A blog by WVPA Executive Director Don Smith:
Jan. 12, 2014:
Who is suffering the most during the water crisis?
In downtown Charleston today getting more bottled water and looking at closed restaurants. It’s a warmer day – 45 degrees -and a lot of people are out walking, many carrying supplies.
Started thinking about all the minimum wage and part-time workers at restaurants such as McDonald’s and Wendy’s who will lose income because of this water crisis. Despite the best diet control efforts of my wife, Samantha Smith, I see and talk with those people on a pretty regular basis. They are nice, hardworking folks.
As at my house, they are on a tight budget after Christmas bills, along with higher utility bills after the recent cold weather, but their paychecks will be days short because of this crisis. Those counting on tips from the weekend dinner and bar crowds lost prime income days.
While everyone needs water, this crisis will hit the lower income households harder. Many work service jobs – often two part-time jobs – at businesses that have been closed by the crisis. If you’re already living below poverty level, there is no discretionary income or savings to carry you through such a crisis.
Purchasing water with smaller paychecks must be devastating to their household budgets. There is some free water available, but I know many of those folks use public transportation and don’t have cars.
For these people with lower incomes and no personal vehicle, getting to distribution sites and transporting bulk water is another whole set of problems.
Hearing the calls for investigations and reading of the lawsuits being filed, I wonder who will file a class action lawsuit on behalf of the folks with lower income who will struggle to recover in the coming months? Probably no line there.
Jan. 11, 2014:
An environmental issue.
With the water situation in Charleston and surrounding counties still unclear and the “do not use” warning still in place, Samantha and I packed up the family and headed to Elkins to visit my mother-in-law, Corlyess Metheny. We washed clothes and got the whole stinky crew showered.
Oh my, the first shower since Thursday morning felt even better than expected. I finally understand the “wash, rinse, repeat” on the shampoo bottle.
Have to admit, personally, after reading the MSDS report on the chemical and following the news coverage, I would have showered in – but not drank – the Charleston water.
However, with three children, I didn’t want to set that example. Sadly, in their lifetimes, such hazardous warnings will probably be much common and much more serious. I want my children to understand such warnings, to be critical of the information but always be cautious. If staying dirty a day or two sets that example, regardless of the actual condition of Charleston’s water, it was worth it.
A lack of drinking water is common in many countries around the world and will probably only worsen in the coming decades. Glad we live in America, but, perhaps, just perhaps, such reminders of our exceptional quality of life are needed every now and then.
That said, I still don’t understand allowing bulk chemical storage that close up-stream of a water plant intake. I’ll be watching that investigation.
Headed back to Charleston and the WVPA office soon.
We hope the Kanawha County School System makes a decision Sunday on a definite time frame for school next week. We hope they call it until at least Wednesday, or the entire week, and then reevaluate. Parents need time to plan.
Jan. 10, 2014:
No immediate crisis for news coverage.
West Virginia newspaper reporters got the word out Thursday and Friday — even throughout the night — about the 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol chemical leak.
During this nine-county state of emergency, West Virginia American Water customers are being advised not to use their water for drinking, cooking or bathing — not even if they boil it first. It is to be used only to flush toilets or fight fires.
As soon as this was announced, those who follow social media saw an immediate and constant flow of tweets, Facebook posts and other news alerts. The minute-by-minute, almost-live newsfeed from our reporters literally directed my search for bottled water for my family.
The Charleston Gazette, The Daily Mail and the Huntington Herald-Dispatch were all over these stories, with reporters serving and volleying tweets of the latest news scoop.
Local television stations and other news sources also did a good job with this story, but our newspaper reporters again made it clear that “live” news is no longer a broadcast media franchise.
Instead of racing back to the newsroom to file a story for tomorrow’s edition, our latest generation of reporters pull out the smart phone and focus on being first. They understand that a little information in real time is more valuable to today’s news junkie than a full story the next day.
Fortunately, they do still give us the full story, both in print and online.
Unfortunately, there might be a disconnect with the follower and the full story on the website or in the print edition.
Note to editors: Audit your website to see if your platform grouped all of your water crisis links for easy reader access.
Look at your home page. Does the flow of news into the featured slots force related stories into the bowels of your website and make it difficult for readers to find the excellent work your staff is producing?
Look at your home page and see how many water stories (the biggest news story of the day) are featured, or at least promoted or linked. Does your website give the impression that you are the leading source on this water crisis? It should.
On related note, thanks to the newspapers who are contributing to the WVPA’s Sharing Network with photos and articles. We had several great items from the water crisis, the state legislative session and the governor’s State of the State Speech.
The Daily Mail and Gazette both provided photos from the State of the State for sharing with other newspapers around the state. I encourage other newspapers around the state to return the favor and share your best photos and features.
I also apologize for not thinking about differing press times on State of the State night this week. Liz Beavers of the Mineral Daily News Tribune wasn’t able to hold the presses for the photo and asked if the WVPA could help her a little earlier in the evening.
We encourage everyone to give us a call and let us know what you need. If at all possible, we’ll adjust and work with you. We probably won’t realize all of your needs in advance, so give us a call. We’ll try to help and support your efforts. That’s why the WVPA exists.
Jan. 6, 2014:
Quite a preview
I think West Virginia media is providing excellent social media coverage for Legislative Lookahead today at the Marshall University campus in South Charleston.
Follow comments on twitter at #wvlookahead
You can also look for coverage in from the following outlets: The Journal in Martinsburg, Wheeling News-Register, The Intelligencer, The Charleston Gazette, The Charleston Daily Mail, The Register-Herald of Beckley, The Huntington Dispatch, The Associated Press, West Virginia Public Broadcasting, The State Journal, The Record Delta of Buckhannon, The Inter-Mountain of Elkins, The West Virginia Press Association and other media sources.
Good question-and-answer session during the day.
Dave Boucher keeping the questions rolling.
You can’t miss the wonderful voice of Beth Vorhees of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
Jan. 2, 2014:
Good morning, 2014.
As we close another year and Christmas season, I would ask that all newspapers send me information on their Christmas Charity events. Many of our newspapers sponsor special Christmas projects. We distribute food, coats, clothes, money and help in so many other ways. You don’t do it for the publicity, but I would like to have that information when I speak about our newspaper industry.
Please take a moment today to email me — [email protected] — a paragraph about your event and your success this year.
Here’s a newsroom quiz for the folks on the copydesk: We are now in a news cycle of page templates during which many newspapers around the state will run at least one page with a 2013 dateline. Will it be fewer or more than 10? As a editor who prepared for it each and every darn new year but still had last year’s dateline run in the first week of January on numerous occasions, I have to guess more than 10.
When it happens, just smile and tell the caller (Oh, there are always callers.) that you include such mistakes intentionally to ensure all readers have something to enjoy in your newspapers. Don’t stress too much. It’s not the worst mistake you’ll make this year, but when it happens, let the advertising staff know because it impacts their tear sheets for advertisers.
Dec. 27, 2013:
Remembering Jim Smith:
I’m certain the comments from friends, family and staff members about the late editor of the Parkersburg News and Sentinel will appear, as they should, in a local column, so I don’t want to steal anyone’s lead, but I will say Jim would have enjoyed the tone and the humor.
Funerals for journalists — I’ve attended more than my share — offer tremendous insight into this business.
When you spend your life covering tragedy, crime and corruption out of newsrooms full of cynics, skeptics and odd characters, it takes a hard shell to protect a big heart and a sense of graveyard humor to shield a giving nature.
That was Jim Smith.
Coworkers talked of enjoying transferring telephone calls from angry readers to Jim, knowing he would handle the call in a most professional manner before jokingly threatening the staff member with outrageous retribution.
Ours is a wonderful profession that grants access to some of life’s greatest stories and documents the reasons we should remain thankful and humble.
Jim’s life, and the tales shared at his funeral, serve as testimony to the meaning of a career devoted to journalistm. He enjoyed his newsroom family and will be missed and remembered more often with a smile than a tear. That is as it should be in this business. -30-