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.)

Congratulations Whitney Burdette and the other excellent WV political writers

January 27, 2015 by Brad McElhinny

The Fix blog for The Washington Post has a fun tradition: an annual list of best political reporters.

Any such list is subjective, of course. And the list relies heavily on crowdsourcing (because who can regularly read or listen to the political reporting from each and every state). Reporters were nominated through social media and then finalized by The Fix.

Whitney Humphrey

Whitney Burdette

We’re proud to have one of West Virginia’s names on the list, Whitney Burdette. This is actually Whitney’s second year in a row to make the list. In between, she had a baby, which is no small feat in itself.

West Virginians apparently came out in droves for Hoppy Kercheval of MetroNews because he’s singled out by The Fix for his large number of mentions. We’re pleased to note that we often run Hoppy’s insightful commentary on our editorial page.

The other reporters representing West Virginia were Phil Kabler and Eric Eyre of The Charleston Gazette. West Virginia is fortunate to have a vigorous and lively press pool covering what goes on under the dome.

Well done everyone. Now, the Legislature’s in session so get back to work.

UPDATE: Public broadcasting’s Ashton Marra and Jonathan Mattise pf The Associated Press have been added to the list. Congrats!

The list, now somewhat lengthy, has a distinctly Charleston feel to it. That’s natural since it’s capital reporters covering the Capitol. But if you’re looking for an out-of-Charleston viewpoint, check out the work of Beckley’s Pam Pritt or Parkersburg’s Michael Erb, who covers state issues for the Ogden Newspapers in West Virginia.

And for a new-to-Charleston viewpoint, I’d recommend Joel Ebert, who just got to town but who is doing a bang-up job for the Daily Mail.




Watch while we talk with Charleston council candidates

January 26, 2015 by Brad McElhinny

For many years, Charleston Daily Mail editors have met with candidates for state and local offices to discuss issues and to consider political endorsements. This is not an uncommon practice for newspapers, of course. Most do this in some form or another.

We're getting out of the office. It's pretty exciting.

We’re getting out of the office. It’s pretty exciting.

A few years ago, we got the bright idea that we’d live blog our candidate meetings for citizens who wanted to follow along wherever they might be. Then we added a little Logitech camera for livestreaming. The image is so-so and the sound isn’t much better, but at least you can see what we’re doing and get some impression of the candidates.

Now, with Charleston municipal elections upon us, editorial page editor Kelly Merritt got another bright idea: to get out of the office and into the community.

So for some of our meetings, we’re heading over to DigiSo: “West Virginia’s first co-working initiative for digital entrepreneurs, start-ups, innovators and creative industry professionals.”

DigiSo’s location is on Charleston’s West Side, so that’s where we’re meeting Charleston City Council candidates who seek to represent West Side wards.

DigiSo is helping us stream those sessions, so expect the production quality to be better than what we’re used to providing.  (We’ll probably be back to our own office and back to the little Logitech camera and Snowball microphone for future meetings, so don’t get too accustomed to higher production values.)

If you’d like to follow along, head over to reporter Matt Murphy’s County Courthouse, City Hall blog. 

Our sessions will begin about noon, although we sometimes run slightly late if we’re making warmup conversation or waiting on someone to arrive.

Here’s the schedule and candidates who may attend:

Jan. 27 Wards 1, 2, 3 — Jones, Slater, Claar, Kirk, Deneault, Overstreet, Nguyen, Lee *

Jan. 28 Ward 5 — Nichols, Ashworth, Cooke Faegre, Bonar *

Feb. 2 Ward 6 — Marlowe, Seabolt, Talkington, Farrell *

Feb. 3 Ward 7 — Chestnut, Knauff, Hawk, Kerns, Williamson *

Feb. 10 Ward 10 — Hightower, Steele **

Feb. 12 Ward 12 — Salisbury, Jenkins **

Feb. 18 At large Republicans — Lane, Johnson, Hoblitzell **

Feb. 24 At large Democrats — Davis, Richardson, Ware, Ireland, Ceperley, Ballard, Henderson, Sheets **

Feb. 25 Mayor — Jones, Scott, Thompson, Monroe ***

* Location at DigiSo

** Location TBD, likely at Charleston Newspapers HQ

*** Location TBD, maybe back at DigiSo








‘A Bad Taste in West Virginians’ Mouths’

January 25, 2015 by Brad McElhinny

I was checking out what The Washington Post does with its YouTube page and was sort of surprised to find a recent item with a West Virginia connection.

The Post had posted (well, that’s some repetitive phrasing) an animated editorial cartoon about the Freedom Industries leak that contaminated the water supply for 300,000 West Virginia American Water Company customers last year. (Remember that? Here’s a handy timeline of the water crisis, in case you forgot).

Anyway, I cringe when I see bathroom humor on our comics page, bracing for comments from readers. That’s the angle the Post cartoon took in its animated “A Bad Taste in West Virginians’ Mouths.” But anything goes on the Internet. Or, at least, more goes. So I wondered how it would be received once a West Virginia audience became more aware of it.

Well, if you’d like to see the illustration, click here. (Embedding is disabled on the link, as are comments.)

Initial thoughts via Twitter:


January 25, 2015 by Brad McElhinny

We take our coverage of the Governor’s State of the State seriously — but recognize it’s like eating cauliflower.

So the past couple of years we’ve offered an activity for those who want to have a little fun with their public policy.


Conceivably, since the Bingo card was the same for everyone, all players could win. We offered up a vaguely described prize: some sort of Charleston Daily Mail swag to one winner chosen at random. Looking at social media, it appeared quite a few people were playing along but only a few people actually emailed in their Bingos: Bobby Johnson of Charleston, George Hohmann of Charleston (our retired business editor), Mike Mallow of Franklin, Warren Perrine of Parkersburg and Justice Hudson of St. Albans. It was few enough that, instead of just picking one, I sent each a Daily Mail mug.

They seemed to like the prizes. Thanks to everyone who played.