At the Re-Fashion Show

November 22, 2014 by Brad McElhinny

Saturday was the Re-Fashion Show at the Charleston Town Center. It’s a unique event where participants have to make clothing from recycled or re-used materials. Refashion

I was one of the judges, representing The Charleston Daily Mail. I don’t know a lot about fashion, but thankfully I had some help.

Daily Mail readers share comics and puzzles preferences

November 18, 2014 by Brad McElhinny

You love the gentle humor of “Family Circus.”

You’re OK with “Frank and Ernest” and “Ziggy.”

You hate (really dislike) “Pearls Before Swine.”

And you really, really don’t care about the longstanding printed game of Bridge.

That’s what we found out by asking Charleston Daily Mail readers about their favorite, least favorite and “don’t care” comics and puzzles over the past few months.

Readers who sent in ballots printed in the newspaper showed an affinity for gentle humor and established strips and less enthusiasm for newer, edgier strips.

We don’t necessarily have any upcoming changes to our comics and puzzles lineup, but we wanted to know what our readers really like, really dislike and aren’t very interested in at all for any decisions we might make in the future.

“Thank goodness you published a comic survey! I was about to call the paper and complain about all the ‘hate it’ ones. Please change them for something that makes sense,” wrote a respondent who described himself or herself as a faithful comics and Daily Mail reader.

Lots of readers seemed enthusiastic about the survey.

There were 362 submissions overall — although not every category adds up to 362 votes.

That’s to say that some people marked two options for some features — for example, they think “Mutts” is OK and they also wouldn’t notice if it were gone.

Some people left some categories blank or just voted for features that they feel strongly about.

It took longer than anticipated to add everything up. In other words, it was 362 votes for 19 comics and puzzles with four voting options, which meant a grand total of 27,512 possible tiny boxes to check and read. Also: two crossed eyes for the editor who read them all.

LIKE:

“Family Circus” got the most “like” votes of any of our syndicated features with 285 votes in that category. “Peanuts” got 270 “like” votes, “Grand Avenue” got 239 and “Shoe” got 210.

“Please keep the ‘Family Circus,’” one fan of that strip wrote. “I look for it daily, and it’s the only comic that I enjoy. I have clipped many of the comics through the last few years and often look at them for a laugh or heartwarming moment. Right now I have three of them hanging on my refrigerator so my 11-year-old grandson can see them. When my dad was living, I would often pass him the paper so he could read the ‘Family Circus’ cartoon. I’ll really miss it if it’s gone.”

Another reader: “Comics aren’t FUNNY any more, except ‘Family Circus.’”

OK: It’s hard to describe what was OK-est with readers, but we wanted to know. This category was headed up by “Frank and Ernest” with 119 “OK” votes and “Ziggy” with 115, followed by “Real Life Adventures” with 109, “Close to Home” with 105 and “Mutts” with 100.

Those comics are apparently the most “just OK” of all.

Lots of people have mid-range, oatmeal-like feelings about them.

“Mutts” was singled out favorably by a few commenters:

“Love comedy, animals, kids. ‘Mutts’ is my favorite,” a Scott Depot resident wrote.

Another comment said, “‘Mutts’ is our favorite!! Please keep ‘Mutts!’”

HATE:

“Pearls Before Swine” stirred up the most hate (although some readers mildly objected to the use of that word) with 115 “hate” votes. It was followed by “WuMo” with 91 “hates” and “Tundra” with 63.

What do those comics have in common? They’re all new to our paper within the past couple of years.

Many comments reflected a distaste for newer strips.

“Have tried to like new comics but not funny — ‘Tundra,’ ‘WuMo,’ ‘Pearls’ — hate them,” wrote Mary, a retired teacher from Charleston.

Other readers commented:

“Funnies are supposed to be funny — not stupid.”

“No like weird strips. No more WEIRD strips.”

“Pearls” was especially divisive, grating on many voters but delighting a vocal minority.

“I have tried daily reading of ‘Pearls Before Swine’ and ‘Mutts,’ but they are both terrible,” one reader commented.

Some rushed to defend “Pearls.”

“Please keep ‘Pearls Before Swine’ and ‘Mark Trail,’ wrote a husband and wife who submitted their tally together.

A Fraziers Bottom resident commented, “‘Pearls’ is the best strip you run. Don’t listen to those who complain about it. I have three grown children who love ‘Pearls’ and we would hate to have you stop running it.”

Some of the new strips have grown on regular readers. Kind of.

“I’ve gotten less hostile to ‘WuMo’ and ‘Tundra,’” wrote 79-year-old Lawton Posey of Charleston.

DON’T CARE:

The final category asked readers what they wouldn’t miss at all if it disappeared from the paper. That doesn’t mean we’re cutting what got the vote here — it just means we want to know.

Bridge got the highest number of votes here with 252 people saying they wouldn’t care if it stayed in the paper or left.

I did receive an impassioned phone call from a Bridge enthusiast who said we’d played up the comics in our survey and downplayed the puzzles — possibly creating a bias against puzzle enthusiasts.

Related: Jumble had 130 people say they wouldn’t miss it (but also had a lot of fans with 151 “likes”), while the crossword puzzle had 110 “don’t care” votes (compared to 155 crossword “likes”).

One commenter regarded Bridge as wasted space.

“The space for Bridge could be much better utilized. So few people play the game.”

Others expressed appreciation for the challenges of crossword and Jumble.

“Retired, enjoy reading paper with my coffee and look forward to Jumble.”

“Crossword and Jumble help me stay mentally active,” wrote a 77-year-old Campbell’s Creek resident.

Some said our puzzles could improve, even if they’re appreciated.

“I would like more challenging crosswords.”

Of the comics, “WuMo” got the highest number of “don’t cares” of any comic with 162.

“I expect ‘comics’ to be funny by people who can draw,” one reader commented.

MORE THOUGHTS:

A lot of readers yearned for older comics.

Among the older strips that got write-in votes to return to print were “Beetle Bailey,” “Phantom,” “B.C.,” “Broomhilda,” “Prince Valiant,” “For Better or Worse,” “Dick Tracy,” “Alley Oop,” “Li’l Abner,” “Marmaduke,” “Herman,” “Snuffy Smith,” “Nancy” and “Pogo.”

“Some you took out should be put back!! We are retired and we like ‘Dagwood,’ ‘Beetle Bailey’ and about all the old comics,” one reader commented.

An 83-year-old reader wrote, “How about some classic ‘Li’l Abner,’ or other old comics for your older adult readers instead of this childish gibberish?”

“Beetle Bailey,” which was removed from our lineup last year because of its advancing age and increasing price, was singled out frequently.

“Bring back ‘Beetle Bailey,’” said a 69-year-old retired man.

“What happened to ‘Beetle Bailey’??”

“I agree — bring back ‘Beetle Bailey.’”

“‘Beetle Bailey’ was an ‘always read.’”

Many readers expressed a general distaste for some of the newer offerings. Much of the criticism referenced age.

“I am 75 and the new comics do not make sense to me.”

“I am of the ‘press’ (print media) generation. Comics are mostly not amusing any more.”

“I’m one of the ‘old people’ who find little to like in the new comics.”

“I’m 85 years old. I need a good laugh every day. Get better funnies, please.”

“Young people text and tweet but don’t read comics! Where are ‘Herman,’ ‘The Born Loser’ and ‘Dennis the Menace’? Please give us old people our funnies!”

In any case, thank you for participating in our comics survey. It was interesting to see on paper what people like, dislike and don’t care two hoots about.

And I’ll always remember the guy who circled my name in my email and drew an arrow from his comment.

“You, sir, have screwed up our comics,” the 65-year-old retiree wrote.

comics

Who’s the new WV statehouse reporter?

November 14, 2014 by Brad McElhinny
Joel Ebert

Joel Ebert

Meet Joel Ebert, the latest addition to the Charleston Daily Mail reporting staff.

His job prior to this was with the Capital Journal in Pierre, S.D. Part of his role in Pierre was covering state government.

With the Daily Mail, Joel will be covering West Virginia government, including the governor, the Legislature, state agencies and the congressional delegation. He’ll be partnered up with Whitney Burdette, who also covers those areas.

Name:  Joel Ebert

Lives in: Charleston’s East End

Hometown: Chicago

Position at the Daily Mail:  Statehouse reporter

Graduated from: University of Illinois at Chicago

With a degree in: English

Twitter handle: @joelebert29

1. What was your first job? Golf caddy at Medinah Country Club (in Illinois)

2. What made you want to become a journalist? Reading travel and investigative stories

3. What do you like most about your job? The least? Not knowing where or what I’m going to be covering and where it might take me. Being in an office

4. What do you do in your spare time? Play basketball, racquetball, chess, NHL 94; make music, read, kayak, watch St. Louis Cardinals baseball

5. What’s your favorite journalistic effort you’ve produced? A story about taking a two-day kayaking trip. And writing/helping design a 3,000 word story on Essential Air Service subsidies.

fedora6. Name a personal item that is or will be on your desk: A fedora

7. Your favorite blog you read or Twitter feed you follow: Capitolfax.com

8. What’s your favorite TV show? Book? Homicide/The Wire. 1984

9. What’s your favorite place in West Virginia? Don’t know enough about West Virginia yet

10. What’s one newsroom quirk you were surprised about? How often Kroger or food is brought up

Engage WV from a conservative point of view

November 11, 2014 by Brad McElhinny

The Charleston Daily Mail, a newspaper/website of conservative editorial philosophy in West Virginia’s capital, is seeking someone with top-notch critical thinking skills and knowledge of current events to write editorials and columns.

This is a full-time position on our staff.

The successful candidate will be knowledgeable of West Virginia’s political and economic landscape and will have ideas for generating diverse and relevant commentary from the our readership.

The Charleston Daily Mail’s opinion content explores conservative causes such as limited government, fiscal responsibility, free enterprise and individual rights.

Please send resume and writing samples to Editor Brad McElhinny at bradmc@dailymailwv.com.

Who makes this city go? Your responses

November 9, 2014 by Brad McElhinny

I was asked, ‘Who makes this town go?’ And I brainstormed some names, then offered them up for public review. Was I right? Not quite.

Who really makes this city go?

November 8, 2014 by Brad McElhinny
who makes city

Charleston cityscape and fireworks photo by Tom Hindman of the Charleston Daily Mail

Earlier this week, a question got me thinking.

The question came during an unexpected visit by journalists James and Deb Fallows. James is national correspondent for “The Atlantic” and has written for the magazine since the 1970s.

They were in Charleston as part of an “American Futures” series they’re writing. It has the subhead “Reinvention and Resilience Across the Nation.”

As I understand it, the series is about communities that could go be on their way up … or on their way down. Ours certainly seems like one of those, a city poised for growth, but susceptible to stagnation.

Culturally, politically, economically — by almost any measure you choose — Charleston seems ready for changes.

But will it change? I’m a native West Virginian, and I’ve lived in Charleston for 20 years. Over those two decades, I’d say it’s been about the same. It’s a calm pond ready for a good ripple if someone would toss a stone in.

Smack dab in the middle of West Virginia, our state Capitol just experienced one heck of a shakeup this very week when Republicans took control of the state House of Delegates and then added on the state Senate for good measure.

Charleston is right on the fault line between the struggling coal fields and the booming natural gas wells.

Which way will Charleston go from here?

James and Deb Fallows get together with editor Brad McElhinny and opinions editor Kelly Merritt at the Charleston Daily Mail

James and Deb Fallows get together with editor Brad McElhinny and opinions editor Kelly Merritt at the Charleston Daily Mail’s conference room

That’s what the Fallowses were here in a first effort to find out.

They sat down with me and editorial page editor Kelly Merritt in the Charleston Daily Mail conference room and picked our brains.

They already had visited with locals like Bob Coffield, who is a local health care, technology and business lawyer who blogs, thinks a whole bunch and gets jazzed about groups like “Create West Virginia.”

They also visited Mayor Danny Jones, plus Larry Groce, the Mountain Stage icon who has expanded his role to broaden Charleston’s cultural scene in other ways.

So in talking to us, the Fallowses asked a question that stumped us. “Who are the people who really make this city go?”

I took that to mean, “Who are the change agents?”

If you are that person and I didn’t immediately think of you, I beg your forgiveness right now.

I didn’t exactly draw blanks. A few names came to mind:

  • Tim Armstead rode the Republican wave into majority leader for the state House of Delegates. But as an Elkview resident, Tim is, proudly, a Hinterlander. He might want to change the state, but I’m not sure Tim’s interested in changing Charleston.
  • Kent Carper is a name that will elicit some groans (hey, I read the VentLine) but I think Kent runs an effective, responsible Kanawha County government. Effective and responsible government equates to high praise.
  • Don Blankenship is a name that might make you spit out your coffee and crumple your paper. No one said the list had to be made up of people you like. At one point, Don was using great wealth to affect politics. He did so while wearing a black hat.
  • Tom Heywood is the solidest of citizens and most recently was the leader behind the successful library levy campaign. He’s a former chief of staff for Gov. Gaston Caperton, current managing partner at the Bowles Rice law firm and serves on a zillion local boards. His superpowers include quiet dignity, intelligence and an air of responsibility.
  • University of Charleston’s Ed Welch and West Virginia State University’s Brian Hemphill are the twin pillars of higher education in the Kanawha Valley. One is established (and very tall!) and the other is a star on the rise.
  • The Rev. Matthew Watts cares deeply about the West Side, a neighborhood that sorely needs an advocate.
  • Mayor Jones should be in the conversation (and, attention VentLine, I like most of what Danny does) but we’d already discussed him. Ditto with Larry Groce, who has expanded his “Mountain Stage” role to many more areas of the local cultural scene.

Influential people and an interesting list of area men of a certain age. But I’m not sure they’re the answers to how I’d phrase the question: Who’s an up and comer? Who is catching lightning in a bottle? Who is going to be the face that people associate with Charleston’s change?

Got a name that I’ll slap my head for not thinking of?

Send me an email to bradmc@dailymailwv.com or a tweet @BradMcElhinny. Or comment below:

Regrets, and a change

October 30, 2014 by Brad McElhinny

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

October 21, 2014 by Brad McElhinny

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.

 

capcomments

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

Everything old is on fire again

October 20, 2014 by Philip Maramba

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: http://www.charlestondailymail.com/Sports/201210090176#sthash.kjihIfDE.dpuf
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: http://www.charlestondailymail.com/Sports/201210090176#sthash.kjihIfDE.dpuf
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: http://www.charlestondailymail.com/Sports/201210090176#sthash.kjihIfDE.dpuf
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.

How WV newspapers played the legalization of gay marriage

October 10, 2014 by Brad McElhinny

West Virginia’s state government made history this week by dropping its opposition to gay marriage.

This followed a U.S. Supreme Court non-decision decision earlier in the week, where the justices said no thanks to hearing appeals of lower level courts — basically, in the case of this region, letting the final word lie with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals covering Virginia and West Virginia.

It’s a complicated legal trail, but the bottom line is Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said there’s no point in fighting any more, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said “agree,” and county clerks started issuing gender-neutral marriage licenses.

The Charleston Daily Mail tried to balance the historic nature of the situation with the conservative nature of many of our print readers. In many ways, this was such a big story BECAUSE West Virginians have been, by and large, socially conservative.

Not everyone will agree we pulled off the balance. In fact, this is such a divisive story, probably no one will agree about that.

In any case, the Daily Mail played the story bigger than most West Virginia newspapers.

Courtesy of The Newseum, here’s a look at WV front pages:

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