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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Business
2:55 am
Tue December 16, 2014

Lawmakers Prepare to Craft Boy Scout Legislation

Raleigh County Airport Manager Tom Cochran addressed those gathered at the public forum in the Fayette County Courthouse.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The Legislature's Joint Committee on Finance traveled to Fayetteville Monday evening to hear from area residents about their concerns about the financial implications of a newly approved Constitutional Amendment.

The amendment, which was approved in November by West Virginia voters with 62 percent of the vote, will allow the Boy Scouts of America to lease their Summit Bechtel Reserve to private organizations while maintaining their property tax exemption. 

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WV Legislature
2:30 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

WVOASIS Being Tested for Security Weaknesses

Jason Pizatella, Acting Secretary of the Department of Administration, updated lawmakers on the OASIS project in the House Chamber.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Lawmakers were updated today on the security measures the state is taking to protect employee information in the OASIS system. 

WVOASIS stands for Our Advanced Solution with Integrated Systems. The computer software system is designed to integrate all functions of state government into one and has been rolled out in phases since 2013.

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Natural Gas
10:14 pm
Sun December 14, 2014

Industry Backed Bill Could Force Mineral Owners to Sell

President of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association Kevin Ellis presented the bill to lawmakers during a November interim meeting.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

As lawmakers return to town this week for their final interim session of 2014, they'll learn more about a practice in the natural gas industry companies want them to approve through legislation: forced pooling.

Kevin Ellis, president of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, explained to lawmakers during a November meeting, when companies prepare to drill a well they create a giant rectangle of land parcels and then negotiate with each mineral owner within that rectangle for their gas rights.

By pooling these owners together, companies can drill a well and then pay out mineral owners proportionally by land acreage for the gas produced.

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Courts
5:04 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Judge Orders Hearing on Motion to Lift Gag Order

Credit Brianhayden1980 / wikimedia Commons

The judge in Don Blankenship's case has scheduled a hearing after the former Massey CEO responded Thursday to a request by several news outlets to lift a gag order.  

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger issued the order Thursday evening scheduling a hearing on the motion to lift the gag order.

That motion was filed by the Friends of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, The Charleston Gazette, The Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio Nov. 14.

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Justice Reform
2:07 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Reducing Truancy Top Concern of Juvenile Justice Study

From right to left, West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin, Court Administrative Director Steve Canterbury, Justice Menis Ketchum and Chief Justice Robin Davis at the event announcing the task force's recommendations.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Governor Tomblin's Intergovernmental Task Force on Juvenile Justice released its final report Thursday which includes some 20 recommendations on how to reduce the state's incarcerated youth population. The report focuses heavily on preventative measures to deal with status offenders, or juveniles who commit offenses that would not be considered crimes for an adult. 

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Public Education
11:54 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Common Core: Educators Say Yes, Lawmakers Aren't Sure

State Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano speaking to the west Virginia Board of Education.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Members of the state Board of Education heard directly from teachers this month about the development and the implementation of the state’s Next Generation Standards. Those standards are West Virginia’s version of Common Core.

“So, today is a moment for us to pause as a state to reflect on where we are with our education reform and our educational progress,” State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano said during the board’s meeting Wednesday.

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Police Relations
9:15 pm
Tue December 9, 2014

Charleston Police Chief: "We Will Not Tolerate Racism"

Police Chief Brent Webster talks to the full group at the Charleston Civic Center.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

In just the past few weeks, we’ve seen communities across the country continue to react to the deaths of two black men killed by police officers. Grand juries in both Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York, decided not to indict two white officers in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, sparking protests and riots in not just those communities, but many others.

In West Virginia, protests have been small and peaceful, but that doesn’t mean law enforcement officers aren’t taking seriously the possibility of a similar situation happening in the state. 

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Resignation
3:57 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

State Fire Marshal to Step Down for Post at DOC

West Virginia’s Fire Marshal announced Monday he’s stepping down from his post after more than 22 years in the Fire Marshal’s office.

State Fire Marshal Anthony Carrico will be leaving his current job to take over as a corrections program manager in the state Division of Corrections.

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Government
12:11 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

After Election Takeover, Republican Leaders Outline Priorities

Credit Flickr / davidwilson1949

This election cycle was a historic one for West Virginians, electing a Republican majority in both the state House and Senate and sending all but one Republican to Congress to represent the state. Those state and federal leaders in met in Charleston Monday to discuss their path forward.

Senator-elect Shelley Moore Capito fronted the group of lawmakers during a press conference at the Capitol after a morning meeting amongst party leaders. Capito says the state’s Congressional delegation plans to work closely with in-waiting House Speaker Tim Armstead and Senate President Bill Cole in the upcoming year to move their issues forward.

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West Virginia Morning
7:55 am
Fri December 5, 2014

Marshall and Concord Head to Football Championships

Both Marshall and Concord Universities head into the weekend with big games before them. Marshall will take on Louisiana Tech in the Conference USA Championship in Huntington and Concord will meet Bloomsberg for the Super Region One Championship in Athens.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller gave his farewell speech on the U.S. Senate floor Thursday, thanking his family, staff and fellow West Virginians for allowing him to serve.

This episode also include the Mountain Stage Song of the Week "Whatch'a Gonna Do" by Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn.

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Health
9:24 am
Thu December 4, 2014

Gupta Named W.Va. Chief Health Officer

Dr. Rahul Gupta.
Credit Kanawha Charleston Health Department

The state Bureau for Public Health will have a new chief beginning January 1 after a trying year for its current head.

The Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Karen Bowling announced in a press release Thursday Dr. Letitia Tierney will resign as the state’s chief Public Health Officer at the end of the year. Current Kanawha-Charleston Executive Director Dr. Rahul Gupta will take over as Commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health beginning Jan. 1, 2015.

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West Virginia Morning
8:41 am
Thu December 4, 2014

What is a RESA?, Wheeling Restaurant Focuses on Local Food

The state Board of Education's Commission on School District Governance and Administration focused in on the services provided by RESAs, or Regional Education Service Agencies. RESAs are regional offices that provide services to county schools like professional development or technology support. 

The commission voted yesterday to recommend the board define the services provided at the RESAs, put a performance metric system in place and take away their ability to offer community service courses for extra income to instead focus on student achievement.

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Public Education
8:31 am
Thu December 4, 2014

Education Commission Recommends Redefining Regional Education Services

Commissioners listen as a representative of Tyler County Schools discusses the change to RESAs.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The West Virginia Board of Education's Commission on School District Governance and Administration is recommending the state board work to redefine the educational services provided by regional offices.

Those regions are known as RESAs, Regional Education Service Agencies, and there are eight in  West Virginia. Those offices encompass all 55 county school districts in the state and help provide some services like professional development, bulk purchasing and technology support.

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West Virginia Morning
7:51 am
Wed December 3, 2014

W.Va. Poet Takes on Coal in Latest Work

St. Albans native Crystal Good takes on the racism, politics, and coal in her latest work "Appalachian Blackface." The poem premiered at November's Summit on Race Matters in Appalachia held in Charleston. 

In it, Good compares the blackface minstrel shows of the 1800's to today's political climate.

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Environment
12:59 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Delegate Says DEP Hasn't Moved on Requests About Injection Well

A waste pond at the Lochghelly injection well site.
Credit Jessica Lilly / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Delegate John Pino requested two things of the state Department of Environmental Protection during a November interim meeting. The first was information about the permit status of an injection well in Fayette County, his district. The second was for the department to conduct tests of a creek near the site for possible contamination.

Three weeks later, Pino said he still hasn’t heard from the agency.

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West Virginia Morning
7:50 am
Tue December 2, 2014

W.Va. Responds to Proposed Carbon Rules, Minority Business Expo

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced yesterday the state had enter nearly 70 pages worth of comments in response to the federal Environmental Protection Agency's proposed rule to limit carbon emissions across the country. The rule was released in June, but Monday was the final day for public comment.

Dr. Carolyn Stuart and the state Office of Minority Affairs will sponsor a Minority Business Expo in Charleston this week meant to connect small business owners and entrepreneurs with resources to help grow their operations.

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Small Businesses
6:25 am
Tue December 2, 2014

Business Expo Designed to Encourage Minoirities

Dr. Carolyn Stuart.

The West Virginia Office of Minority Affairs is preparing for Wednesday Minority Business Expo in Charleston, a day long event meant to encourage and connect small business leaders.

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News
2:07 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Media Outlets Challenge Gag Order in Blankenship Case

A sketch of Don Blankenship during his November plea hearing.
Credit Sketch artist Jesse Corlis

The Friends of West Virginia Public Broadcasting joined four other news outlets challenging a judge's gag order in a former West Virginia coal executive's criminal case. 

The motion was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Beckley by The Associated Press, The Charleston Gazette, The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio and the Friends of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

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Investigation
2:02 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Motives Behind Mon. Co. Shootings Unfolding, Victims Identified

Thirty-nine year old Jody Hunt of Westover has been identified as a suspect in the shootings.
Credit West Virginia State Police

UPDATED: 1:36 p.m. Tuesday December 2, 2014 

Police say a towing company owner killed his ex-girlfriend, two men she was having a relationship with and the owner of a rival tow truck firm in West Virginia.

Police say the shooter, Jody Lee Hunt, killed himself after about a 12-hour manhunt Monday. State Police Lt. Michael Baylous and Monongalia County Sheriff Kenneth "Al" Kisner on Tuesday revealed the motive for the rampage during a radio interview on West Virginia MetroNews.

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Carbon Emissions
11:45 am
Mon December 1, 2014

EPA Reaches Final Day of Public Comment on Proposed Carbon Emission Rule

The Mt. Storm power plant is coal-fired and would have to reduce carbon emissions under the EPA proposed rule.
Credit Cecelia Mason / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Monday is the final day the federal Environmental Protection Agency will accept comments on their proposed rule to limit carbon emissions from coal fired power plants.

The EPA announced the rule in June of this year aimed at cutting CO2 emissions for the country by 30 percent by 2030. Individually if the rule were approved as is, West Virginia would have to cut its emissions by 15 percent compared to 2012 measurements.

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