Ashton Marra

Assistant News Director, Producer/Host Viewpoint, Statehouse Reporter

Ashton Marra is the Assistant News Director at West Virginia Public Broadcasting, coordinating the coverage of her fellow reporters under News Director Beth Vorhees, and serves as the producer for the morning news magazine West Virginia Morning. She also serves as the fill in host of the program.

Ashton is also the producer and host of Viewpoint, West Virginia Public Radio's new political talk show. The weekly program includes in-depth interviews with candidates, analysis and a reporter roundtable that includes journalists from across West Virginia. The show will take questions from callers and via social media.

Ashton also  covers the Capitol for West Virginia Public Radio and can be heard weekdays on West Virginia Morning with the latest statehouse news, from politics to policy and everything in between. You can keep up with her work on social media through Twitter and tumblr.

During the legislative session, Ashton focuses on the state Senate, bringing daily reports from the inner-workings of the state’s upper house on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s nightly television show The Legislature Today.  She also hosts that show on Fridays and leads a reporter roundtable discussing the top stories of the week with her colleagues from the statehouse press corps.

Ashton has most recently received national attention for her coverage of the January 9, 2014, chemical spill in Charleston. Her work was featured on NPR's hourly newscasts, Morning Edition and All Things Considered, WBUR's Here & Now, KCRW's To The Point, the PBS NewsHour and Al Jazeera America.

Ashton came to WVPBS in October of 2012 from ABC News’ morning program Good Morning America where she worked as a production associate. Ashton produced pieces for the broadcast, including the first identified victim of the Aurora, CO, movie theater shooting and the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, as well as multiple entertainment news stories.

Before her time at GMA, Ashton worked as an intern on ABC’s news assignment desk, helping to organize coverage of major news stories like the Trayvon Martin case, the Jerry Sandusky trial and the 2012 Presidential election. She also spent 18 months as a weekend reporter for WDTV based in her hometown of Clarksburg, WV, breaking the story of missing Lewis County toddler Aliayah Lunsford. Ashton’s work from that story was featured on HLN’s Nancy Grace in October of 2011.

Ashton graduated summa cum laude from West Virginia University in May of 2012, where she was named WVU’s Reporter of the Year. She covered government for the P.I. Reed School of Journalism’s bi-weekly newscast WVU News and also served a semester as the WVPBS bureau reporter.

When she isn’t reporting, Ashton enjoys cooking and is an avid supporter of the arts, including theater, music and dance. She is a huge fan of musicals and touts her collection of Playbills from the Broadway shows she’s attended, which grew by nearly 30 in her 9 months living in New York City.
 

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Economic Diversification
1:12 am
Thu October 30, 2014

What the Beckley Area Thinks of Southern W.Va.'s Economic Future

Eight members of the SCORE committee listen at their first listening tour stop in Beckley.
Ashton Marra West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A special West Virginia Senate committee, known as the Southern Coalfields Revitalizing its Economy or SCORE for short, made its first stop in Beckley Wednesday evening to hear from community members ways lawmakers can help diversify the region's economy and put people back to work. 

More than two dozen people shared their thoughts with the eight panel members in attendance. Here is what some had to say.

Infrastructure:

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Election 2014
3:38 pm
Tue October 28, 2014

How Should You Vote on Amendment One?

The Summit Bechtel Reserve in Fayette County.
Credit wikimedia commons

When you go to the polls on Election Day, or maybe before if you’re looking to vote early, there will be more than just candidates listed on your ballot. You’ll also be asked to decide whether or not West Virginia’s Constitution needs a change, but that question is not quite so clear. 

Amendment One is titled the “Nonprofit Youth Organization Tax Exemption Support Amendment” and in case you don’t think that is self explanatory, here’s what it means.

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Election 2014
12:48 pm
Mon October 27, 2014

Where Do I Vote? Pew Can Point You in the Right Direction

Credit WBOY

Over the past few months, you’ve no doubt been battered by an onslaught of campaign advertisements from the candidates themselves and from outside organizations trying to sway your opinion.

Now that early voting has started in West Virginia, campaigns are ramping up their outreach to voters, but even after you make your decisions, do you know where to go to voice those opinions? Sometimes finding your polling place can be harder than you think.

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Viewpoint
10:18 am
Fri October 24, 2014

Rahall Says Ugly Ads Will Hurt Turnout; What is Amendment One?

  Congressman Nick Rahall's race against state Sen. Evan Jenkins has been focused on the declining coal industry in southern West Virginia.

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Public Education
10:00 pm
Thu October 23, 2014

W.Va. Education Committee Exploring Realignment of Regional Education

Credit West Virginia Department of Education

For the past 20 months, the West Virginia Board of Education’s Commission on School District Governance and Administration has been discussing ways the state can restructure at the regional level to provide better service to the local school districts. At a meeting Thursday, members finalized their recommendations for the full board who will vote on them in November.

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West Virginia Morning
8:15 am
Thu October 23, 2014

Lawmakers Told WVOASIS Has More Problems, Group Prepares for Queer Film Festival

The director of WVOASIS, West Virginia's new integrated software platform, told lawmakers the fourth phase of the system will be delayed by at least three months after testing did not meet the required milestones. The opening of an expeditionary learning school in Huntington will also be delayed as crews work to renovate an old middle school into a facility equiped for a new style of learning.

The Appalachian Queer Film Festival begins this weekend in Lewisburg and it's director says it's okay to use that word.  

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State Government
7:22 am
Thu October 23, 2014

Official: WVOASIS Not Ready for Next Phase

WVOASIS Director Rick Pickens spoke to members of the Joint Committee on Government Organization on the House floor.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Lawmakers were updated Wednesday on the roll out process of the state's new software system designed to integrate almost every function in government. 

The first phase of WVOASIS, or 'Our Advanced Solution with Integrated Systems, was implemented in August of 2013. It's latest phase took effect July of this year, but wasn't necessarily the smooth transition many state officials had hoped for.

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Public Services
6:03 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

Public Utilities Say Too Much Regulation From State

Delegates listen as Paul Calamita, counsel for the West Virginia Municipal Water Quality Association, addresses regulatory concerns.
Credit Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Services

A study paid for by local public water systems says the state public service commission over-regulates the utilities and is preventing them from providing better service to their customers.

The study was paid for by the West Virginia Rural Water Association, Municipal Water Quality Association, the West Virginia section of American Water Works Association and the West Virginia Water Environment Association.

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Mine Safety
12:30 pm
Mon October 20, 2014

Official: Hundreds of Miners Tested Positive for Drug Use in Past Two Years

Director of the West Virginia Office of Miner's Health, Safety and Training presented the updated information to the Joint Committee on Labor and Worker Safety Issues.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Lawmakers received the latest numbers Monday on miners who have tested positive for drugs under a fairly new state law.

The law went to effect on January 1, 2013, that, among many other provisions, required coal mining operators and certain employers to implement a substance abuse screening program for miners and mine safety professionals.

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Viewpoint
11:38 am
Fri October 17, 2014

Tennant Outlines Plan for Senate, Recapping the 3rd Congressional District Debate

Secretary of State Natalie Tennant outlines her plan for West Virginia if elected to become the state's next U.S. Senator. 

We profile the Constitution Party's candidate for U.S. Senate Phil Hudok. 

Also, Jonathan Mattise of the Associated Press and Ben Fields of the Herald-Dispatch recap a debate between Rep. Nick Rahall and state Senator Evan Jenkins as they battle it out for the 3rd Congressional District.

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West Virginia Morning
8:15 am
Fri October 17, 2014

Revitalizing the Economy of Southern W.Va. and Studying Natural Gas

 Senate President Jeff Kessler announced the creation of SCORE, Southern Coalfields Organizing and Revitalizing their Economy, Thursday. The program will send a group of senators to the southern part of the state to hear from citizens about what they can do to revitalize the area's economy.

A West Virginia transplant in Doddridge County moved here to enjoy the rural area, but soon after, saw well pads being placed within sight of her home. Now, she invites scientists, students, and even reporters to come study the health affects of the activity from her home.

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Benefits
4:45 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

Same Sex Couples Are Now Covered by PEIA

A spokeswoman for the Department of Administration confirmed Thursday that married, same sex couples in West Virginia are now able to apply for coverage under the state's Public Employee Insurance Agency.

The change comes after Attorney General Patrick Morrisey decided last week to no longer defend the state's gay marriage ban in federal court. Governor Tomblin soon after released a statement directing state agencies to "take appropriate action" to make the practice legal in West Virginia, including the reprinting of marriage license applications.

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Election 2014
2:39 pm
Tue October 14, 2014

3rd Congressional District Candidates Square Off in Debate

Congressman Nick Rahall and state Senator Evan Jenkins took the stage to a standing ovation Tuesday.
Ashton Marra West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The two candidates for West Virginia's 3rd Congressional District squared off in their only scheduled debate Tuesday evening in Huntington. The event was sponsored by the Huntington Herald-Dispatch.

Republican state Senator Evan Jenkins came out swinging, immediately attacking Democratic Congressman Nick Rahall in his opening remarks for his party connections, calling him a "foot solider" for President Obama and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

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Election 2014
3:27 pm
Mon October 13, 2014

What Do You Want to Hear from the U.S. Senate Candidates?

West Virginia Public Broadcasting is hosting a second debate for the candidates running for U.S. Senate and wants to know, what do you want to hear from them?

Submit your questions to us by the morning of Thursday, October 16, and we'll choose some to ask the candidates Friday morning.

The debate itself will air Friday evening from 7-8pm on West Virginia Public Broadcasting and West Virginia Public Radio. All of the candidates on the ballot have been invited to participate.

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Viewpoint
10:40 am
Fri October 10, 2014

Candidates on the Attack: The Race for the 2nd Congressional District

The race in the 2nd Congressional District has gotten more and more ugly over the past few weeks as candidates dig in for the final push before Election Day. Democratic candidate Nick Casey talks about his view of the partisan politics in Washington and how he thinks he can make a change, as well as discusses the major issues facing the district.

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Marriage Equality
4:59 pm
Thu October 9, 2014

Meet the First Gay Couples to Get Marriage Licenses In West Virginia

Chris Bostic and David Epp were the fist gay couple to get married in Kanawha County.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Just a few hours after Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced he would no longer fight a challenge to West Virginia's gay marriage ban in court and Governor Tomblin directed state agencies to begin taking steps toward allowing the practice, Chris Bostic and David Epp of Charleston were the first couple to apply for a marriage license in Kanawha County.

Moments before, Justin Murdock and William Glavaris, as well as Casie McGee and Sarah Adkins received their licenses to marry in Cabell County.

Counties across West Virginia are issuing the licenses after orders from the state saying not to turn couples away.

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Public Education
11:17 pm
Wed October 8, 2014

Local Control Returned to Grant County BOE

Grant County Board of Education President Scotty Miley addressed the state board before their vote Wednesday.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The West Virginia Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday to return local control of the school district to the Grant County Board of Education after nearly five years of intervention.

The system was taken over in 2009 after and audit showed the county was failing in multiple areas, including curriculum, student achievement and lacked leadership.

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Public Education
2:10 pm
Wed October 8, 2014

New W.Va. Superintendent Releases Schools Plan

State Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano presented his six point plan to the West Virginia Board of Education Wednesday.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia's new superintendent of schools has released his goals for improving the state's public education system, including a focus on improving student attendance and graduation rates.

Michael Martirano presented the plan to the state Board of Education on Wednesday.

The plan would increase pre-kindergarten offerings in all elementary schools and early childhood learning centers, including the expansion of programs before and after school and during the summer.

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Same Sex Marriage
9:15 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

What Does the U.S. Supreme Court's Inaction Mean for Gay Marriage in W.Va.?

Credit Pine / en.wikipedia.org

When the United States Supreme Court ruled Monday not to consider the appeals before them against lower courts’ same sex marriage rulings that meant five new states could now issues marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. 

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Home Rule
12:42 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

Home Rule Board Announces 16 New Cities

Credit Martinsburg Berkeley County Convention and Visitors Bureau

The West Virginia Municipal Home Rule Board announced the sixteen new cities who will take part in the extension of the pilot program Monday in Bridgeport.

Home rule legislation was first adopted in the state as a five year pilot program for four cities. In 2013, the program was extended through 2019 and expanded to an additional 16 cities.

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