Archive for the ‘History’ 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.



Everything old is on fire again

Monday, October 20, 2014

The more things change, the more things stay the same.

Now that the fires are tamped down and the Dumpsters returned to their homes, the hand-wringing over post-game rioting following West Virginia University’s upset of then-No. 4 Baylor has begun in earnest.

As anyone who follows college sports can tell you, Morgantown has a dubious distinction for its incendiary celebrations after big wins.

In 2012, the last time this happened — maybe too long ago for for a lot of fans — head coach Dana Holgorsen had some words for those tempted to take their festivities too far: “I would encourage everyone involved to get used to wins like that.”

(Of course, days after those optimistic words, Texas Tech went on to upset WVU and set in motion a slide from which the team only now seems to be recovering, which, while it might explain the pent-up excitement, offers no excuse for the destruction.)

I wrote a column back in 2002, after we defeated No. 3 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, 21-18, our last Top 5 upset. It was an effort to put into context a supposed “tradition” and its place in WVU’s new reality.

But while the Mountaineers’ sports landscape has changed dramatically — and for the better — it appears not much else has.

My turn: Burning couches isn’t new

If it had anything to do with some sort of special win, I would encourage everyone involved to get used to wins like that – See more at:
If it had anything to do with some sort of special win, I would encourage everyone involved to get used to wins like that – See more at:
If it had anything to do with some sort of special win, I would encourage everyone involved to get used to wins like that – See more at:
In 2002, the last time West Virginia University defeated a Top 5 team, revelers set more than 30 fires in Morgantown.

In 2002, the last time West Virginia University defeated a Top 5 team, revelers set more than 30 fires in Morgantown.

As a responsible furniture owner, let me just say I was shocked by the reports of rampant couch burning by West Virginia University students after last week’s upset of Virginia Tech. 

What’s the matter with these kids? Don’t they know how much a good sectional couch costs?

Besides, in my day, burning things meant something. Sure, we wanted to burn sections of something — sections of town.

Those were the days when the legal drinking age was 18, our nearest rival, the University of Pittsburgh, was only a few years removed from their last national championship and cocky, future Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino stood behind center. We wanted to knock off someone big — anyone big.

By the time I got to school, our record against powerhouses such as Pitt and Penn State was dismal enough that I was told should we ever beat one of them, we would burn down Morgantown’s legendary bar district, Sunnyside.

It was almost like a high-stakes bet, as if a big-time victory were so dear, we would sacrifice the thing nearest and dearest to an undergraduate’s heart to achieve it. In this case, it was a row of wonderfully low establishments serving up our favorite frothy beverages.

That first year, down fell Oklahoma. Then, later, Pitt. And eventually, even Penn State.

Each time, as if from a congress of pigskin shamans, the incantation arose: “Sunnyside burns! Sunnyside burns!” But it never did.

Impromptu bonfires were lit, put out and re-started. And, yes, upholstery somehow got involved then, too.

Still, my friends and I knew that the handful of truly determined firebugs weren’t in their right minds, just addled, excitable and in need of attention. We stood back and tried not to get in their way.

Once in a while, one of us would hoot. Mostly, we just raised our plastic cups, basked in the glow of a satisfying victory and worked up the nerve to talk to coeds. We were nerds.

Now, with zoning having mostly washed away the neighborhood’s sudsy reputation, Sunnyside is but a sad shadow of its former glory, its value as the payoff to a big bet diminished. There’s no sacrifice in what’s essentially a stretch of sidewalk leading to off-campus housing.

Legends die hard. I can only guess that’s the motivation behind this generation’s celebratory pyromaniacs.

It makes for good copy. A blurb and a roll of the eyes on SportsCenter.

But in the presence of people who didn’t attend my school, I feel like someone sitting with the in-laws’ family at a wedding reception and watching a drunken, distant relative make a fool of himself. There’s great love — and great embarrassment — at what should be a very happy occasion.

Nobody likes being in the hot seat.

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.

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?


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.


4 editions and John F. Kennedy

Friday, November 22, 2013

Today I got a visit from Ray and Conni Lewis of Kanawha City. They brought in a box with yellowed newspapers of the past — tangible history of the day John F. Kennedy was shot.


This is the fourth and final edition of the Nov. 22, 1963, Charleston Daily Mail

The newspapers were the four editions of the Charleston Daily Mail from Nov. 22, 1963. As an afternoon newspaper at the time, the Daily Mail first printed a suburban edition that had no sign of a national tragedy — just a front page picture of some people protesting the president’s Texas visit.  With each edition after that, the horrible story unfolded with greater detail and certainty.

Ray, then 16, was in chemistry class at Charleston Catholic.  That’s where he first heard Kennedy had been shot.

“Within half an hour, we knew he was dead.”

Because his high school was downtown, Ray had immediate access to the newspaper bins that kept receiving updated edition after updated edition.

“I walked past the newspaper rack and there was one marked ‘Extra,'” he recalled. He put in a nickel and got a copy.

“Shortly after that, another one came out.”

By the end of the day, he had four editions of the paper, which he kept for 50 years.

Conni marveled at the newspaper staff’s ability to provide update after update.

“Think what it would have taken to put out 4 front pages with jumps.”

This is the "Suburban" edition that came out before news of the assassination.

This is the “Suburban” edition that came out before news of the assassination.


This is the first “Extra” edition when Kennedy’s fate still wasn’t clear.

In this second "Extra" edition, it was clear that Kennedy had died.

In this second “Extra” edition, it was clear that Kennedy had died.