|By Bob Weaver 2001|
"Writers - People who talk to themselves for a living, but many don't get paid." -
My columnist friend Dave Peyton got canned from his 35 year job at the
Huntington-Herald Dispatch last week. Gannett, a publishing chain which owns the
paper, said he violated a company policy, after which he was given a choice, resign or
get fired. He resigned.
His demise at the Huntington paper has touched my irascible nature, particularly
when it comes to free speech, opinion and public information, but also a passion
within to reach deep into my roots and speak the unspoken, particularly in the hills of
West Virginia and right here in Sunny Cal.
First of all, Peyton was trashed not for any legal or ethical problem, but a "rule" which
the paper refused to disclose. It is likely the paper would challenge such procedure in
the public domain.
Secondly, my wrath goes beyond. Daily newspapers are now owned by corporate
chains and with a few exceptions have become formatted, controlled spin sheets
solely directed toward turning a buck. Most disallow diverse opinion and rarely report
the newsworthy events that affect the lives of their readers.
Many have become fuzzy publications like the Parkersburg News-Sentinel, owned by
the Ogden chain, rarely to offend and barely connected to the concerns of their
community, except maybe sports.
I should say the fine folks who work at the Parkersburg paper are not responsible for
policy, much like the Herald-Dispatch policy which hammered Dave. Our friend and
Calhoun native, Gaylen Duskey, now works for the Parkersburg papers. He is an
outstanding award winning writer, and has recently done much to remind folks about
life in Sunny Cal.
Most of our small "mass" of readers are unfamiliar with Dave Peyton, except when he
has picked-up on events reported by The Herald. You possibly have seen the crusty
character on public TV's "Under Fire" or the state-wide radio program "Talkline."
Dave Peyton has moved my spirit these past few days, not just because he takes the
time to come to the Village of Hur and do stories about our fledgling internet
publication, but because of basic principles (not policies) to which he has adhered,
like his passion to declare he has been "tempered by the fires" of West Virginia's
history as a native son.
My conscious was piqued by Peyton's recollections - "I walked in the mud and dead
bodies of Buffalo Creek in 1972, and heard the pronouncement from Pittson Coal: The
failed slag dam and the 125 dead bodies were an act of God." I too was there for
several days and I have tried to forget the sights, sounds and odors of death and
devastation. I too was changed, my outlook about politics, corporations and greed in
my beloved state.
I talked with Dave this week by phone about his 35 years of writing about place and
time and people, and things that need to be said. Dave Peyton is a passionate
Dave said on his web page davepeyton.com "I'm
not just some smarmy immigrant here to save the state from itself. I was born here to
Peyton says he becomes his worst enemy. He can't help it. "Your native son is
blessed to live here. Your native son feeds on your spirit and beauty. Your native son
intends to stay and fight - for the people, for the land, for the flicker and his bungling
Last week I took a day and drove from Oka to White Oak, Walnut to Nicut, Beech to
Jesse's Run, Rocksdale to Hur, Joker to Annamoriah, Big Bend to Yellow Creek, Big
Springs to Grantsville and on to Russett and Sand Ridge, a cruise around Sunny
At the end of the day's journey I felt renewed again. And because of the plight of my
friend Dave Peyton, I decided to begin to write this Sunny Cal Journal, to scratch my
writing itch and to record for you some small and big events that are important to the
fabric of my life, and hopefully yours. Maybe, like Dave, I'll become my worst
This new column begins as the sun goes down for Dave's readers in Huntington.
We hope and pray he will not be silenced for long.