Ashton Marra

Assistant News Director, 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 covers the Capitol for West Virginia Public Broadcasting 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, interviewing lawmakers, lobbyists and leading a roundtable discussion focused on the top stories of the week with her colleagues from the Capitol press corps.

Ashton served as the producer and host of Viewpoint, West Virginia Public Broadcasting's 10-week political talk show in the fall of 2014. The weekly hour-long program included in-depth interviews with candidates, analysis and a reporter roundtable leading up to the 2014 general election. 

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.

Ways To Connect

WDBJ / Twitter

The general manager of a TV station in Virginia says two crew members were fatally shot on air in central Virginia.

Jeffrey A. Marks, general manager of WDBJ-TV, identified the two killed as Alison Parker and Adam Ward. Parker was 24, Ward 27.

 The station says in tweets and in a story on its website that the incident happened Wednesday morning at a shopping center on a lake in Moneta.

The nonprofit news organization Climate Central is made up of journalists who report on climate science and scientists who conduct research on the subject. The group recently released a report focused on the increasing number of danger days cities across the country will experience over the next 40 years, and the state’s capital city, Charleston, topped the list. 

West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Craft beer lovers in West Virginia have had plenty to get excited about as of late. From new breweries to new legislation, a lot has been happening for the industry in the state.

West Virginia also just wrapped up its first ever craft beer week. Highlighted by festivals, tastings, tap takeovers and other special events, the 8-day celebration comes just months after a new law went into effect that helps propel the industry forward.

Coal Layoffs, unemployed
Jessica Lilly / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has released July jobless numbers and once again West Virginia tops the list with the highest unemployment rate in the nation. 

West Virginia’s unemployment rate grew to 7.5 percent in July, up one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous month’s 7.4 percent.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this week's episode of the podcast Us & Them, producer Trey Key looks at the evolution of textbooks in the U.S. and the controversies in both Kanawha County and Texas that have shaped the textbooks students read in school.

Inside Appalachia focuses on the out-migration of young people from West Virginia and Appalachia in general, a move that often leaves Appalachian natives homesick for their roots. 

Husband and wife due Shovels and Rope play "Evil," this week's Mountain Stage Song of the Week.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The federal Environmental Protection Agency proposed a new rule this week that would regulate methane gas pollution in the oil and gas industry. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and the Obama administration wants to see emissions cut in half over the next decade. 

It's pretty much taken for granted that riding a bike is good for you. Studies have shown that biking not only benefits your physical health; it's also good for your mental health. But cycling also carries some potential risks in big cities. And we're not just talking about a car door opening into your bike lane. 

Fracking, Fluid
Baker Hughes

Antero Resources, an oil and gas company that operates in north central West Virginia, has announced intentions to build a wastewater treatment complex in Doddridge County to support its hydraulic fracturing efforts.

Antero signed an agreement with Veolia Water Technologies to build the facility. The company anticipates the complex with be able to treat 60,000 barrels of water per day.

The $275 million facility located off of Route 50 on Gum Run Rd. will allow Antero to clean flowback water used in the fracking process enough that it can be reused on other wells rather than disposed of in an injection well.

Trey Kay / Us & Them

  Texas students will be back in school soon and they’re going crack open some brand new social studies textbooks.  The books are the result of fierce fights over what kids should learn in school. Lots of American school districts struggle with this question, but nobody fights like Texans.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Honey bees pollinate about a third of the crops in the U.S. - that's about $15 billion of the agricultural economy. But honeybees have had a tough time lately: a combination of diseases, stress, parasites and pesticides have all hurt the honeybee population. Now, scientists are starting to look at how other species of bees could help pick up the slack.

The Berkeley County Fire Service Board received a federal grant last week to help recruit and train more volunteer firefighters, who protect a majority of the state.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The pension and health care benefits of thousands of coal miners could be at risk. That’s if a Virginia bankruptcy judge allows Patriot Coal to end a collective bargaining agreement with the United Mine Workers of America, but members of the union made it clear Monday, they’re not going to lose those benefits without a fight.


A new type of learning will be the focus of a consolidated elementary school in Cabell County. Although they won't be in their new building until spring, parents and teachers say expeditionary learning will make a difference for their students.

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Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Some 2,000 active and retired coal miners gathered in the parking lot of the movie theater in Scott Depot Monday afternoon, looking up at their leader United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts.

"If you think this crowd is big, you try to mine one lump of coal without us," Roberts shouted. “We won't just stand in front of your offices. We'll stand in front of your coal mines. We'll stand in front of your cleaning plants. We'll block the roads and nobody will have a job."

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Jefferson County held its 23rd annual African American Heritage and Culture Festival over the weekend with parades, live music and a memorial walk to the original site of John Brown's raid. Organized by the NAACP of the county, the weekend was meant to bring people together to remember the history of the area that helped shape the country.

The City of Morgantown has teamed up with environmental consulting firm Downstream Strategies to create an innovative way to cut carbon emissions while making a profit. 

Preliminary test scores released by the West Virginia Department of Education show students who have been taught under the state’s Common Core standards since kindergarten are exceeding national estimates when it comes to testing.

Tower for drilling horizontally into the Marcellus Shale Formation for natural gas, from Pennsylvania Route 118 in eastern Moreland Township, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, USA
Ruhrfisch [GFDL (

The West Virginia Royalty Owner’s Association will begin a round of public meetings across the state next week to talk about a piece of controversial legislation.

The meetings held across West Virginia will focus on forced pooling or lease unitization. It’s a practice in the natural gas industry where gas companies parcel of groups of land in an attempt to drill a well.

Under current state law, if a royalty owner refuses to sell their rights to the company, it can’t drill the gas well, but lawmakers attempted to change that during the last legislative session. 

The prevailing wage in West Virginia expired on July 1 of this year after a political battle between lawmakers and the executive branch, but WorkForce West Virginia says they’re still working to recalculate the wage.

The prevailing wage is the hourly rate workers are paid on construction projects that are paid for with state dollars.

Lawmakers attempted to repeal the wage rate during the 2015 legislative session, but instead passed a law calling on WorkForce West Virginia and economic researchers from Marshall and West Virginia universities to recalculate it.

The method of recalculation was presented to lawmakers in June, but the Joint Committee on Government and Finance voted it down. As a result, the wage expired on July 1.

West Virginia Legislature

West Virginia’s Senate President Bill Cole and House Speaker Tim Armstead have sent a letter to two national organizations rescinding the state’s 2009 agreement over the Common Core standards.

Robb Kendrick / National Geographic

West Virginia lawmakers and other state officials are responding to the filing of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power plan.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito is hopeful Congress can approve a long-term funding plan for the nation’s roads and bridges even though senators were forced to approve yet another short-term measure last week. The Senator made a quick stop in Nitro to talk with reporters about the measure Monday.

Members of the U.S. Senate, including Capito and Sen. Joe Manchin, approved a three-year funding bill Thursday that would mean more than $2 billion in road funding for West Virginia over the bill’s duration. 

Senators, however, were forced to also approve a short-term funding expansion through the end of October because members of the House of Representatives had already left town for their August break.

National Governors Association

According to a report by the nonprofit groups Trust for American's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, West Virginia has the highest rate of overdose deaths in the country, about 34 for every 100,000 people. The state is working to find ways to reduce those rates, but is not alone in its work. States across the country are grappling with the same problems. 

Oklahoma saw a record number of overdose deaths in 2014, reaching 864 that year. Neighboring Kentucky reported nearly 1,000 in the same year, more than half of which were due to prescription narcotics and heroin.