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:










Please remove Charleston Daily Mail photo from Addicting Info site

October 6, 2014 by Brad McElhinny


These guys removed the Daily Mail’s photo (of the wrong officer) from their site.

It took a couple days, but at least they got it down.

They included an editor’s note that said this: “Note: An earlier version of this article accidentally featured a photo of an officer who was not officer Shawn Williams. We apologize for any misunderstanding this may have created.”

To the publishers of AddictingInfo.org:
I am Brad McElhinny, editor and publisher of the Charleston Daily Mail newspaper in West Virginia.

I am writing to inform you that a thumbnail photo that has been posted with your item, “WV Cop Suspended…” is the intellectual property of The Charleston Daily Mail. Its original use may be seen here. Our newspaper, and professional photographer Tom Hindman, were not credited with the photo. Nor were we asked permission for its use. If we had been asked permission for its use in this instance, the request would have been denied.

The photograph does not depict Officer Shawn Williams, the subject of your story. Instead, it is a photo illustration featuring Charleston Patrolman Brian Lightner, who was featured in our newspaper in 2011 for his incredible record of making DUI arrests. Patrolman Lightner no doubt has his own complaint about the way you have used his image. 

Please remove The Charleston Daily Mail’s photograph from your site.


Brad McElhinny

Looking for a WV Statehouse reporter

September 25, 2014 by Brad McElhinny

WVdomeNews from under the West Virginia Capitol’s gold dome has long been the bread and butter of what we do at the Charleston Daily Mail.

The newspaper has a tradition of aggressive state government coverage. And with the growth of digital/mobile audiences, more West Virginians than ever can read our coverage.

So we’re looking to fill a vital news beat.

Dave Boucher

Dave Boucher

Dave Boucher, our capitol bureau chief, is moving on to take a job with the Tennessean newspaper in Nashville, where he’ll be covering an education beat. It’s a good move for Dave to a bigger market.

Over the past couple of years on the West Virginia government and politics beat, Dave has made us look good. He’s smart and has brought boundless energy to his work. We’ll miss him a lot.

Now we’re looking for someone who will be a good match for this job

This reporter covers the governor, the Legislature, state agencies and state politics as well as stories involving West Virginia’s congressional delegation. Resulting stories often lead our local news coverage in print and online. The stories from this beat should be consequential and influential. We want to lead the agenda.

We take pride in our daily newspaper and also enthusiastically break news online. Reporters on this beat provide live coverage of daily events, often through Twitter, and are responsible for regularly updating a Capitol Notebook blog. Final versions of stories for print and online take a step back and provide context.

Interested? Please send your resume and clips to bradmc@dailymailwv.com

Charley West Band Fest

September 23, 2014 by Brad McElhinny

majWe’re happy to be celebrating the 68th Annual Charleston Daily Mail Kanawha County Band and Majorette Festival.

And now that we’ve said that entire mouthful of a phrase, it’s time for the 69th!

Just kidding.

We’re proud to be a sponsor of this great, longstanding community event. If you want some context for tonight’s festival, here’s a fun story about Taylor Freeland, last year’s Miss Majorette, who is now a feature twirler with Marshall University’s Marching Thunder, which will be performing tonight. And the Daily Mail has a former intern, Jozy Mendez, performing with Marshall’s band too.

Meanwhile, some of us will be providing updates from the festival. Follow along below!

Live Blog Charley West Band Fest

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

September 10, 2014 by Brad McElhinny

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.

Grover Norquist talks taxes with the Charleston Daily Mail editorial board

September 9, 2014 by Brad McElhinny

Grover Norquist, whose name is synonymous with no-tax pledges, visited The Charleston Daily Mail editorial board.

Although taxes were a big part of what Norquist discussed, on the accompanying video he begins with a run-down of his time at Harvard.

4 R UMAX     PL-II            V1.5 [2]There was a lively and humorous discussion prior to the start of the video about Norquist’s visit to Burning Man. But I wasn’t sure if that talk was just pre-meeting chitchat or an actual part of his talk with us, so I didn’t hit record. Too bad.

Norquist was in Charleston to talk with conservative state legislators and to talk to editorial boards like ours. (If you got here from Google and aren’t familiar with the paper, our editorial page is fiscally conservative.)

Present for the discussion were me (Brad McElhinny, the editor), opinions editor Kelly Merritt, business editor Jared Hunt and editorial writer and columnist Don Surber.

Here’s a lively 41-minute discussion:

Articles for you

September 3, 2014 by Brad McElhinny

If you’re a regular visitor to dailymailwv.com, 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.


Stress, McClure and the milk-only diet

August 16, 2014 by Brad McElhinny

I’ve been slogging my way through the 700-some page book “The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism.

It’s really interesting but it’s also slow going for me.

There’s a lot of great stuff about the muckrakers, the journalists exemplified by S.S. McClure and the magazine bearing his name.

sam1I just read through a section where McClure hits some turmoil with his business and has a nervous breakdown. I’m not sharing to make light of him, or of workplace stress. Just that it’s an interesting way to deal with the situation — and to compare to the disruption that media companies are facing now.

The failed deal crushed McClure, precipitating a nervous breakdown in April 1900 that propelled him to Europe to undergo the celebrated “rest-cure” devised by an American physician, S. Weir Mitchell. Prescribed for a range of nervous disorders, the rest cure required that patients remain isolated for weeks or even months at  a time, forbidden to read or write, rigidly adhering to a milk-only diet. Underlying this regimen was the assumption that “raw milk is a food the body easily turns into good blood,” which would restore positive energy when pumped through the body.

This extreme treatment was among the proliferating regimens developed in response to the stunning increase in nervous disorders diagnosed around the turn of the century. Commentators and clinicians cited a number of factors related to the stresses of modern civilization: the increased speed of communication facilitated by the telegraph and railroad; the “unmelodious clamor” of city life replacing the “rhythmical” sounds of nature; and the rise of the tabloid press that exploded “local horrors” into national news. These nervous diseases became an epidemic among “the ultracompetitive businessman and the socially active woman.”

The stressed out citizens of 1900 have my sympathy, but I wonder how they would have reacted to a rapidly-changing digital age, where information is available at your fingertips at all times, where some startup might be rising to gobble your business model away, where breaking news is measured in minutes rather than days and where push notifications are being lobbed like cannonballs.

Suddenly, I’m thirsty for milk.

Great shot by Tom Hindman, great honors for Charley West

August 11, 2014 by Brad McElhinny

Great shooting by Charleston Daily Mail photographer Tom Hindman, who was honored with the West Virginia Press Association’s Photo of the Year award.

scoutsThe photo was one Tom shot during last summer’s Boy Scout Jamboree in Fayette County, WV. It showed a sea of scouts standing at attention. It was a grabber for us at the time — we played it big on the front page. And the West Virginia Better Newspaper Contest judges (who are journalists from another state) liked it too.

The thing is, this isn’t Tom’s first time being honored for great shots.

Yep, it was Tom’s third straight year to win the Photo of the Year award.

Brilliance, plus consistency.

That photo also placed first in the news feature photo category. Hindman also won best sports photo and placed third for best news photo.

Other Daily Mail staffers did well too. The Charleston Daily Mail was awarded with “General Excellence” for racking up the most points among West Virginia newspapers its size for stories, photos, headlines and designs.

The Daily Mail’s edition marking the state’s 150th birthday was recognized for best single issue.

Daily Mail Editor and Publisher Brad McElhinny won best columnist. Neediest Cases, the newspaper’s annual effort to help those in need during the Christmas season, placed first for service to the community.

In all, the newspaper won 26 awards. The other awards were:

• For Best Lifestyle Columnist, “Chickens in the Road” writer Suzanne McMinn placed first and “Ask the Vet” Allison Dascoli placed second.

• Former Life Editor Monica Orosz placed third for Best Lifestyle Page.

• Former staff writer Candace Nelson placed third for best written news story.

• The staff received second place for best headline, third place for best special sports section, second place for best sports page, and first and second place for best front page.

• Graphic artist Kevin Cade received second and third place for best cartoon or drawing.

• Orosz won second place for best lifestyle feature writing.

• Writers Matt Murphy and Dave Boucher placed third for governmental reporting.

• Business Editor Jared Hunt won third place for coverage of business and labor.

• Photographer Craig Cunningham won second place for feature photography.

• Opinion Editor Kelly Merritt won third place for best editorial page.

• Former editor and publisher Nanya Friend won second place for best columnist.

• Managing Editor Philip Maramba won second place for best newspaper design.

Congrats to everyone for another year of great work.

(Oh, and want to have access to these great pictures and vigorous WV journalism on a regular basis? Subscribe by going here: http://www.charlestondailymail.com/dm/Subscribe or call customer service at 304-348-4800.)