the managing editor. Good so far.

Except, I soon learned, this wasn’t the Daily Mail but the Gazette.

Mr. Higbee was magnanimous when he learned I was from Marshall and looking for a job. “Why not work here?” he asked. “We’re short a reporter.”

I thanked him and said I’d be back if the Daily Mail’s Vint Jennings failed to hire me. Jennings, then city editor, did hire me and that was the beginning of a wonderful 33-year relationship until I moved to Beckley to become a publisher. I recall my beginning salary was $5 more than the Herald-Dispatch offered in my hometown, Huntington.

charlie2I might add that three months after I began working at the Daily Mail, a cute redhead moved in from a triumphant two-year career in New York as a budding ballerina. Her name? Julie Kemp.

I understand she has established a 50-year-plus record at the Daily Mail and has no intention of retiring. She’s a better (wo)man than I’ll ever be. I love you, Julie.

Okay, one more?

It was another cold winter day when Sam Hindman dragged his wife, eight months pregnant with Kim (now an assistant Kanawha County prosecuting attorney) into the Daily Mail newsroom after a snowy trip from Bluefield. He was looking for a larger opportunity than on the Bluefield newspaper where he worked.

I had recently become managing editor and was being very careful with my first hires. Sam, being the bright person he is, impressed me. I offered him $140 a week to start.

“But I’m already making that in Bluefield,” he said.

“But you’ll have a better chance of making a name for yourself in Charleston,” I countered.

He took the job and we all know what’s happened since. He’s the Daily Mail publisher, has a wonderful wife and home, plays a lot of golf, and generally enjoys the fruits of his labor both here and in his past years as a Thomson Newspapers executive.

$140 to start. Not bad pay, Sam. Aren’t you glad you took the job?

I know a lot of great, talented editors have occupied this office before me. I haven’t met many of them, but I’m glad I met Charlie.