Wrapping things up…

I’d like to apologize for the lack of posting this week. I am defending my Master’s project tomorrow, and I’ve been busy with a little of this…

… and a whole lot of this…

For those interested, my defense is public, and will be 2 p.m. Thursday, April 26 in Room 301 of Martin Hall. My project focused on how blogging and social media affect investigative journalism.

If all goes well, I should FINALLY be finished with everything by Friday, and will be receiving a lovely diploma in May.

Will I continue with this blog? Well, I hope to. I’ve really enjoyed writing about this topic, but it really depends on the whole job situation. (Will write for money and/or food.)

– Leann


Remembering George Esper

Today the field of journalism lost a great man – George Esper.

Esper was an Associated Press correspondent during the Vietnam War. He stayed when the war ended and covered the fall of Saigon. You can read the AP’s obituary here.

He was also a journalism professor at West Virginia University.

In 2005, I had the honor of taking Esper’s American Journalism History class. For this class, we had to do group presentations. Every class there was one presentation, and he was so excited to watch every single one of them. And he praised each one of them, too.

That’s the thing I think of the most when I think of Esper: how much he encouraged everyone. Journalism is a tough field. You don’t get a lot of positive feedback. It’s frustrating. But Esper was one person who could always make you feel better about wanting to be a journalist.

His stories of covering the Vietnam War were so exciting. It was almost unreal – we were getting a history lesson from someone who lived it, not from a book written by someone who gathered facts. They were the kinds of stories that kept young students wanting to pursue their dreams.

During my time as editor in chief at the DA, Esper invited me and a few other very lucky students to a dinner with him and Peter Arnett, a Pulitzer prize winning journalist who also covered the Vietnam War. I honestly can’t remember the stories told during that dinner, but I do remember thinking, “Is this real? Is this really my life right now?”

I wanted to include this great video of Esper by Elaine McMillion, another WVU graduate. I don’t know how Elaine and I never crossed paths at the DA or in the journalism school, but I’ve always been impressed by her work.

Fall of a Nation: Tales of an AP Journalist

George, you will be missed.



I’m going to include others stories on George as I find them.

6:00 p.m.

  • The gentleman journalist – “And that’s where we learned a valuable lesson: You don’t have to be a jerk to get the story, but you do have to be a great storyteller.” – MPR News

8:49 p.m.

An introduction of sorts…

Welcome to Inspecting Sunnyside.

I want to start off by giving a little background to this project.

My name is Leann Ray, and I’m a graduate student studying journalism at West Virginia University. This blog is my thesis project.

Instead of writing a typical thesis, this blog will be an investigative look at off-campus housing in Morgantown, West Virginia, home of WVU. More specifically, it will focus on the Sunnyside area.

Sunnyside is located west of WVU’s Downtown Campus and encompasses more than 130 acres of land between Campus Drive, Jones Avenue and Eighth Street.

The idea for this project came about early in August 2007 when a collapse of a porch roof on Grant Avenue sent two people to the hospital, and led to six other houses on the street being condemned.

The following month, a former fraternity house that had been reopened for student housing was condemned when city officials found the living conditions were hazardous – a faulty stove that was supposed to be removed after a previous visit was still in the house, illegal bedrooms were placed in unsafe areas and poor wiring were some of the issues.

Sunnyside residents have a reputation for bad behavior and partying. It’s a popular area of town to burn furniture after WVU’s athletic teams have won big games. Or just won a game. Or if Osama bin Laden is killed. There’s really no rhyme or reason to it sometimes.

Some people think it’s awesome. I think it’s terrifying. After the men’s basketball team defeated Texas Tech in 2005 to move onto the regional finals, 50 fires were set around town. Some friends and I decided to go to Grant Avenue to see what it was like. Well, there was a huge fire that people were circled around, and “Country Roads” was being blasted… and pretty much everyone was singing along. What was most terrifying was that the fire was so high, it was just inches from a telephone pole wire. The streets were so crowded with people, the fire truck couldn’t get to the area.

Furniture burning has become so big of a problem that the fire department issued furniture abatement orders before this year’s game against Louisiana State University. Before the game, “37 truckloads of furniture and other combustible items” were removed from porches in certain areas of downtown Morgantown, according to The Daily Athenaeum.

This blog will be an ongoing investigative project where I will post my research findings. Some of the things I will look into include code enforcement, Sunnyside Up, WVU’s Student Government Association, and landlord and tenant issues.

I encourage readers to leave feedback – have questions about something I’ve talked about? Let me know. It’s possible that I could have left something out, or you could point out a different angle that I never even thought about.

Please keep checking back. I will be updating quite frequently, and you can also follow me on Twitter @Leann_Ray.