Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Follow along: South Charleston mayoral candidates

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Charleston Daily Mail editorial board is meeting today with candidates for South Charleston mayor, the incumbent Frank Mullens and his challenger, Richie Robb, who was the city’s longtime mayor.

I’m the editor, Brad McElhinny, and I’m going to attempt to liveblog below:


Newsroom overhaul in overdrive

Monday, March 9, 2015

Meet the new crew: Samantha Ricketts, left, Heather Greenfield, Kelsey Thomas and Andrea Rectenwald. Today marks one year since Andrea was hired, making her the last person to join the staff after the departure of four copy editors in about six months. Former copy editor Steven Gill is in the background. Photo by Craig Cunningham.

Imagine you’re the captain of a veteran hockey team that’s been battle-tested and has numerous titles to its name. Now imagine that you suddenly have to replace four of your six players. Well, a year ago today, the six-person Daily Mail copy desk replaced its fourth editor in almost six months.

As with any profession, staff turnover is a part of the job — new opportunities and life changes lead people elsewhere. Newspapers are no different. We consider ourselves lucky when we can make it a year without someone leaving, but even more so on copy desk because of the number of hats they wear on the job.

Their first job is, as the name implies, to edit copy. They read for errors factual and grammatical, sometimes even having to do math. They write headlines. They select stories from the newspaper wire services. They determine where stories go in the paper. They do page layout. They design section fronts. They upload stores to the Web. They occasionally write stories and columns.

When I was on copy desk, with each new responsibility I was assigned, my supervisor kept me on it for weeks on end until I’d seen every situation I could. This continued for three years until I was assigned to do Page One, the pinnacle of copy editor duties, or the face of the newspaper, as our former publisher would say.

So you can see the amount of training and seasoning that goes into making a veteran copy editor. And, hopefully, you can appreciate why losing just one has a cost that goes beyond missing a friendly, familiar face. Now multiply that by four and cut the time frame in half . We were in a pickle.

With normal attrition, you can count on a number of extra, experienced hands on the desk to help get the new hire up to speed. But from the middle of 2013 to the start of 2014, it seemed every time we got someone started, we’d lose another veteran. It’s hard to rotate duties when there are fewer parts to rotate.

Which brings us to today. In order, we hired Samantha Ricketts in August, Heather Greenfield (September), Kelsey Thomas (January) and Andrea Rectenwald (March). (And Cathy Caudill joined the desk in January.)

These young women had a lot to learn in a hurry to keep up with the demands of the desk. News editor and copy desk chief Ashlee Maddy had to accelerate the training, squeezing months of learning into weeks. Luckily, she had the assistance of the senior editor and designer Steven Gill to help bring then along. (And after that fast-tracked year, we lost Steven, who still sends good vibes even in St. Albans.)

As the saying goes, though, pressure makes diamonds. The new batch of copy editors has more than met the challenge of taking in all the information and assorted nuances associated with the job. Each is coming into her own as an editor and designer.

Sam and Heather have not only mastered the art of section fronts and 1A, but have also survived the gauntlet of “slot editor,” juggling staff and wire stories for placement in the paper, a position a former colleague likened to improvisational jazz. After just over a year on the desk, today is Kelsey’s first day to design Page One. We’re sure she’ll do just fine.

A newspaper is more than just reporters and photographers

Sunday, March 1, 2015
Matt Hindman is the press room manager for Charleston Newspapers.

Matt Hindman is the press room manager for Charleston Newspapers. Photo by Craig Cunningham/Daily Mail

The Oscars ceremony Sunday marked the end of awards season, those winter months where Tonys, Emmys and Grammys are handed out for excellence in the performing arts.

While the productions are frequently panned for their length, and despite efforts to make them more television friendly by putting time limits on acceptance speeches, it’s obvious that these artists and behind-the-scenes professionals are grateful to be recognized in a field that is difficult to break into and harder to succeed in. So it’s only natural that they want to thank everyone who helped get them to the podium.

While to you in your home or office, the paper in your hands is something you read before tossing it into the recycling, here on Virginia Street it’s a production, an album of current events, features and opinion that is created and released every day.

Your paper — or web page — is the result of numerous departments from accounting and advertising down to circulation and three separate newsrooms.

You know some of the newspaper personnel by their bylines or photo credits. Everyone else in the building mostly toils in anonymity. This is what happens when things work like clockwork; they become so dependable you think them as effortless.

Until things don’t work like clockwork. Then you discover that a lot of effort goes into what we like to call “the Daily Miracle.”

Earlier this month our presses suffered what I described to one caller as a “catastrophic failure,” where we could not get the papers out that day. This was easier than having to explain that the paper roll kept tearing as it made its way through the press.

The fact that we could not get any editions out at all was indicative of how difficult a problem our pressmen faced. I’ve seen these guys work and they can MacGyver anything, so I can’t imagine how maddening it was to keep hitting dead ends. The next day, the back of the press room, which is about half a city block long, was chest-deep in discarded paper, a testament to a night — and a day — of frustrated efforts to solve the puzzle.

But they finally got the presses rolling, with a little help from our pre-press and information technology departments. And they’re still working to get the enormous contraption running as smoothly as possible, so you can get that Daily Miracle, your newspaper, in your hands every day.

So for this award-winning production, I’ve got a list of people I’d like to thank.

First, I give a shout-out to our circulation drivers and delivery people who busted their tails to get your newspapers out. I’ll single out Stephen Thomas by name, because he got mine to our house as soon as they were rolling off the press — even delivering in the evening.

I want to recognize our customer service operators who were swamped by a tidal wave of thousands of callers wanting to know where their papers were.

I also say thank you to those subscribers whose calls I answered in the newsroom and who were patient, kind and understanding of our predicament.

Finally, to those fellows in the press room who put this album together: Matt Hindman, Chuck Cantley, Bruce Cox, Ollie Curry, Tom Emmite, Billy Gilmore, Derick Harrison, Larry Hudson, Shawn Kinison, Joshua Moffatt, Robert McNabb, Harold Thomas, Dave Totten, Roy Vealey and Tim Williams.

You guys, with your ink-stained clothes, ear plugs and skinned knuckles, if I could, I’d send you donuts every morning and pizzas every night. Thanks a million for all the hard work you do to make us look good. I’ll even propose an award for you: the Inkys.

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.

One Giant Leap … and a Stumble

Sunday, July 20, 2014
See if you can spot the mistake in the centerpiece package celebrating the historic Apollo 11 moon landing.

See if you can spot the mistake in the centerpiece package celebrating the historic Apollo 11 moon landing.

As in any line of work, journalism is susceptible to mistakes. Unlike many, however, ours can happen on the front page where everyone can see it.

On Friday, I was very proud to see our 1A centerpiece celebrating the 45th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing.

It was lovely and had everything — an Apollo astronaut and the American flag on the surface of the moon. But, Charleston, we had a problem.

There was also a lunar rover in the picture. This was not an image from the historic 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing; this was James P. Irwin from the Apollo 15 mission in 1971.

In my position as managing editor, I also wear the hats of design editor and acting graphics editor, the latter of which means I’m mostly responsible for garnering file images for the publication.

We had planned earlier in the week to do a special front for Friday, so I quickly gathered photos from the Associated Press archives for our designer to work with.

Unfortunately, in my search, the image of Irwin was in the same batch of results as the iconic picture of Buzz Aldrin. In my hurry to grab good art, I failed to read all the captions and lumped them all together.

That was my first mistake.

The second mistake came when looking at the proof. I am now one of only a handful of people on staff old enough to remember the Apollo program. I knew the lunar rover did not go up on the first landing, but in my focus on the astronaut, the flag and the lunar module, I didn’t notice the second vehicle that shouldn’t have been there in ’69.

And now it’s part of the permanent record — with a correction forthcoming, of course.

If we’re lucky, aside from the chiding of an eagle-eyed readership, that’s the worst fallout of our mistakes. (The worst usually involves lawyers.)  The only salve we can apply is that we get another chance to do a good paper with our next edition and that we will try harder to be more careful in the future.

(Hat tip goes out to reader Patrick Baker who pointed out the error.)

Help get into your Yahoo news feed

Monday, June 2, 2014

Hello loyal readers, we could use your help.

A few months back, we changed our URL from to

charleyIt’s taken some people and organizations a while to find us again.

At the moment, we’re thinking about Yahoo’s news feed.

We’ve been missing from the feed since switching the URL. We’ve filled out their news feed suggestion form a few times but haven’t gotten any action.

So now we’re up for a vote. It can’t hurt, right?

If you want to give us a hand, all you have to do is go here:

There will be a little gray box on the left that says “Vote.” That’s what you click.

Thanks in advance!





Come work for the Charleston Daily Mail

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Charleston Daily Mail in West Virginia’s capital is seeking a reporter with up to three years of experience to cover local news for print and online readers.

This position has the capacity for a wide variety of stories, including breaking news, enterprise and features. We’re looking for a writer with a nose for detail, the ability to tell a great story and the drive to break news. Ideal candidates have a strong work ethic, curiosity and passion for journalism.

We’re a team-oriented workplace in a competitive news environment. We take pride in our newspaper but also want to have a vibrant presence online. Our reporters sometimes shoot photos and video; they tweet and blog.

Sound fun and rewarding? Please send resume and clips to editor Brad McElhinny at

Who wants Zack Harold to go to ONA 2013?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Zack Harold, political writer for the Charleston Daily Mail, has been nominated for a Digital First Media scholarship to go to the Online News Association conference in Atlanta in October. Zack is among 20 journalists from across the country being considered for a scholarship to the convention.