CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Paul J. Nyden, a longtime Charleston Gazette investigative reporter who detailed coal industry abuses and government corruption, died Saturday after a short illness. He was 72.
Nyden defended the public’s interests by consistently taking on powerful state businesses and challenging political leaders across West Virginia. He exposed deadly safety violations, renegade strip-mining and unscrupulous tax scams in a career that spanned more than three decades.
Friends, former co-workers, sources and political observers remembered him as a man whose hard-hitting reporting was matched only by his kind personality and his love of entertaining stories and good jokes.
“Paul never labored for riches or title. He labored to bring sunshine to the dark little corners of political corruption and grime in order to make West Virginia a better place to raise a family,” said attorney Bruce Stanley, a longtime friend and sometimes source. “So, so many West Virginians are so much better off thanks to the hard work of this intelligent, caring human being.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., issued a statement that called Nyden “a giant at the Charleston Gazette” and said the “impact of his work was felt across West Virginia and Appalachia.”
“His relentless search for the truth and commitment to his craft set the bar for what responsible investigative journalism looks like,” Manchin said. “West Virginia is safer for our coal miners and healthier for our communities because of Paul’s work.”
Former Sen. Jay Rockefeller said Nyden “was that kind of tough reporter who cut his teeth when journalism was more about coffee and ink and deadlines than social media and 24-hour news.”
Rockefeller called Nyden “an institution at the Gazette” and said he “was a fighter with words for West Virginia, and a wonderful human being.”
Former Rep. Nick J. Rahall said Nyden “was always dogged in his determination to find out all sides of the story and get to the facts of a situation.”
Nyden, a native of New York, came to West Virginia in 1970 following the murder of United Mine Workers leader Jock Yablonski and became involved in the campaign being waged by the Miners for Democracy movement to reform the union.
He spent several years traveling the coalfields of West Virginia, western Pennsylvania and eastern Kentucky and eventually earned a doctorate in sociology from Columbia University in 1974.
His dissertation, “Miners for Democracy: Struggle in the Coalfields,” documented events in mining communities during that period — including the 1969 Farmington Disaster and the 1972 Buffalo Creek Flood — and remains vital reading as coal communities are challenged by the ongoing decline of the mining industry. …
— Nyden was preceded in death by his parents, Paul Vincent Nyden and Ruth Alice Williams. He is survived by his wife, Sarah Sheets; his daughters, Carrie Mandela Nyden and Katharine Allende Nyden; his son, Christopher DuBois Nyden; a stepdaughter, Laura Steck Melton; and a brother, Phil Nyden.
Funeral arrangements are not yet finalized.
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