Archive for the ‘Role of the press’ 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.



Against NCAA rules — the liveblog

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The NCAA still blows the whistle on journalists liveblogging during games. Rules are rules, right?

Regrets, and a change

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The point of view of The Charleston Daily Mail’s editorial page is conservative.

It’s the kind of conservative that believes in the power of the individual. That is, each individual has the possibility to flourish, succeed and prosper.

That’s why it was so disheartening to see the careless words of one of our own editorial writers describing a young man whose life ended tragically too soon.

Writing on his own personal blog, Don Surber discussed the tense race-related situation in Ferguson Missouri. He selected words that were unfortunate, inflammatory and, in our view, indefensible.

It’s his own blog, but still, he’s known as a Daily Mail editorial columnist and many readers seemed to perceive the views stated to reflect on the Daily Mail’s editorial policy.

They don’t. And this newspaper is working to rebuild the community’s trust.

As of this week, Mr. Surber is no longer employed by the Daily Mail. While his sometimes controversial and caustic columns were noted by many readers, few readers realize the in-depth institutional knowledge and substantial contributions he made during his 30 year career here.

We thank him for his service and we wish Mr. Surber good luck.

And we wish for readers to continue to look to and trust the Daily Mail for informed commentary on conservative causes such as limited government, fiscal responsibility, free enterprise and individual rights.

How the Charleston Daily Mail came to endorse Nick Casey and more

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Rare is the individual who clips a newspaper’s endorsements and adheres to the advice in the ballot box.

Bless them if they do. But it’s not what we expect.

We always say, we’re not telling you what to think; we’re just telling you what we think.

If you do want to know what we think, all of this election season’s endorsements for the Charleston Daily Mail editorial board may be found here. 

We have lively discussions about our endorsements, and we base our assessments on meeting the candidates, gathering whatever knowledge we can muster about their voting record or reputation in the community and trying to adhere to the philosophical tradition of the paper, which is fiscally conservative and pro-economic growth.

Most of the time our endorsements are not controversial, although sometimes response can be surprising as with this sample of Facebook comments about our U.S. Senate endorsement of Shelley Moore Capito, who we’d consider a moderate Republican in line with the Daily Mail’s editorial page philosophy.



Maybe some things that seem like tradition in a newspaper lose their context when they get out there in the social media frontier.

In any case, one of our endorsement decisions stood out because of some complications. In the race for Congress, Daily Mail editors had to choose between Republican Alex Mooney, a former Maryland legislator who arrived in West Virginia just in time to campaign, and Nick Casey, former chairman of the WV Democratic Party, who campaigned for Barack Obama but who otherwise has an excellent reputation as a longtime contributor to our community.

We’re known as the conservative newspaper in West Virginia’s capital. So, pick the conservative — or the West Virginian?

We went with Casey.

Democrat Nick Casey is the gentleman we all know, having lived his life in West Virginia and served in volunteer capacity with many state organizations, including the state’s Catholic Diocese, the St. Francis Hospital Board of Directors and the West Virginia State Bar.

This caused a bit of a stir.

Some thought the endorsement was a bad move.

Others were pleased.

And some figured no big deal.

The Daily Mail wound up being cited in a tightening of the race in Sabato’s Crystal Ball website run by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics

A more subtle problem for Mooney is that he chose to live in the Mountain State’s Eastern Panhandle, while Nick Casey, the Democratic nominee, is from Charleston, which is the heart of the district. A number of local Republican officials are backing Casey, and he even got the endorsement of the Charleston Daily Mail, the more conservative of the two papers in the state capital. The endorsement headline: “In 2nd District U.S. House race, go with the one you know.” Newspaper endorsements don’t move races, but Mooney’s failure to win the endorsement of the paper is emblematic of his larger problems getting conservatives to back him in sufficient numbers.

At least we made you think.

Here’s where some other West Virginia newspapers came down on the race.

The Charleston Gazette went for Casey, blasting Mooney and saying saying “In contrast, the Democratic nominee in the 2nd District, Charleston lawyer Nick Casey, is practical, sensible and concerned with average folks.”

Clarksburg’s Exponent-Telegram, which isn’t based in the 2nd Congressional District but which has readers who live in counties that are, also went for Casey. The Exponent-Telegram said,”Casey is a Democrat, but he doesn’t fall hook, line and sinker for the party line.”

The Inter-Mountain in Elkins went for Mooney.

And The Journal in Martinsburg also backed Mooney — as a man with an Eastern Panhandle perspective. (The link looks at first like it won’t show you the whole endorsement but then it comes to life; or at least it did for me.) The Journal wrote, “On Nov. 4, we have the opportunity to elect a congressman who can represent us in Washington. We can elect one of our own — Alex Mooney.”

That’s not likely how you’ll hear matters expressed in Charleston.

In any case, we don’t tell you what to think. We just tell you what we think.

So there you have it. God bless and go vote. And if you do go vote, take your Daily Mail endorsements along with you. endorse

Please remove Charleston Daily Mail photo from Addicting Info site

Monday, October 6, 2014


These guys removed the Daily Mail’s photo (of the wrong officer) from their site.

It took a couple days, but at least they got it down.

They included an editor’s note that said this: “Note: An earlier version of this article accidentally featured a photo of an officer who was not officer Shawn Williams. We apologize for any misunderstanding this may have created.”

To the publishers of
I am Brad McElhinny, editor and publisher of the Charleston Daily Mail newspaper in West Virginia.

I am writing to inform you that a thumbnail photo that has been posted with your item, “WV Cop Suspended…” is the intellectual property of The Charleston Daily Mail. Its original use may be seen here. Our newspaper, and professional photographer Tom Hindman, were not credited with the photo. Nor were we asked permission for its use. If we had been asked permission for its use in this instance, the request would have been denied.

The photograph does not depict Officer Shawn Williams, the subject of your story. Instead, it is a photo illustration featuring Charleston Patrolman Brian Lightner, who was featured in our newspaper in 2011 for his incredible record of making DUI arrests. Patrolman Lightner no doubt has his own complaint about the way you have used his image. 

Please remove The Charleston Daily Mail’s photograph from your site.


Brad McElhinny

Why did the newspaper put the mayor’s mustache on page 1, anyway?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

danny“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

And sometimes your batting average isn’t even as high as any of those options.

That seemed to be the case this week when Charleston’s mayor shaved his mustache and we wrote a story and put it on page 1.

This was not a popular decision in all quarters.

Well, no, the mayor’s shave wasn’t “news” in the traditional sense. The editors who OKd the story and then picked it for page 1, including me, never even thought of it that way.

What we did think was it was interesting (and I know many of you disagree even with that) as well as culturally significant for our city. Danny Jones is a three-term mayor. He has had that mustache for 39 years. Danny’s face — and the mustache — are/were the face of our city when there’s a ribbon cutting or a groundbreaking or a big convention.

Beyond that, I thought the story was one other men would relate to. Most men like me settle into a look for a lifetime. Got a hairstyle you’re comfortable with? Comb it that way for the rest of your life. Put on your blue or white shirt and your khaki pants or navy blazer and off you go. The mayor seemed to have settled into a lifetime relationship with his mustache and on Tuesday he abruptly broke it.

The story was a brite, also known as a bright, also known as a “Hey Mabel!

But Mayor Jones is also a lightning rod, also known as a “Hey Mabel, I can hardly tolerate that guy,” and that’s what was also at work in some people’s reactions. He hasn’t been popular for the $1 and now $2 user fee the city has instituted. Some people are mad about his position on guns in the city, and then last week the Republican mayor came out in favor of the Democratic candidate for Congress.

A lot of people are mad at the mayor’s face whether his upper lip is coiffed or bald.

Then there’s news judgment. Do you have any? Apparently we could use it.

We do four stories on the front page every day. There are 260 Monday through Friday Charleston Daily Mails a year. So, that’s 1,040 front page stories in a year.

Still, that’s precious landscape. Not everything makes the front page.

People think we should take it seriously, and I agree.

Nevertheless, I’ve always liked newspapers because they’re a buffet. Interested in one article? Read it to the end. Don’t like another? Skip it.

There was a fascinating article a few months ago about what would happen if readers were allowed to choose the front page articles of major papers. It was called “People powered front pages rock.” In other words, front pages designed around what were actually the most popular articles.

Would the readers always choose the SERIOUS stories? Uh, not so much.

For example, lead “people powered” story in The Washington Post on the day selected? “Four lion cubs born this week at National Zoo.”

The actual front page in the Post on that day: “Putin defends Ukraine stance, cites lawlessness.”

That’s not to say people don’t like smart, deep stories. It’s just that sometimes they like their veggies AND their dessert. I know I do.

That reminds me of an article in The Atlantic online this week: “Why Audiences Hate Hard News and Love Pretending Otherwise.”

Here’s a summary:

Ask audiences what they want, and they’ll tell you vegetables. Watch them quietly, and they’ll mostly eat candy.

Besides the mayor’s mustache story that day, we gave readers three other front page stories, mostly on the serious side: One about the local water system being declared free of the chemical MCHM after 300,000 of us had our drinking water contaminated earlier this year, another about the Benghazi terror attack suspect being seized and a news feature about Marshall University’s renovated Arts Center revitalizing downtown Huntington.

Were those the four most popular stories that day as measured by online readers?


A story about a former candidate for Kanawha County Commission getting arrested for  felony retaliation on a police officer after getting in a scuffle with State Police at age 69 was our number one story that day with more than 4,000 views. A story about a mama cat who died after saving her six kittens by carrying them one-by-one to safety from a fire was No. 2 with almost 2,500 views.

Next was a serious news story saying West Virginia could lose millions in federal Medicaid funding if it doesn’t stop sending payments to health care providers facing credible fraud claims. That got about 1,800 views.

And fourth was the Marshall arts center story with a little more than a thousand views.

So if reader clicks had determined the 1A lineup, it would have been: candidate in trouble with the cops, hero mama cat, Medicaid fraud and Marshall arts.

In fifth place and just out of the running?

The mayor, with 917 views.

The mayor’s mustache would have missed the cut.


West Virginia could lose roughly $230 million in federal Medicaid funding if it doesn’t stop sending payments to health care providers facing “credible” accusations of fraud – See more at:
West Virginia could lose roughly $230 million in federal Medicaid funding if it doesn’t stop sending payments to health care providers facing “credible” accusations of fraud – See more at:
West Virginia could lose roughly $230 million in federal Medicaid funding if it doesn’t stop sending payments to health care providers facing “credible” accusations of fraud – See more at:
West Virginia could lose roughly $230 million in federal Medicaid funding if it doesn’t stop sending payments to health care providers facing “credible” accusations of fraud – See more at:

Political candidate interview season

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

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

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

There are two purposes:

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

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

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

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

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


Were media ‘gullible’ during WVchemleak coverage?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

CNN’s ‘Reliable Sources’ used a segment to focus on coverage of the water contamination in West Virginia. One question that sparked controversy: Have the media been unreliable with their coverage?

Our reporter, live from the Online News Association

Friday, October 18, 2013

Daily Mail writer Zack Harold has been at the Online News Association annual convention in Atlanta, where there’s a lot of interesting discussion about the changing nature of news.

Guy chained to a barrel and debate over coverage

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What started as an environmental protest in front of the West Virginia Governor’s Mansion became a local media controversy.