Newsroom hello: Updates, greetings from veteran newspaper editor
It's the right time to say hello.
Because I cannot greet you in-person yet, I'll say it remotely, with hope that you are doing well in COVID lockdown or whatever version of vaccinated free-range you're living these days.
Jackson Newspapers have a good reputation in my corner of the world, and I'm happy to get a chance to work with you and on your behalf.
I live in Waynesboro, Virginia, with my wife and three kids and too many pets and a flock of backyard, in-town chickens. We moved to the Shenandoah Valley in 1998 for journalism, and in our married life were in Kansas and Washington State previously. I grew up in Texas.
Since 2013 I've run the Staunton News Leader newsroom operations. Also, I am the West Virginia and Virginia state news director for USA TODAY Network and lead a collection of seven newspapers — including Keyser, West Virginia, and three in the Piedmont region of North Carolina.
My connection to Ripley, Ravenswood and Jackson County began late last year. I imagine when I write that sentence in the future I should put Ravenswood first sometimes, switching the order!
The county where I live used to stretch for much of the "settled" western United States, including most of modern West Virginia and all of modern Kentucky. Many people travel to the Augusta County Courthouse to research a trove of documents — and more get put online every year.
The two towns here, Staunton and Waynesboro, have a strong rivalry. I don't know how competitive your two towns are. But I am sure I will find out.
I am learning about your neck of the woods, and am eager to visit once the COVID safety precautions I'm following ease up a bit.
Our Jackson County newsroom is staffed by a full-time reporter, and we have an opening. I'm currently doing a nationwide search for a talented journalist. If you know someone, have them apply online at the Gannett jobs site.
We have already interviewed some promising people.
I also recently have been able to learn more about Jackson County, coming out of some other projects. My team's national series about the "Future of Police" launched last week on USA TODAY. Stories like one about a cadet in Shenandoah County painted the vision of a future with more equitable policing that connects law enforcement with the community more closely and is safer across America for both police officers and civilians.
Finishing that work has now allowed me a chance to have good conversations with local freelancers Suzette Lowe and Mark Martin — and I can see how important their articles are for the newspaper. They know so much about what is happening in Jackson County.
Mark has impressive sports media experience — I really connect to that. We follow high school sports here (basketball is big) and professionals like Mark have helped me over the years understand a bit more about preps, since my background is mostly in news.
For national sports, I follow the Dallas Cowboys. Please don't hold that against me since I grew up there. I like to think I'm not one of the obnoxious Cowboys fans.
Suzette has a wonderful nose for news and a great love of talking to you and her other neighbors. As an active news reporter, she was a vital part of my introduction to Jackson County. As we've talked, I have been reminded of my favorite reporters and community newsrooms from my career. After school, I decided against metro newspaper work because I loved living in and writing about small towns. Ones like Arkansas City, Kansas, and Paola, Kansas. And Poulsbo, Washington.
For a year, I lived on the tribal reservation of the Suquamish People and have covered three federally recognized tribes in my career.
In your hometown, I am also relying on the experienced business staff at the newspaper office led by Frank Adkins. There is a wealth of knowledge there and caring for the community.
My friend Dale Brumfield, who is an author, lecturer and historian, has agreed to write a few history pieces for Jackson Newspapers. He started with one this week called "Mystery at Burning Springs: A death at an underground lake of West Virginia oil." Dale is quite a storyteller. I hope you enjoy it.
If you have unusual and little-known Jackson County history stories with good sourcing, please let us know and we'll tell Dale. We love to write about history. You can send ideas to email@example.com and mark it Story Idea-History.
Keeping everything together right now with community news, in ways both tied to the journalism and the production, is talented Southeast-Unified Central USA TODAY Network news clerk Amy Dunn. Amy has been working hard to keep the news coming, finding ways for submitted items and her own pieces to make it into production.
Matthew Sokol on our Southeast planning team is making sure the print products are scheduled with news content. He very capably plans and coordinates with our page designers.
And, until we are able to hire a new reporter, one of our Staunton journalists named Laura Peters is assisting a bit. She interviewed Taylor Mills about solar energy for a business article. It's a good read, and I learned from it. Check it out.
That is more than enough about our internal operations and the freelance contributors during this interim period. We are looking to the future.
Jackson County, Ravenswood and Ripley need vital newsgathering. We will aim for human-interest stories, watchdog articles about the use of tax dollars, explainers that add value and moments that uplift.
We will look for and give voice to parts of the community that are not always represented.
We will dig into the most serious issues that promise to shape the future of Jackson County.
Please share your story ideas with us. Tell us about someone you know with an interesting background or project or passion.
Also, we want to know things that people should know but don't. Investigative journalism is part of our DNA. It's hard to do and takes time. It starts with someone being willing to reach out. Any story tip of that nature, that's sensitive, can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, with Story Tip-WV in the headline.
— William Ramsey is the group editor for Southeast-Unified Central in the USA TODAY Network and his home office is in downtown Staunton, Virginia.