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Special Reports  »  News  »  Special Reports

Water Crisis

A chemical leak from Freedom Industries into the Elk River, near West Virginia American Water's treatment plant, left thousands of West Virginians unable to use their water to drink, cook or wash for days.

Abandoned Promises

Since 1978, U.S. coal operators have paid more than $7 billion in production taxes meant to fund the cleanup of mine sites that were abandoned before the nation implemented strict reclamation rules. But today, more than $3 billion of mine sites that threaten public safety remain unreclaimed. The federal Abandoned Mine Land program has not met its g

Affairs in Order

This four-part series provides useful information on estate planning.

As Our Parents Age

Breakthroughs in medical science are allowing people to live longer. The population is graying as a result. This blessing also creates challenges, often for the adult children of aging parents. They wonder how to find a reliable caregiver, when to take the car keys away, how to secure power of attorney, and on and on. This occasional series of stories will focus on these questions, providing answers and insight from the experts and from those who have endured this often-painful life change.

Beyond Sago

The Sago Mine disaster drew widespread attention to safety problems in the nation's coal mines. Why do miners continue to die on the job? What are the government and the coal industry doing about it?

Brown v. Board of Education

Fifty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that "separate but equal" was inherently unequal. The court's decision in Brown vs. Board of Education set the stage for school integration, but also made a resounding statement toward societal integration as a whole. This series of stories examines Brown's impact on West Virginia, and the work that still needs to be done.

Closing Costs

When they closed hundreds of West Virginia schools, state education officials promised to save millions of dollars and provide new advanced classes, without making bus rides much longer for students. A decade later, bus times are longer than ever, few advanced courses are offered to rural students, and those savings never materialized. Find out why in Closing Costs, a series about the legacy of school consolidation in West Virginia.

Coal River: Problems and Potential

From its headwaters in the highlands of Raleigh County to its confluence with the Kanawha River at St. Albans, the Coal River is an often-overlooked natural and recreational gem.

Cycle of Influence

West Virginia has a long, sad tradition of political corruption. So, how does West Virginia compare to other states when requiring disclosures from politicians about potential conflicts of interest? How comprehensive are the state's reporting requirements for lobbyists? How have campaign contributions and lobbyist spending affected legislation? Find out in this series.

Doctor Dilemma

Doctors are leaving Kanawha County, but for what reasons? Is it because of skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance rates, or are there other issues? And for those who left, what is life like nowadays? Find out answers to these questions and more in this four-part series.

Everybody at Risk

"Insurance used to be the thing that stood between people and huge health care bills. Now insurance itself is another huge bill. Or it's just unaffordable. And if you don't have it these days, every day you get up and risk financial disaster." --Sharon Carte, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) director. One in four working-age West Virginians is without health insurance. More than 60 percent of uninsured West Virginians have jobs. In the coming months, the Charleston Gazette will explore the reasons why West Virginia's health insurance prices are particularly high. We will introduce you to the people who are uninsured, the people who are teetering on the edge, and the people who are trying to do something about it.

Farmington 40th Anniversary

Grants, Graft and Greed at Workforce West Virginia

A mess hangs over Workforce West Virginia, the state's employment training office. An ongoing Gazette investigation shows that a state official funneled grant money to her son's computer firm - even after the son was on his way to prison for making lavish purchases on the Internet with stolen credit card numbers.

Health-Care Reform

An occasional series examining federal health care reform bills and their effect on West Virginians.

Hidden: On the Trail of a Bank Robber

Roy Plummer robbed at least 14 banks in the 1980s. He fooled, among others, his first wife and baseball star John Kruk. When Plummer got out of jail, he started robbing again. His second wife Kathy Plummer believed he had been wrongly imprisoned and says she had no idea he resumed his life of crime.

Issues 2000: Race for Governor

Gazette reporters are analyzing the issues, records and platforms of the candidates for governor in this ongoing series. These stories will explain where the candidates stand on issues ranging from the environment to welfare issues to tort reform and more. Find out what the candidates say, and what they've actually done. This site also includes biographies of the candidates and links to additional information.

Lines of Power

Allegheny Energy is pushing a 500-kilovolt transmission line to carry electricity from Pennsylvania, through West Virginia, and into northern Virginia. Power company officials say the line is needed, but the proposal has hundreds of West Virginians up in arms.

Marcellus

Mining the Mountains

In West Virginia, mining companies are literally moving mountains to uncover valuable, low sulfur coal reserves. Mountaintop removal has become the dominant form of surface mining in the state. Coal operators are blasting off hilltops, and dumping leftover rock and dirt into nearby valleys. An untold amount of the state has been flattened, and hundreds of miles of streams have been buried. Find out more in this Special Report.

Monongah

December marked the 100th anniversary of the Monongah mining disaster, which took the lives of at least 362 men. Read the Gazette's coverage of the Monongah disaster: 100 years later.

NAFTA Turns 10

Love it or hate it, the North American Free Trade Agreement is turning 10 years old. What has NAFTA brought to West Virginia? Find out in this three-part series.

Pillage: Rx Drug Abuse in W.Va.

West Virginia has the nation's highest rate of drug overdose deaths, with most involving prescription drugs. In January 2011, the Gazette published a four-day series on prescription drug abuse, and we continue to cover this topic.

Policing the Police

Chronicling police oversight in West Virginia

Poultry on the Potomac

In 1997, a national environmental group charged that pollution from the poultry industry had turned the Potomac River into one of the 10 most endangered rivers in North America. More recently, fingers pointed at poultry farm runoff as the cause of a toxic microbe outbreak that killed fish in two Maryland streams. West Virginia officials say the state's chicken business is doing plenty to protect the environment. Are they right? Or is poultry really polluting the Potomac? Find out, in this special series published in October 1998.

Poverty of Opportunity

Poverty ties in with all kinds of social ills - low grades in school, poor nutrition, violence, even asthma and shorter life expectancy. But poverty is about more than money. Poor people can't get at the opportunities and services middle-class Americans take for granted. So the poor often sink into a cycle of day-to-day survival, which often ensures that their children will be poor too. In West Virginia, that's one of every five people. This year's Kids Count Databook compiled a list of opportunities and services from which poor families are often excluded. Inspired by the Kids Count report, the Gazette chose five of these topics to explore in coming weeks in the Community section.

Prescription for an Epidemic

Poisonings -- mostly drug overdoses -- now kill more Americans than guns. The fastest growing killers aren't cocaine or heroin, they're prescription pain drugs -- and West Virginians are more likely to die of overdoses than people in any other state. Read about this dilemma in a joint Gazette/West Virginia Public Broadcasting investigation.

Price of Practice

Doctors inWest Virginia say a "medical malpractice crisis" threatens the state's doctors. Rising insurance rates are driving them to retire early, limit their practices and even leave the state, they contend. Doctors insurers blame the "frequency and severity" of mostly "meritless" lawsuits filed against doctors in the Mountain State. Lawyers say patients deserve compensation when negligent doctors harm them. Who really pays the high price of medical malpractice? This three-day investigative series digs beneath the rhetoric to examine the malpractice climate in West Virginia. Are doctors fleeing the state? Why have insurance rates increased? Are lawsuits to blame? Get some answers from this series.

Project Access

In 1977, the state Legislature declared that any person has the right to inspect or copy any public record of a public body in the state. How well do county governments comply with this mandate of the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act? To find out, The Associated Press, The Charleston Gazette and 11 other newspapers visited all 55 counties to test public records access. Read about our findings in this series.

Sissonville Pipeline Explosion

Spirit of the Mountains

Spirit of the Mountains is a new multimedia feature. Viewers can watch slideshow productions by Gazette photographers, while listening to narration and audio recorded during the production of a story. New slideshows will follow in the coming weeks.

State of Decay

By nearly all measures, West Virginians have the worst dental health in the nation. Find out why.

Taken for a Ride

Three years ago, the state started an ambitious program, West Virginia Wheels, to lease used cars to thousands of welfare recipients so they could get to jobs. But West Virginia's poorest citizens didn't get the safe, reliable vehicles the state had promised. Instead, many people wound up with dangerous clunkers while used car dealers made millions. What went wrong? Find out more in "Taken for a Ride," an ongoing Gazette investigation.

The Business of Aging

This three-part series provides aging West Virginians and their families with information on the financial implications of the golden years. Job retraining for seniors, long-term health care options and ways to make a fixed income a little more flexible will be explored.

The Economies of West Virginia

This is an eight-part Sunday Gazette-Mail series focusing on the state of regional economies in West Virginia.

The Killer Cure

This Gazette investigation focuses on methadone, a drug that not only can kill pain, but also can kill the person taking it, even at the recommended dosage.

The Sago Mine Disaster

The bodies of 12 men were found Jan. 3 in the Sago Mine in Upshur County. Here is a compilation of the ongoing coverage of this tragic tale.

The Shape We're In

West Virginia leads the nation in diabetes, heart attacks, and obesity, among others. One in four West Virginia 11-year-olds has high blood pressure and high cholesterol. One in five kindergartners is obese. As one public health official said, “This is a public health emergency.” Learn about the problem, meet people who are trying to bring those numbers down, and learn what you can do. This ongoing project has been created with the help of the Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism, administered by the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The stories can also be viewed in chronological order at http://www.theshapewerein.wordpress.com

The World in West Virginia

Small pockets of ethnicity still dwell in the hills and valleys of the Mountain State. Some are about to disappear. Others are going strong. This series of articles seeks to tell their tales.

The year of 9-11

In some ways, it's hard to believe it's been a year. Then again, it seems like a lifetime since the morning that everything changed in America. To reflect on the year since Sept. 11, 2001, and the challenges to come, the Gazette offers a variety of local stories anchored in the tumultuous state of the nation and world. Issues of our safety, our preparedness, our anger, our sorrow trail through the stories. In addition, readers were asked to recount where they were and how they felt on that fateful day, and they responded generously.

Third Places

Third Places is a series that highlights important places where communities gather. When you're not at home or at work, you may be in a third place, a comfortable gathering spot where new friendships are made.

Trail of Tears

The Mountain State is criss-crossed with all-terrain-vehicle trails. The four-wheel machines are popular among hunters, farmers and those looking for an exciting ride over the state's rugged terrain. But there is a dark side to the ATV proliferation -- an inordinate number of deaths, particularly among West Virginia's children. Why is this happening? Are legislators prepared to pass safety laws after years of debate? And what about the parents and siblings left behind? Their stories provide the framework for this week-long series of articles tracing West Virginia's trail of tears.

Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster

On April 5, 2010 an explosion inside the Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, W.Va. killed 29 miners. It was the worst U.S. coal mining disaster in 40 years.

Valley on the Move

Kanawha County is suffering an exodus of people, and the population drain seems to be getting worse. Where are they going, and why are they leaving? Putnam County is growing, but almost 80 percent of the increase comes at Kanawha County's expense. That growth is slowing down as flat land becomes more scarce and houses more expensive. "Valley on the Move" looks beyond the anecdotes and uses data from the IRS to show where people are moving and how much money they take with them.

W.Va and the Mortgage Crisis

As the mortgage crisis shakes the national economy, what about West Virginia? What is the state's real foreclosure rate? Are there warning signs? What can policymakers do to protect West Virginia homeowners? West Virginia lenders foreclose far less often than out-of-state lenders do. What can be done to bring down the out-of-state rate?

Wal-Mart Culture

Fifteen years after opening its first store here, Wal-Mart has become part of the fabric of West Virginia, with 33 stores and 11,450 employees. Depending on your outlook, Wal-Mart is either a great American success story or the scourge of small-town USA. Read about it in this four-part series.

Web of Deceit

Jerry Mezzatesta was one of West Virginia's most powerful politicians. But Mezzatesta's 18-year reign in the state Legislature came to an abrupt end last year. In a series of articles, Gazette reporter Eric Eyre exposed Mezzatesta's lies and abuses, one after another, until the affair culminated with criminal sentences for Mezzatesta and his wife. Earlier this year, the stories won a first place award from the Education Writers Association, and an Investigative Reporters and Editors Medal, the journalism group's top prize for investigative reporting in America. Here's a sampling of Eyre's stories.

Willow Island: Revisited

It's been 30 years since the worst construction accident in U.S. history claimed 51 lives in Pleasants County. Look back on the disaster, the investigation and the people left behind.

Wired for Waste

In 2010, West Virginia received a $126 million federal stimulus grant to bring high-speed Internet across the state. The Gazette is scrutinizing the state's stimulus spending in an ongoing series of reports.