I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit nervous when I found out I'd be interning at the Pocahontas Times for six weeks this summer. I had been to Pocahontas County twice -- once four years ago, and the most recent time was for a class project in January. I am a born-and-raised suburban girl from outside of Pittsburgh, Pa. I've lived in a housing plan most of my life. I really didn't know much about West Virginia until I started studying journalism at West Virginia University in 2008. But I've been able to gain insightful information about the beautiful, mountain state during the past four years, and Pocahontas County seemed like the right fit. This blog will chronicle some of my most interesting experiences in Marlinton, both personal and professional. Follow me on Twitter -- melanie_hoffman.
Hoffman will finish her college career with a B.S. in Print Journalism with a minor in Political Science from West Virginia University in December. She has served as a staff writer, city editor and managing editor of the award-winning WVU student newspaper, The Daily Athenaeum. She has also interned at the Charleston Daily Mail and West Virginia Public Broadcasting. She studied at Hong Kong Baptist University, located in Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong, in the fall of 2011. She is in Pocahontas County for an internship through West Virginia Uncovered, a program that works with rural newspapers to create multimedia pieces for them.
Meet Suzanne Stewart ﾖ a staff writer, photographer and page designer at the Pocahontas Times. Suzanne is a Pocahontas County native hailing from Green Bank, W.Va. I asked her yesterday when would be best to ﾓshadowﾔ her for my blog. She huffed and puffed, but eventually she let me follow her to the Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting last night. Iﾒm sorry for the members who thought I was there shooting them -- I was just stalking Suzanne.
The meeting was filled with business involving the recent storm's destruction and how the schools would respond. ﾠThe board elected its new president and vice president. ﾠSuzanne talked with the members about items for the paper and local events. ﾠShe took photos of the incoming members. ﾠThe meeting, which Suzanne said was \"short,\" lasted about an hour and a half. ﾠHer notes involved specifics about the members reports in a fairly neat handwriting (I was impressed, but that isn't saying much..).
As the daughter of two high school teachers, Suzanne had admitted her dislike for authority. But she also loves LOVES LOVES children. Her desk is my favorite to sit at and make phone calls ﾖ she has toys to play with, Pez to eat and the ﾓCute Overloadﾔ calendar. What more could you ask for? We also share a tightknit bond about our love for Diet Coke. Suzanne went with me to the N.R.A.O. Space Race Rumpus, and we saw the Steel Wheels live. She also taught me to make sunprints. FUN.
To help with my story telling, Iﾒve decided to feature a little something on each person who works at the Pocahontas Times on my blog by shadowing them while theyﾒre working. (They may not know this yet, but weﾒll see who reads my blog!) So first up is Jaclyn Hollandsworth.
Jaclyn runs the front desk of the Pocahontas Times. She greeted me on my first day by saying, ﾓHi, you must be Melanie!ﾔ Since then, Iﾒve fallen victim to her competitiveness at Uno (sheﾒs a sore loser and a sore winner), watched her sing (live!) songs she had not sung in 20 years (at Pearl BucksﾒBirthplace, too -- poor Pearl), and creeped on Facebook with her. Sheﾒs awesome.
So when she asked me if I wanted to go with her while she drops off the newly printed, stuffed-with-inserts, and labeled papers, I jumped on it. She has about 10 stops on her trip. The stops are all around Marlinton ﾖ the Fastcheck, the Foodland, the Dollar General, the Marlinton Motor Inn, and a few others. She normally drops the new editions off in a stand or wherever the store keeps them and heads to the cashier who hands her the cash for how many papers were sold.
She knows all the cashiers by name and gives them a friendly greeting. Once weﾒd get into the car, sheﾒd tell me the backstory on how she knew them. It was a pretty unique experience, and reminded me of the most important concept of a community newspaper ﾖ the community.
A trip in the wilderness
Pocahontas County is known for its natural beauty. Tourism drives the local economy ﾖ it provides fewer taxes for residents as well as increased business for small business owners. One group, the West Virginia Wilderness Coalition, is pushing to create the \"Birthplace of Rivers Natural Monument,\" the first natural monument in West Virginia. Others are opposed because of fears of more strict hunting and fishing laws. ﾠThe birthplace of rivers idea springs from the fact that eight major rivers begin in Pocahontas County.
Mike Costello is leading the effort. I went out the area last Thursday afternoon with him. I wore shorts and a T-shirt, thinking we would just go out on the boardwalk by the glades. I knew immediately I made a wrong decision. When I met Mike, he was with Mark Jennings, an outdoors enthusiast with extensive knowledge about the area. Mr. Jennings looked at Mike and I and immediately said, ﾓYou guys are going to have some trouble in shorts. Weﾒre going to be going through some tall grass.ﾔ
And so my first backcountry experience began. We pulled off on the side of the road and went into the woods. I had my tripod, video camera and bag and still camera. We trudged for about a half an hour until we found one of Markﾒs favorite spots ﾖ right near Hills Creek with a beaver dam in the background. It was truly beautiful and remarkable. That area, he said, is more for experienced outdoorsmen because while it may not be as stunning as other natural monuments in the country, the detail is extraordinary.
We took some video in the area, stumbling through long grass, which is sometimes sprayed to keep invasive species away. I fell once. But while these groups are taking two different approaches to keeping this land beautiful ﾖ the proposed natural monument vs. continuing under the Forest Managementﾒs supervision ﾖ they do agree on one thing: the land is a prized possession in the area.
After walking through mud and creeks, I came home with probably 50 scratches on my dirt-covered legs. My tennis shoes were ruined, but all in all, it was a great experience.
My Chester the Chicken video has gone live, along with an accompanying article by Angelo Jiordano. ﾠIt is the first video I have ever done on my own. ﾠLike I said in my previous post, I struggled technology wise, so though I will be the first person to say it's not perfect, I'm pretty pleased with it.
Chester Chicken is brought to the Foodland in Marlinton from Brown Services, Inc. Miss Pocahontas County was dressed up as the Chicken, and many visitors said she was one of the best chickens they had seen.
While Chester danced around the store, patrons munched on samples of fried chicken, got their pictures taken and received free balloons.
Eclectic first week
I write this blog post as attempt No. 4 in learning how to post to my new blog here at theﾠPocahontas Times. My first, which I wrote spiritedly, with links to everything I was talking about, disappeared after I hit ﾓSubmit & edit.ﾔ I wrote the next one on a word document, and hit ﾓSubmit & edit.ﾔ Obviously that one disappeared. So finally I was frustrated and just typed and hit ﾓSubmit & publish.ﾔ Then this happened ﾅ
Blog title ﾓRawrﾔ
Content: ﾓwill this workﾔ
Well, oops. No punctuation, I didnﾒt even use real words. After that I learned how to turn a post to ﾓinactive.ﾔ
So hereﾒs to No. 4. Iﾒm rewriting this because this anecdote sums up my first week in Pocahontas County -- technological errors and stumbles. Whether it was my fault, the video cameraﾒs fault or the computerﾒs fault, and I think we all rotated pretty well, things just didnﾒt mesh. But, I have good news. Things have improved, and I think the equipment and I are starting to sync.
I arrived inﾠMarlinton around 11 p.m. last Sunday night, after about a four-and-a-half-hour, windy-roads-in-the-dark, drive with my cat, Oscar. Thankfully, Oscar was pretty good in the car. Except for the last two hours of the trip, which the fat cat spent lounging across my lap as we twisted and turned around the mountainous roads.
As I walked into the office on my first day of work, I was greeted with, ﾓHello, are you Melanie?ﾔ ﾓHi, Melanie!ﾔ Everyone already knew my name -- Later I realized many people in the county already knew my name. Iﾒd say that was one of my first ﾓsmall town communityﾔ experiences.
With help from my coworkers, I compiled what I think is a pretty interesting list of story ideas in the county. My first project, which Iﾒll start when the weather is more cooperative, is on the debate about makingﾠCranberry Glades and other beautiful areas in Pocahontas County into a national natural monument. Others include features on camps in the county, the local farmers market, a violin maker and local landmarks.
Here are some of the things I did last week:
- Attended a county commission meet and a hearing at the magistrateﾒs office
- Visited theﾠGreen Bank Telescope
- Attended the�Parlor Soldiers live at the�Pretty Penny Caf�
- Created a video about Chester the Chickenﾒs Grand Opening a Foodland
- Met with a car dealership owner about a commercial
- Walked theﾠGreenbrier River Trail
- Updated the Timesﾒ social media sites. Follow us -- @pocahontastimes. ﾓLikeﾔus!
- Began meeting some of the incredibly interesting people of Pocahontas County.