Against NCAA rules — the liveblog

March 19, 2015 by Brad McElhinny

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

Newsroom overhaul in overdrive

March 9, 2015 by Philip Maramba

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.

West Virginians share their wild weather pictures

March 5, 2015 by Brad McElhinny

Blanket of snow on the ground? Can’t go anywhere? Snap a picture! Here are photos shared by West Virginians.

More wild WV weather

March 4, 2015 by Brad McElhinny

Follow along for live updates from West Virginia’s latest weather emergency, flooding followed by freezing.

Live Blog WV weather

A newspaper is more than just reporters and photographers

March 1, 2015 by Philip Maramba
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.

Meet the copy editor: Cathy Caudill

February 22, 2015 by Brad McElhinny

Cathy Caudill is a Charleston native and a former Charleston Daily Mail intern, where she earned bylines as a reporter. After she worked for us as an intern, she went off to graduate school. A couple of months ago, we had an opening on our copy desk — those unsung heroes who edit stories, write headlines, design attractive newspaper pages and keep our website running on time.

We hired Cathy back for that spot, and she’s jumped right in. Because her duties are largely behind the scenes, you won’t see her name much. Here’s a little more about her:


Cathy Caudill

Name: Cathy Caudill

Lives in: Charleston, W.Va.

Hometown: Charleston, W.Va.

Position at the Daily Mail: Copy Editor

Graduated from: High Point University (undergrad); UNC-Greensboro (grad)

With a degree in: English Writing, History

Twitter handle: Deleted. (Please don’t make me get another, I tried and can’t make sense of it.)

1. What was your first job? Intern reporter at the Daily Mail. Or first full-time job? Copy editor at The Education Center.

2. What made you want to become a journalist? I love creative writing, but I’m terrible at coming up with original subjects to write about. I liked that journalism gave me an assignment.

3. What do you like most about your job? The least? I love being super informed about interesting things going on in town. The worst part is being super informed about tragedies.

4. What do you do in your spare time? I’m a big DIY-er and crafter. Lately I’ve been having fun with woodworking, making frames and doing wood-inlay. One day I want to make furniture. I’m saving for a power saw.

5. What’s your favorite journalistic effort you’ve produced? One of my first stories as an intern was about a man who’d had a double-lung transplant. It was a moving story, but I especially loved meeting him for the interview at his home. He was a taxidermy hobbyist, and there were taxidermied animals covering every inch of his home. It was bizarre and magnificent.

6. Name a personal item that is or will be on your desk: My Charley West mug. It was here when I got here, and I’m still not sure if it’s technically mine, but I’m claiming it. You’re not getting it back.

7. Your favorite blog you read or Twitter feed you follow: I follow NPR’s news and blogs pretty regularly. I read all day at work, so I like that I often get the option of listening to their stories.

8. What’s your favorite TV show? Book? “Parks and Recreation”; anything by Haruki Murakami

9. What’s your favorite place in West Virginia? The Potomac Highlands

10. What’s one newsroom quirk you were surprised about? There are more toys in here than a nursery.

WV snowstorm, photos from social media

February 17, 2015 by Brad McElhinny

It snowed and snowed and snowed. So, what to do? Take a picture.

Follow along for Snowstorm 2015

February 16, 2015 by Brad McElhinny

Follow along for updates about the snowstorm

Live Blog Snowstorm 2015

When the press is running, it’s humming

February 11, 2015 by Brad McElhinny

If you’re a subscriber to one of The Charleston newspapers, you probably know by now that we’ve had some printing problems resulting in significant delivery delays.

Believe me, a lot of people here are very concerned and are trying to solve the problems.

Describing what is happening isn’t hard: Long rolls of paper run through a big blue printing press that is 100 feet long and 30 feet high. The paper has been snapping repeatedly partway through the press run, resulting in long delays to reconfigure and get going again.

Then it snaps again.

Describing why it’s happening is more complicated: In addition to care and expertise from the experienced press crew at Charleston Newspapers, the company has had outside experts examine the press and the paper in the search for a solution.

If you’ve been puzzling over the problem, it’s helpful to visualize the press as the paper runs through it. I took video today while it was running pretty smoothly.

This is press room manager Matt Hindman inspecting the press:

Here’s an image of a page from the Daily Mail:

Here’s the press running slowly:

Here it is going faster:

And here’s another angle:

From the WVPress legislative breakfast

February 5, 2015 by Brad McElhinny

Journalists and lawmakers gathered for coffee, eggs and ideas in Charleston. West Virginia lawmakers — and some lobbyists — talked about the issues that are making headlines during this legislative session.

And there are lots of issues — prevailing wage, right to work, energy portfolio and on and on.

Here are some samples of what was said. (And forgive my pinhead video; I wasn’t quite as close up as would have been optimal.)