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Mon Apr 13, 2020, 08:23 AM

After Decades Of Reporting On Coal Industry, Reporter Ken Ward Starting New Nonprofit WV News Outlet

After nearly three decades of "sustained outrage," Ken Ward Jr. is striking off on his own. Ward, 52, is an award-winning environmental and investigative reporter whose coverage of the coal industry in Appalachia has earned him national recognition. After nearly 30 years at the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Ward recently left the paper to start a new nonprofit news outlet in West Virginia. The New York Times first reported on his new venture late last month.

EDIT

What was your favorite story you wrote for the Gazette-Mail, and why?

Gosh, favorite story. You know, "favorite" is an interestingly loaded word. For better or for mostly worse, much of my career has been documenting death and destruction and disease and disaster all of the things that befall West Virginians who are just trying to make a living in a very difficult place to do that. I've told people many times that if part of my business is writing about all of the awful things that powerful industries do to West Virginians, I would be happy to be out of business and go sit on a beach somewhere. So I don't necessarily reject the word "favorite," but I bristle at it and don't want it to come off the wrong way. But I would say the story that sticks with me is covering the Upper Big Branch mine disaster, which killed 29 miners. Covering that and covering the criminal cases that grew out of it especially the prosecution and eventual imprisonment of Don Blankenship, the then-CEO of Massey Energy really sticks with me for a number of reasons.

What are the main reasons that the story resonated with you?

Well, 29 deaths today seems like a blip on the radar, given that 500 West Virginians are projected to die over the next few months from coronavirus. But seeing a list of 29 coal miners that died at UBB was almost unfathomable to me at the time. Another reason the story sticks with me is that it really stood on the shoulders of other journalists, especially my mentor, Paul Nyden, who had written about Massey Energy and documented the way the company put profits and coal production over the safety of workers and communities.

Finally, there was a scene that really touched me. When Don Blankenship appealed his conviction, I traveled down to Richmond to cover the oral argument in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. When I walked into the courtroom, there were a couple of the family members, people who had lost loved ones at UBB. And one of the women turned around and said, "There's Ken. We knew Ken would be here. The Gazette's always been here for us." To have those folks feel that way about the newspaper I mean, if that's not what journalism is about, I don't know what is.

EDIT

https://www.eenews.net/stories/1062838349

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Reply After Decades Of Reporting On Coal Industry, Reporter Ken Ward Starting New Nonprofit WV News Outlet (Original post)
hatrack Apr 2020 OP
eppur_se_muova Apr 2020 #1
Mickju Apr 2020 #2

Response to hatrack (Original post)

Mon Apr 13, 2020, 09:54 AM

1. "Affliciting the comfortable, comforting the afflicted" taken very literally, as it should be. nt

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Response to hatrack (Original post)

Mon Apr 13, 2020, 10:24 AM

2. That last paragraph is very touching.

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