Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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July 13, 2014

Passion for newspaper, digital future highlight talk show debut

— Slipping on the headphones while fidgeting with an ink pen, I wasn’t sure what to expect. On the table in front of me was a microphone, and in mere minutes we would be going “live.” This was my first foray into talk radio, and I had no idea what the next half hour would bring.

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Fifteen minutes earlier I was walking across the newspaper parking lot. I crossed the paint stripes and gingerly stepped through the strip of mulch that signals the property line between the Bluefield Daily Telegraph and radio station.

I had no need for car keys or a purse, but I did carry my iPhone, iPad, old-school notepad and an umbrella. The skies were dark that morning — better to be prepared.

Radio Active host Craig Hammond greeted me in the radio station’s lot. I’ve known Craig for what seems like forever. Through the years, the Telegraph has covered the many worthwhile community causes he is involved with, which includes, perhaps most predominantly, the Bluefield Union Mission.

Nearly 22 years ago, Craig’s father, the late Dr. Allen Hammond, officiated at my August wedding. And, in more recent times, Craig and the radio station have given out community service awards named after my own deceased father, William “Bill” Myers.

So when he asked me to be a guest on his talk show weeks ago, I said “yes” without a moment’s hesitation. But on this day, while crossing the asphalt and clutching the iPad tight, I wondered what I had gotten myself into.

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Entering the broadcast room, I found myself in a comfortable environment. Talking with Craig and his Radio Active co-host Mike McClanahan, I was soon chatting about the Daily Telegraph as I would with friends. Newspaper people love to share war stories and tales of the trade — I am no different.

When Craig asked about specific topics for the show, I pulled out my steno pad. A quarter of the pages were filled with notes made the night before — history, logistics, circulation, daily production, story lineup, community service and strange headlines (one of my favorite topics) were among the possible talking points.

Flipping through the pages, I noticed my notes became much more intense when focused on one particular topic — digital and multimedia. All caps and exclamation points highlighted the pages. Words were underlined; random thoughts and important points separated by comic-page-type conversation balloons. There were asterisks, arrows and stars drawing attention to key points and ideas.

Constant news updates, video, social media, slideshows and more — our digital content reflects life in Four Seasons Country as it happens. There is no 24-hour news cycle. The deadline is now.

Perhaps my voice echoed the excitement brimming from the lined pages. We decided digital was a good topic to discuss on this day.

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It is hard to contain my enthusiasm when discussing the future of newspapers. I see promise and potential in digital media, and a host of ways to connect with residents through social media. Technology is not a threat, it is a brave and beautiful new world that takes our product — our paper, in whatever form — into more and more households. It allows us the opportunity to share the news of the day with people across southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia, and those across the globe.

It gives us the chance to educate and inform on a variety of topics. From breaking news and local events to candidate platforms and community concerns, technology opens up our region and our world, allowing us to reach more and more readers.

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I am not sure how long I talked about our digital and multimedia future. On that morning in the broadcast room, it was not so much an interview but a conversation among friends and fellow journalists.

I answered questions, discussed new initiatives and gave an overview of a day at the newspaper, which includes both print and online products. In the blink of an eye, our 20-some minutes were up. I shook hands, left the room and made my way through the hallway to the exit door and parking lot.

Walking back across the asphalt, I realized time had not allowed us to reach the best part of my notes — strange headlines. Maybe next time.

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Within minutes of entering the Telegraph’s front doors, I was back in my comfort zone — a world of headlines and deadlines, murder and mayhem, council meetings and community beats. Throughout the day, however, co-workers and friends commented on my talk show debut. They were kind in their reviews. I was just happy I didn’t crash and burn.

One comment did linger, and make me smile: “Your passion for the paper was evident.” I grew up with the Daily Telegraph on my kitchen table, and I am proud to be part of the team that keeps its brand strong.

Hours after the show, I received an email from Craig. A local Lion’s Club member had contacted him and asked if I would be willing to speak at an upcoming meeting. My answer was another immediate “yes.”

Passion for a product and a brand should be shared as often as possible.

Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at sperry@bdtonline.com. Follow her @BDTPerry.

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