Archive for the ‘Technical innovations’ Category

Charleston Daily Mail, early 1990s version

Monday, July 13, 2015

On days when we’re feeling nostalgic around here, we take a look at this video, which was made as a promotion for the Charleston Daily Mail around 1993:

The music is very intense. The voiceover is by longtime Charleston broadcaster Jim Reader. And the photographer with hair to match the times is Tom Hindman, who is still going strong on our staff (but with shorter hair.) Other than the tube-looking computers, our newsroom looks very much the same — cubicles, carpet and chairs. Obituaries, mentioned here as a free service, became a paid service several years ago and now are compiled in a department outside the newsroom. The process that’s depicted to receive photographs from the Associated Press… uh, that’s no longer the process.

The editor’s office is the one I (mostly) sit in. In the video, the editor is Dave Greenfield. His version of the office is much neater, and his hair is a lot better than mine. And his mustache? It’s off the charts.

At this point, in addition to the other steps in newspaper production being portrayed, we’d add post to web, Facebook (as a verb), tweet and possibly fire off a push notification.

In addition to enjoying this walk down memory lane, we hope you’re still enjoying your Charleston Daily Mail in print and/or online.

Find jobs, cars and houses with our new sites

Monday, June 1, 2015

Good on the Charleston Newspapers advertising department for updating and modernizing our websites meant to help readers find jobs, cars and a place to live.

IMG_2844What could be more helpful than that? (Except maybe

Within the past few months, the ad guys (also known as the guys who pay the bills) have rolled out, and Each now has scads of listings for jobs, vehicles and dwellings.

They’re practical sites that acknowledge people’s needs. And, even better, they’re all built for both desktop and smartphone. If you’re already out looking for a car or a house, the sites are there at your fingertips.

And do you need help with digital services for your own business? Charleston Newspapers has been working with Guarantee Digital to help provide those services for small- to medium-sized businesses in our community.

The advertising staff has been working hard to meet our audience’s digital needs. Good job, and let’s keep rolling.


How to put out a paper with no power

Monday, May 11, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And no one noticed. Which is fine by us.

Straight to your phone: About Charley West’s push notifications

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A couple of months ago, editors at the Charleston Daily Mail got the ability to blast cannonballs of information directly to people’s smartphones. It surprised me that thousands of people had already OK’d receiving the notifications and how quickly the service continued to grow.

Articles for you

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

If you’re a regular visitor to, you might have noticed a new feature on the right-hand rail.

It’s called “Articles for You,” and it’s meant to serve up stories, editorials and photos based on your stated interests.

This is still a work in progress and might still require some tinkering. For now, have fun playing with it until it settles.

Basically it allows you to pick among recommended topics like “Entertainment,” “Opinion,” and “Local Government” and then serves up content from the saved categories. It seems fairly handy, especially if you are a regular visitor to the site.

Around here we call the new feature “Audience,” and we hope you like it.


Oh, no. Oh, yes! @VentLineWV is on Twitter

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Welcome (almost) to our new website

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Come Monday (unless there’s a delay), readers will see the Charleston Daily Mail on a redesigned website.

The changes will relate to functionality more than appearance, and that’s on purpose. We don’t aim to confuse you. Our aim is to serve you better.

First a word of caution, though. We’re still learning to use this site. And we’re still ironing out some kinks.

So, although it will be new, it might not look like an improvement at first. Please bear with us.

This is a developmental version of our new website. It's similar to what exists, but should be more functional.

This is a developmental version of our new website. It’s similar to what exists, but should be more functional.

The new website should get better in several ways:

— It’ll be a flexible design, meaning it adjusts to whatever kind of screen you’re on. Ever try to read a story on a smartphone that you have to pinch and squeeze and move around until you can read it? This aims to resolve that problem.

— As time goes by, suggestions for more stories to read should get smarter. The system is designed to relate related content. You follow me there? Similarly, we should have an easier time providing in-article links to related content.

— It’s going to make it easier for us to build photo galleries. People love to click click click the photos by our great photo staff.

— Behind the scenes, we’ll have an easier time determining what content is resonating with people and what is less so. We’ll have greater efficiency too. What we’re doing links directly links our print workflow to our digital workflow. (They were separate systems before.) This doesn’t affect you directly, but we’re pretty excited.

We’re moving from an airplane to a rocket ship. Please excuse us while we learn to use the controls.

Meanwhile, join us on our digital journalism adventure:




Quick update: Set your favorites for

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A couple of days ago, I blogged that will soon become

Well, there’s been a bit of a change — and I apologize for whatever confusion we might be causing.

The latest plan is to go with

One reason is, that’s the name of our print product so it’s consistent. Another reason is, the words “Charleston Daily Mail” represent the top phrase used to find our website through Google.

We had thought we’d go with because, frankly, is pretty honkin’ long. is still ours and will serve as a vanity URL that will redirect to the charlestondailymail one.

Emails for staff will have the dailymailwv designation.

We’ll be transitioning over the course of this month, so that’s why matters have been in flux.

Please come find us! Wherever we are!

We’re moving to, so join us there!

Monday, December 2, 2013

If you have visited the Charleston Daily Mail’s website recently, you might have noticed a shift.

Those who visit, which has been established as the newspaper’s domain name since 1996, are quickly and automatically shifted to

dailymail-logoThat’s going to be our domain name from here on out, and we want to do our best to reduce confusion.

If you use your bookmarks or favorites to visit the Daily Mail site on a regular basis, you’ll want to make a change to reflect ours.

And if you have members of our staff in your email contacts, take note that those will be changing to reflect the new dailymailwv designation. Mine, for example, will switch from to

We picked the new address for a couple of reasons.

One is, it’s just a couple of keystrokes difference from the original — so it’s a relatively minor change for readers, although it is certainly a new habit to get used to, probably not unlike remembering to write the new year on your checks after each Jan. 1. We hope you adjust quickly.

Another is we want to emphasize our commitment to West Virginia coverage. Coverage of WV government news, West Virginia University and Marshall sports and Kanawha Valley news and local sports is our bread and butter. Might as well make that clear in our product’s name.

There’s another factor at work here too, and some people on social media were already guessing about it.

So, yeah, at some point I’d expect that visitors to will receive news from the British tabloid. If that’s not your interest, better get in the habit of adding that extra WV.

The sale of the domain name is allowing us to reinvest in what we do here and prepare for the future.

Some of the money from the sale went to buy state-of-the-art cameras for our photographers. They’re allowing our photojournalists to shoot with faster shutter speeds, under more challenging lighting conditions and with greater image quality. The real trick to great photos is the eye of the professional photographer, but the great equipment sure does help them produce iconic images for West Virginia readers to enjoy.

More of the money has gone to purchase a new computer system that will help us modernize what we’re doing both in the newspaper and on our website. You aren’t seeing the results yet, but you will this coming spring. The system, produced by a company called NewsCycle Solutions,will enhance what we’re doing in print and online.

Much of our content will be the same — still with an emphasis on West Virginia news and sports — our hope is to make it look better.

Online the goals include: be easier to navigate, smarter suggestions about related stories, more photo galleries and greater flexibility for mobile.

Other newspaper companies are making more dramatic moves to shore up their future. Some, like The Washington Post, are selling their actual buildings. The Star Tribune in Minnesota is selling its printing plant.

These moves are what John Paton, CEO of Digital First Media, would call buying “gas in the tank” to get down the road.

We’ll miss, but comparatively this is not that big a change. And it will be worth it when  our products improve.

So please join us at dailymailwv and let the adventure there begin.