WV Newspapers’ Independence in Doubt, Harrison & Preston Counties

by Duane Nichols on March 5, 2015

Newspaper president’s ties to gas industry undermine claims of ‘credibility’

By Michael M. Barrick, Appalachian Chronicle, March 3, 2015

“Good ol’ boys down at the bar
Peanuts and politics
They think they know it all
They don’t know much of nothin’
Even if one of ‘em was to read a newspaper, cover-to-cover
That ain’t what’s going on
Journalism dead and gone”
– “Frail Grasp on the Big Picture” by the Eagles, 2007

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – Readers of “The Independent Voice of North Central West Virginia” – The Exponent Telegram – Clarksburg’s only newspaper, have only a frail grasp on the big picture, at least when it comes to understanding the implications of the natural gas boom in the region. That is because the newspaper’s president, Brian Jarvis, is also the president of Hydrocarbon Well Services, an oil and gas service company with 15 rigs, according to Jarvis’ LinkedIn site.

Also, according to his LinkedIn site, Jarvis is an attorney representing gas and oil interests, work he continues following a stint with Jackson Kelly PLLC, a leading gas industry law firm with five offices in West Virginia – including Clarksburg – as well as five other states and Washington, D.C. Jarvis worked there for more than three years, from September 2008 – January 2012.

According to his LinkedIn site, Jarvis, as president of Clarksburg Publishing, “Oversee(s) publishing The Exponent Telegram, Bridgeport News, Preston News, Preston Journal, NCWV Real Estate, NCWV Life Magazine, MYNCWV.com, and several other multimedia products.”

Clearly, these business interests of Jarvis call into question the newspaper’s independence when covering the gas industry. Indeed, in late January, approximately 10 environmental leaders met with an official with the newspaper to challenge the newspaper to provide more comprehensive coverage of the gas industry. Ironically, on the day of the visit, a gas line explosion that had occurred the day before in Brooke County, W.Va. got no mention in the newspaper.

This is not surprising though, as the newspaper closed out 2014 with a tribute to the gas industry. In its December 30, 2014 issue, the front page declared, “Marcellus Shale authors statewide success story.” In the article, the newspaper proclaimed, “The Exponent Telegram’sEditorial Board has named the Marcellus Shale development as the Success Story of the Year.” Additionally, in its lead editorial in the same edition, the newspaper uncritically adopted the energy industry’s assertions of its benefits, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that the harm to public health and safety, as well as the environment, far outweighs any perceived benefit.

Nowhere in the article or the editorial did the newspaper disclose interests held by Jarvis in the gas and oil business. Of course, the newspaper also enjoys significant advertising revenues from gas industry giants such as Dominion Resources, Inc.

The newspaper has not remotely attempted to cast a critical eye on the gas industry, despite growing opposition to it within its sphere of influence. In fact, it barely disguises its glee at defeats experienced by those fighting the industry. In a February 10 headline over an AP story about landowners in Virginia battling Dominion over landowner rights, the headline declared, triumphantly, “Foes of proposed pipeline lose fight.”

In addition to not informing readers that its president also has holdings in the gas industry, the newspaper’s Assistant Managing Editor, Matt Harvey, used the February 9 editorial page to – ironically – talk about the newspaper’s credibility. He wrote, “But what never changes about journalism is what’s been the same dating back to the days of Ben Franklin’s ‘Poor Richard’s Almanack,’ and beyond: Credibility.”

He continued, “And if it not only gets facts wrongs (sic) but also twists them to fit its presentation, well, chances are it won’t last long.” He added, “Credibility also means being willing to examine all sides of an issue and dig deep to discover some of the hidden issues.”

One would presume that Harvey is referring to issues such as the hazards associated with the gas industry, such as site development and well pad activity, traffic congestion, water use and contamination, air pollution, waste disposal, public health issues, quality of life issues, misuse of eminent domain in pipeline development, climate change, potential earthquakes, and questionable claims of economic revitalization.

The newspaper has simply not covered those issues at all, let alone dug deep into them. Harvey concluded his editorial with a bit of a lecture, writing, “But anyone who thinks the Internet has put paid (sic) the old-fashioned basics of journalism should think again. Without who, what, when, where, how and why – and without watchdogs willing to follow the money trail – the freedoms Americans enjoy would be headed for an endangered species list.”

There could not be a more ironic statement from a representative of The Exponent Telegram. Because they are not being the watchdogs they claim to be, West Virginians are headed for the endangered species list.

The reading public deserves better. Jarvis should divest himself of all interests in – and income from – the gas industry. Until and if he does, the newspaper lacks all credibility, despite Harvey’s claims. The Eagles were right. Journalism is dead and gone – at least in print, in Clarksburg.

Source: Appalachian Preservation Project, LLC, 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project. The Appalachian Preservation Project is a social enterprise committed to preserving and protecting Appalachia.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Exponent Telegram March 5, 2015 at 11:53 am

Because of the weather, several carriers were unable to reach some subscribers. Therefore, we have opened up our brand new redesigned e-edition free for public access.

Bad Weather is your good fortune: Free Access to The Exponent Telegram’s new E-Edition

Please take a look by clicking here to see the E-Edition for FREE!


Some major stories in today’s e-edition include:

SNOW!! (lots of photos)

FLOODING!! (lots of photos)


tex holland March 5, 2015 at 2:46 pm

Can you please provide reference to this grossly inaccurate statement? How can you possible declare there is not benefit to oil and gas? And where is this overwhelming scientific evidence I have never heard of?

“Additionally, in its lead editorial in the same edition, the newspaper uncritically adopted the energy industry’s assertions of its benefits, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that the harm to public health and safety, as well as the environment, far outweighs any perceived benefit.”


A P Mama March 6, 2015 at 7:20 am
R. Scott Mick March 5, 2015 at 4:47 pm

People in WV want to work and are proud that they support their families. The problem is that instead of having various options like renewable energy jobs, technology etc., we are limited to working in fossil fuels.

Going back to the workers rights battles in the coal mine wars a century ago, the miners put red bandannas around their necks ”rednecks” and the mining company, sheriff and Pinkerton Men (private security force) had a horrible battle.

Its all for the reckless persuit of fossil fuels at any cost. Today we have a chance for healthier alternatives and our state government does not support the renewable energy programs that would provide longlasting, good paying, environmentally friendly jobs.

Statistics show that job creation is far greater when finance is invested into renewable energy verus fossil fuels not to mention certian types of renewables are becoming far more effecient in terms of production. We just need to take climate change seriously and have a sense of urgency about creating solutions. We have every opportunity but it requires objectivity.


Appalachian Chronicle 3/5/15 March 5, 2015 at 9:40 pm

Factual Reporting is Not Always Balanced

Excerpts from the Blog of Michael M. Barrick of March 5, 2015

Some issues simply do not deserve equal coverage of both sides

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – Readers of this blog know I called into question the independence of the Clarksburg newspaper the other day because its president has interests in the natural gas industry and it has rarely, if ever, cast a critical eye on the multiple negative impacts of fracking and natural gas pipeline development. Those who receive my email updates also know that the newspaper’s publisher and editor took exception and wrote an open letter to everyone on the list, insisting that the newspaper was independent. They also wrote, “Unlike your blog, we are truly independent.”

I believe my reports and columns stand on their own merit. We are independent; however, what I understand is that factual reporting is not always balanced – nor should it be ….

I acknowledged that my worldview guides my reporting. That does not mean that I deny that there have been some limited benefits from the energy extraction industry; nevertheless, present facts and the well-documented history of the industry prove that any benefits are far outweighed by the misery experienced by the people of the state and region, as well as the damages done to our sacred landscape.


This is more than a debate though. This is a teachable moment. Some issues, such as domestic violence and the adverse impacts of energy extraction, simply do not deserve equal coverage of both sides, because the facts do not support such a perspective. In West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, southeastern Ohio, and southwestern Pennsylvania, southwestern Virginia, the facts are clear – powerful interests have removed the riches from the earth for their own profit, while leaving its people battered, bruised and impoverished. It has left its landscape forever scarred.

Now, with the proposed construction of more than a thousand miles of pipelines to transport natural gas, the negative consequences could move into areas of Virginia and North Carolina that have, to a large degree, escaped the negative impacts of the energy extraction industry.

Consequently, I do not apologize for adhering to the journalistic principle that factual reporting is not always balanced. It would appear that the Clarksburg paper does not. Nor do many other publications that have compromised their integrity for profit. So, the question is, to what view of journalism do you subscribe?


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