Opinion

Start of a New Beginning in Richwood, WV

I wholeheartedly applaud Jharad K. McClung Lester’s venture into online journalism. Seeing a lack of a media outlet devoted exclusively to Richwood news, the RHS senior has launched this online site modeled in part after The Clendenin Leader.

That news site came about after the 2016 flood: Clendenin residents lost a grade school and a nearby high school; Susan Jack and two other residents started the Leader because they felt the larger outlets weren’t adequately addressing their issues. Like Richwood, Clendenin is struggling to recover from the flood.

Jharad’s enterprise is all the more exciting for me because his family gave me my start in journalism. Bronson McClung, his great grandfather, and John McClung, his grandfather, hired me in the summer of 1972 as a cub reporter.

They made me a little cubby in the corner of John McClung’s office. I had a metal folding table and an electric typewriter with a messy ribbon and keys that jammed. John sat at a large desk overlooking Main Street. His window sill was lined with styrofoam cups into which he spat tobacco. It was a cluttered grimy place — perfect for the exercise of small town journalism.

Occasionally, John’s wife Elizabeth would come to the office with their daughter Catherine. Elizabeth and Catherine were always dressed as if they just stepped out of a band box, to use a quaint old phrase. I can still see 2-year-old Catherine in a little woolen coat and matching cap looking for all the world like John F. Kennedy’s little girl.

Catherine would one day give us Jharad.

His accomplishments are quite impressive.

At Southmoreland High School in Alverton, PA, Jharad helped lead a club called “Reading Buddies,” a club where students would read books to children from at-risk homes. He even collaborated on a children’s book that was later published.

Jharad was also once involved in student government and as of now is a member of two national organizations called Turning Point USA and Young America’s Foundation. Jharad writes as a bi-weekly columnist for the Rogue Review and has had political pieces published in the Lone Conservative and the Charleston Gazette.

He founded The Political Outlier, which was a libertarian-conservative political news and opinion website where 6,000 unique visitors per month scanned the site.

Jharad transferred to RHS last year where most people know him as one of the senior leaders on the Lumberjacks varsity basketball team. Though sidelined for some of the season because of an injury, the six foot tall forward averaged 15 rebounds per game.

The publishers of the Nicholas Chronicle have been very good to Richwood. They have treated me and my readers with generosity and fairness. I don’t see Jharad’s venture as a threat to the Chronicle; in fact, I think the two outlets should cooperate and share resources so that Richwood’s story is told.

Good luck, Jharad!

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Susan Johnson

Susan Matthis Johnson is a former West Virginia Journalism Teacher of the Year and Nicholas County Teacher of the Year. She sponsored the Woodchopper and later the Lumberjack News at Richwood High School for 25 years. In 2012 she joined the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs project as the only mentor in West Virginia. The RHS lab produced several stories for the NewsHour including coverage of President Obama's visit to Charleston, the Charleston water crisis, the "Buckwild" reality show, and the politics of coal. Her first job was as a cub reporter for Jim Comstock and Bronson McClung's Richwood News Leader. Currently she is a contributing writer for the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Along with that, her column "My Side of the Mountain" appears weekly in the Nicholas Chronicle.
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