Ken Ward Jr.

Ken Ward Jr.

Cumberland Times-News

CHARLESTON - Ken Ward Jr., a native of Piedmont and a reporter for The Charleston Gazette, recently was selected as the recipient of the 2005 Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Edward J. Meeman Award for environmental reporting. The awards ceremony was held in Washington.

Judith G. Clabes, president and chief executive officer of the foundation, said the winners of the awards, celebrating the best of 2005, "proved once again that good old-fashioned journalistic values have not fallen away in the wake of the cacophony about the future of the media.

"It was those good old-fashioned values that led reporter Ken Ward to get out his tracing paper to reveal mysterious shenanigans with a coal permit boundary. ..."

West Virginia's Department of Environmental Protection had assured Ward a permit it had issued Massey Energy to build a silo 300 feet from an elementary school did not violate a 1977 law prohibiting just that. Yet, Ward sensed a story.

Ward was writing a story for the Gazette about Gov. Joe Manchin's public meetings addressing the issue. Then a student's grandfather's protest on the Capitol steps piqued Ward's curiosity and he decided to investigate further.

"It really took me about two minutes of looking at one of the initial maps to see that something wasn't right,'' Ward said.

He traced the boundary lines on applications from each year in a different color, then had transparencies made to show changes - and gradual expansion of the permit area. Finally department officials conceded the construction site was outside the original boundary and they hadn't compared the coal company's maps to file maps.

DEP revoked the permit. The company filed an appeal and the courts are considering the issue. His stories sparked more community action. A citizens group has filed a notice of intent to sue the company and protesters demanded destruction of the silo.

Judges said, "Ward's work is an inspiring example of environmental reporting at its finest - showing the difference one person can make by practicing old-fashioned journalism.''

Ward is the son of Laura Ward and the late Ken Ward of Keyser. He is a graduate of Keyser High School, Potomac State College and West Virginia University's School of Journalism.

A former newspaper carrier for the Times-News, Ward is married to Elizabeth Wehner, formerly of Chester. They have one son, Thomas Vandiver Ward.

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