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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Race Issues
1:14 pm
Wed November 26, 2014

W.Va. Groups Stand with Michael Brown

A group of about 25 protesters gathered on the Capitol steps.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A group of about 25 protestors gathered on the steps of the state Capitol Wednesday with handmade signs chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot,” just as thousands of other activists gathered in large cities across the country. The group, while small in numbers, was there to show their support of Michael Brown, the black teenager shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, this summer.

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Weather
8:32 am
Wed November 26, 2014

Half the State Bracing for Snow

Credit Intellicast

Nearly half of the state is bracing for snow as the Thanksgiving travel season gets underway in West Virginia.  

Forecasters say a nor'easter is making its way up the East Coast bringing precipitation Wednesday into Thursday, with snowfall expected in the higher elevations especially across central Appalachia.

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Athletics
3:48 pm
Tue November 25, 2014

Mountain East Conference Tournament to Stay in Charleston

Credit Mountain East Conference

A new agreement will keep the Mountain East Conference's annual basketball tournaments in Charleston through 2017.

The agreement between the City of Charleston, the Charleston Convention and Visitor's Bureau and the Charleston Civics Center will keep both the men's and women's basketball tournaments in the capital city for the next three years.

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Politics
3:22 pm
Mon November 24, 2014

W.Va. Poet: “Appalachian Blackface” Story of 2014 Election Cycle

West Virginia poet Crystal Good.
Credit Paul Corbitt Brown

Editor's Note: The audio links in this story contain some racially charged words that may not be suitable for all listeners. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, I want to tell you a story. It’s a strange, fascinating and awful tale staged in West Virginia during the 21st century when they developed a unique craft, an art form of performance known as Appalachian blackface."

The opening lines of Crystal Good's newest poem "Appalachian Blackface" are meant to pull the audience into a theatrical tale, one where the politicians are the performers and West Virginia voters the ticket holders to a show the centers around coal, economics and race.

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Immigration
12:48 pm
Fri November 21, 2014

Manchin: President Should Have Given Congress Timeline on Immigration

Credit Courtesy Photo

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin today criticized President Obama’s new executive rule the will affect millions of illegal immigrants in this country not because of the rule itself he said, but because of the timing.

The President announced the temporary shield for more than 5 million illegal immigrants in a primetime speech Thursday.

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Public Services
7:03 pm
Tue November 18, 2014

Public Service Commissioner Defends State Oversight of Utilities

PSC Chair Michael Albert addresses lawmakers on the House floor.
Credit Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

West Virginia Public Service Commission Chairman Michael Albert appeared before a Joint Judiciary Committee meeting Tuesday at the Capitol to respond to a report the committee received last month. That report accused the Public Service Commission of having too much regulatory power.

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Environment and Safety
2:20 pm
Mon November 17, 2014

DEP Official: Radiation Levels in Fracking Waste Safe

Mike Dorsey, director of emergency management and homeland security, presented the preliminary report findings Monday.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

State lawmakers were updated Monday morning on a study the Department of Environmental Protection began earlier this year. That study focuses on the level of radioactive material in drill cuttings from horizontal fracking sites.

The West Virginia DEP has tested 15 sites for levels of radioactivity in drilling waste. The test sites included Wetzel County’s landfill, an Ohio water treatment plant, and multiple drilling sites in counties in North Central West Virginia.

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LGBT Issues
8:10 pm
Sun November 16, 2014

Fairness Focused on Next Steps in Fight for Equality

Fairness West Virginia Executive Director Andrew Schneider.
Credit Fairness WV

The LGBT advocacy organization Fairness West Virginia held their annual conference in Charleston Saturday and this year, the group had plenty to celebrate. 

After saying he would no longer fight an appeal to the state's gay marriage ban, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's decision essentially made the practice legal in the state and on Oct. 9, county clerks began issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples across the state.

Fairness Executive Director Andrew Schneider said Saturday that's certainly something to celebrate, but the fight isn't yet over. Now, the organization is looking on to its next legislative battles. 

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Local Control
11:25 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

State BOE Updated on Fayette County Intervention

West Virginia Board of Education President Gayle Manchin and state Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano receive a report during the board's November meeting.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

During the West Virginia Board of Education's November meeting Wednesday, Fayette County Superintendent Serena Starcher presented board members with the results of a survey and analysis of the performance of the county's secondary schools.

In October 2013, the state board directed the county to conduct the study specific to Meadow Bridge High School, a school a proposed facilities plan for the county would have consolidated if approved. Starcher said Wednesday, however, the county decided to expand the study to all middle and high schools.

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Public Education
11:42 am
Wed November 12, 2014

Mingo County Schools Returned to Local Control

The West Virginia Board of Education at their November meeting in Mingo County.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The West Virginia Board of Education returned local control to Mingo County Schools after nearly 10 years of intervention. 

Board members voted unanimously Wednesday during their November meeting at Mingo Central High School in Delbarton.

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Race Issues
8:03 pm
Tue November 11, 2014

Summit Brings Racial Issues to Forefront

The Summit on Race Matters in Appalachian opened Monday night with a panel discussion in the Culture Center Theater.
Ashton Marra West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Over the past two days, dozens of people gathered in Charleston to have conversations organizers appropriately refer to as “racy.” The Summit on Race Matters in Appalachia pulled West Virginians from all areas, all backgrounds into the capital city to discuss how national racial tensions seen in places like Ferguson, Missouri, materialize right here at home. 

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A Senator's Legacy
8:06 pm
Sun November 9, 2014

Rockefeller Honored with School of Policy, Politics in His Name

Dr. Scott Crichlow, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, President Gordon Gee and Sen. Joe Manchin at West Virginia University's Wise Library.
Ashton Marra West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Some 2,000 boxes of documents, 500 gigabytes of data and hundreds of pieces of memorabilia now have a new home at West Virginia University after President E. Gordon Gee and Senator Jay Rockefeller announced Saturday the university's library will serve as Rockefeller's official Senatorial archive.

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Gubernatorial Appointment
1:39 pm
Fri November 7, 2014

Tomblin Taps McCabe for Public Service Commission

On the final night of the 2014 Legislative Session, Senate President Jeff Kessler stepped down from the podium to allow retiring member Brooks McCabe to oversee the chamber.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin Friday announced the appointment of retiring state Senator Brooks McCabe to the West Virginia Public Service Commission. McCabe replaces Ryan Palmer who resigned in September to take a position with the Federal Communications Commission. 

McCabe will resign his from his seat in the Senate to take the position Nov. 15. He did not run for re-election this year.

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Republican Majority
11:35 am
Fri November 7, 2014

Hall Says Political Flip to Keep District Relevant

Credit Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Wyoming County Senator Daniel Hall made the political switch from Democrat to Republican this week giving the GOP an 18 to 16 majority. On Viewpoint Friday, Hall said he made the switch to keep his district relevant.

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Viewpoint
11:01 am
Fri November 7, 2014

Historic Wins and a Party Switch Mean New Faces Will Lead W.Va. in Washington and at Home

The 2014 mid-term elections were significant not just for the national Republican Party, but for the state GOP as well. The party was able to gain control of all 4 Congressional seats on the ballot and flip both the West Virginia House and Senate. 

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Economy
3:13 pm
Thu November 6, 2014

Governor's Trip to Brazil to Focus on Ethane Cracker Plant

Credit West Virginia Legislature

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin announced Thursday he will lead a trade mission to Brazil next week to continue talks with two companies who plan to bring an ethane cracker to the state. 

Tomblin and members of the West Virginia Development Office will meet with executives from Odebrecht and Braskem while on the four day trip to the South American country, focusing on the next steps for Project ASCENT.

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Higher Education
3:08 pm
Thu November 6, 2014

WVU Exploring Purchase of Beckley Campus

Credit Swimmerguy269 / wikimedia Commons

West Virginia University announced Thursday it is exploring the purchase of the former Mountain State University Beckley campus.The University announced a due diligence agreement in a press release. The agreement allows WVU to explore the facilities, location, and academic programs among many other areas at Mountain State to determine if it meets their academic and fiscal expectations.

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Politics
7:33 pm
Wed November 5, 2014

Hall Switches Parties, GOP Will Control Both Chambers of West Virginia Legislature

Credit West Virginia Legislature

Senator Daniel Hall has left the Democratic Party, flipping the West Virginia Legislature entirely into the hands of the GOP, according to a source in the state's Republican Party office. 

The party affiliation change comes after a deadlock in the state Senate where Republicans and Democrats each had 17 members as a result of Tuesday's election.

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Senate Power
3:51 pm
Wed November 5, 2014

After Tuesday's Election West Virginia's State Senate Was Tied. Now, It's Not.

Credit Martin Valent / WV Legislative Photography

Updated Wednesday, November 5, 2014 at 7:45 p.m. 

State Senator Daniel Hall has switched from Democrat to Republican, switching the balance of power.  For more, see this story.

Original Post from Wednesday, November 5, 2014 at 3: 51 p.m. 

After Tuesday’s mid-term elections, Democrats in the West Virginia Senate are living with a new reality.  There are 17 of them and 17 Republicans, leaving the upper chamber in a dead even tie.

The results mean control of the Senate, and Senate President Jeff Kessler’s position of power, hang in the balance, but it’s not one that’s likely to be decided any time soon.

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Election 2014
2:17 pm
Wed November 5, 2014

Five Ways the West Virginia GOP Made History in the 2014 Election

Credit West Virginia Public Broadcasting / Google Fusion Tables

The story of the 2014 Midterm Elections in West Virginia is all about the Republican Party.

Calling Tuesday's election a statement that the President's polices were on the ballot, Republicans won big in federal races and dramatically shifted the power of the state legislature.

Here are the five biggest stories of the night:

1. The House of Delegates is now in the hands of the GOP for the first time in 83 years.

The state Republican Party's main focus this year was changing the balance of power in the House of Delegates. Running on a campaign of "83 years is enough" and pointing to the longtime control of Democrats, the GOP pulled 64 of 100 seats in the state legislature's lower house. 

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