WaPo Worries West Virginia Paper’s Death Will Mean Less Anti-Coal Coverage

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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The Washington Post believes the bankruptcy of a major West Virginia newspaper known for its anti-coal editorial bent could result in a more formidable coal industry.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail’s decision to throw in the towel has coal executives cheering and WaPo howling that the death of one of the state’s oldest newspapers is a boon for West Virginia’s staple industry. The paper’s editorial pages have torched coal executives in the past for dismissing environmental policies.

Coal executives worry more about mining jobs than they do about the 210 jobs in danger at the Charleston newspaper, according to a WaPo Feb. 16 report.

“The Gazette-Mail hasn’t won many friends in coal country,” WaPo wrote, adding that the Gazette’s antagonistic position to the industry has made the paper a precious commodity in West Virginia.

Big coal has dominated the economy and politics of West Virginia for more than 100 years, WaPo noted, leaving “the state’s premier newspaper, the feisty Gazette-Mail, which has played an important role in checking the industry’s power.” There is also concern the paper’s new owners could wallow out its adversarial coverage and lay off or fire reporters who cover coal.

Ogden Newspapers will probably purchase the legacy outfit for the costly sum of $11 million. A bankruptcy court will then decide how to divide that among creditors, who are owed more than $31 million. Half of that portion will go to the banks while another sizable chunk will get plowed into the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

Much of the paper’s hard reporting is cut and dry and fleshes out the industry’s health and safety record, but the Gazette’s editorial pages frequently bathe the coal industry in brutal critiques.

“After taking office, he kept part of his promise by weakening federal pollution enforcement and wiping out a rule that prevented coal executives from bribing foreign governments,” the Gazette’s editorial board wrote in an op-ed last June shortly after President Donald Trump’s budget cuts were announced.

The editorial board relied heavily on the Center for American Progress (CAP), an environmentalist group dedicated to foisting the coal and fossil fuel industry onto the dustbin of history, for a substantial amount of the content in their June 1 piece. Gazette’s board quoted a report from CAP that claimed Trump’s budget cuts propped up “unfounded fantasies of the coal industry’s resurgence.”

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