03 November 2007

The March For Megan Williams

Hundreds showed up for Saturday's rally and march, and The Associated Press was there.

AP spoke to several folks who drove in from other states to rally at the West Virginia Capitol and then march downtown.

"If no one came out today, imagine how that would make Megan Williams feel," Joe Marchal, who brought his wife and their infant son from Berea, Ky., told AP. "We're here for her."

Organizer staged the rally despite a request by the city's black ministerial association and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People not to gather because it could harm the prosecution's case," AP reported.

Update: AP also reported that "The Rev. Al Sharpton did not appear at the rally or march, despite his staff's confirmation earlier in the week that he was scheduled to attend. Instead, he held 'an emergency press conference in New York,' according to a spokeswoman, regarding New York Knicks coach Isaiah Thomas."

WSAZ-TV also focused on Sharpton's no-show, while WOWK-TV covered the rally and march as well.

02 November 2007

Charleston Prepares For "Hate Crime" March

As supporters of Megan Williams prepare to march Saturday, The Associated Press focuses on the unquelled debate over whether "hate crime" charges are warranted in her case.

Both The Charleston Gazette and The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington hear from those urging the public to attend the noon march.

"While national groups and figures like the Southern Christian Leadership Coalition and the Rev. Al Sharpton have lent their support to the march, local black churches and the NAACP have pointedly declined to participate, worrying that the publicity could damage the prosecution," the AP observes in its article.

The local television stations - WSAZ-TV, WCHS-TV and WOWK-TV - all report on security measures planned for the march.

MetroNews heard from one of the leading proponents of the march on its Talkline program Wednesday, and offers complete audio in five parts here.

Talkline host Hoppy Kercheval, meanwhile, has definite opinions about Malik Zulu Shabazz and his presence in the ongoing debate.

The leader of the Black Lawyers for Justice and attorney for the New Black Panther Party "strikes me as a power-hungry, publicity-seeking opportunist," Kercheval writes in his online column today.

Another Head Rolls At Culture & History

State Archives and History Director Fred Armstrong was fired Thursday, after more than 20 years heading that office and nearly 30 years in W.Va. government, The Charleston Gazette reports.

Armstrong told the Gazette that Culture and History Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith axed him with a letter that noted "that as a will and pleasure employee, he can be terminated at any time without cause."

"Armstrong said Reid-Smith’s letter concluded by ordering him to 'vacate the building immediately,' and said he was offended to be escorted out of the building by a security officer," the article said.

"For all these years, I could be trusted with all the state’s valuable records ... but when it comes time to leave, they have to have a security guard escort me," Armstrong told the paper.

Armstrong speculates that his firing may stem from "administration proposals to convert the archives library in the Cultural Center into a café/gift shop," though he tells the Gazette he's never taken a public position on the proposal.

01 November 2007

W.Va. Coal Coverage Makes TV

Expose: America's Investigative Reports, a nationally produced Public Broadcasting series,
ends its season Thursday by profiling the coverage of The Charleston Gazette and reporter Ken Ward "on the 2006 Sago mine disaster and safety standards in the coal-mining industry."

The segment focuses on Ward's "Beyond Sago" investigative series.

It first airs 9:30 p.m. on WVPBS-TV.

Martha Wehrle, 1925-2007

Martha Wehrle, the veteran former legislator who represented Kanawha County for more than 20 years in both the House of Delegates and Senate, died Wednesday at age 81.

Though retired from the Legislature since 1995, she remained active in politics. She served as treasurer for the 2008 re-election campaign of U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., a longtime friend.

"Her father was a Republican, her mother a Democrat, but Martha always brought her own unique perspective to issues," Sen. Robert C. Byrd, said Thursday of his fellow Democrat.

The Charleston Daily Mail has a story on her life and passing.

31 October 2007

"Wild, Wonderful" It Is

The administration announces the new welcome sign slogan, after a process that featured nearly 49,000 votes.

Manchin Goes To China - Updated

Gov. Joe Manchin has begun his multi-day trade mission to China - the first by any sitting governor, Public Broadcasting reports.

The trip started off in Shanghai, "a huge, exciting, anachronistic mess," according to Public Broadcasting's Scott Finn, who is accompanying the state's trade delegation.

Finn is both filing stories and blogging during the trade mission.

also has a story on the trade trip, with audio from Development Office Executive Director Steve Spence.

Update: The Charleston Daily Mail offers a rundown of the rest of the trade delegation, with plans to feature columns from several of them during the trip.

30 October 2007

McKenzie Leaving Senate for Wheeling Mayoral Race

State Sen. Andy McKenzie on Tuesday became the second of the 7 GOP senators whose seats are up in 2008 to announce that he won't seek re-election.

McKenzie, R-Ohio, instead plans to run for mayor of Wheeling next spring, The Associated Press

McKenzie, 37, "said he hopes to work on economic development and housing if elected in Wheeling," the AP article said.

The Intelligencer of Wheeling also has a story So do the Charleston Daily Mail and MetroNews, which has audio from McKenzie's brief morning appearance on Talkline.

Sen. Vic Sprouse, R-Kanawha, said earlier this year that he would not run for another term. Three other GOP senators have either expressed interest in seeking other posts, or have filed precandidacy papers for an undeclared office.

At least 2 of the 10 Democrats up in 2008 have ruled out another run as well. Sen. Billy Wayne Bailey, D-Wyoming, is instead vying for secretary of state while Sen. Jon Blair Hunter, D-Monongalia, is retiring.

Republicans hold 11 of 34 seats in the state Senate.

West Virginia's "Dropout Factories"

Four Mountain State high schools have made a dubious list of places nationwide "where no more than 60 percent of the students who start as freshmen make it to their senior year," The Associated Press reports.

Duval High School in Lincoln County, Big Creek High School in McDowell County and Matewan High School in Mingo County all made the list, though as "small rural schools where the beginning enrollment for the class of 2006 was fewer than 100 students."

But rounding out West Virginia's presence on this list is Robert C. Byrd High School in Harrison County, where 131 of the 270 fall-enrolled students graduated, less than 50 percent.

Johns Hopkins analyzed U.S. Department of Education data for AP and found 1,700 regular or vocational high schools nationwide that fit this lamentable category, 12 percent of all such schools.

"Washington hasn't focused much attention on the problem," AP reports. "The No Child Left Behind Act, for example, pays much more attention to educating younger students. But that appears to be changing."

29 October 2007

W.Va. Parlors Weathering Pa. Competition

The West Virginia bars and clubs hosting video lottery machines appear to be holding their own against the slot casinos that began opening in neighboring Pennsylvania last year, The Associated Press reports.

The AP's Vicki Smith compared three years' worth of September revenue figures for parlors in nine border counties, and found little change since the out-of-state competition emerged.

"While revenues dropped slightly in several counties, the year-to-year losses for September were small - about $10,000 in Brooke, $40,000 in Berkeley and Hancock, and $50,000 in Jefferson," the article said. "The largest drop was in Ohio County, but even there, revenues were off by only $100,000, the state's figures show."

But the state's panhandle racetracks have not fared as well, which is one reason why they pursued the casino table games that debuted at two of the locations earlier this month.

The debate over video lottery parlors continues in West Virginia, with National Public Radio airing this piece from Scott Finn. With audio.

Making Sense of West Virginia's Job Numbers

The latest WorkForce West Virginia figures suggest that the Mountain State is sporting one of the largest civilian labor forces in its history, and its lowest jobless rate to boot.

The Associated Press crunches the numbers and offers some context.

The state's extractive industries have played a crucial role in this development. The AP also provides context with this extensive look at the global coal market.

AP Business Writer Tim Huber contributes to that review by examining U.S. investment in China's coal industry.

West Virginians Go To War

When a U.S. Army Reserve engineering company based in Harrison County got the call to go to Iraq, Public Broadcasting sought to chronicle the deployment from the perspective of the soldiers and their families.

The result, "Bridgeport to Baghdad," is a three-part documentary that debuted on Public Broadcasting's Outlook program last week.

Chapter One, "Citizen," has been posted on YouTube in three parts: here, here and here. Filmmaker Chris Hitchcock also talks about the project in this audio clip.

Note: Public Broadcasting now has its own corner on YouTube, which hosts an astounding 139 of its videos.