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

Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

After the chemical leak from the Freedom Industries site was discovered, some blame was quickly placed on the state Department of Environmental Protection for not properly regulating the tanks. But soon enough, both the public and state lawmakers found out the DEP had no authority over the inspection of those tanks.

That quickly changed as the 2014 legislative session progressed, passing a law to create a registration and inspection program.

Friday marks one year since a chemical tainted the drinking water supply for 300,000 people in and around Charleston, leaving some without usable water for as many as ten days. State lawmakers immediately took action to regulate aboveground storage tanks like the one responsible for the contamination, but the regulatory effort is on going.

WVUniversity Healthcare Logo / Berkeley Medical Center

Earlier this month the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared a flu epidemic in the nation and named West Virginia a state with widespread flu activity. Now some hospitals in the eastern panhandle are taking extra precautions to make sure the virus doesn’t spread in their facilities.

We continue our look at our favorite stories of 2014 first with a visit to the Kanawha Charleston Humane Association. In August, Roxy Todd reported the association in the past few years has decreased their euthanization rate by some 95 percent.

Liz McCormick visited Paw Paw High School in the fall as students teamed up with NASA to build a full scale model satellite. The project started after the 7-12 school's only science teacher took her students on a field trip and thought, why can't we do that? She says her students also learned more than science along the way.

As we continue recapping our favorite stories of 2014, we return to Sophia in Raleigh County where a group of local musicians get together each week to play bluegrass. While most of the participants are from older generations, one Glenville State College student learned the basics from the group that eventually inspired him to study the music style in school.

Jessica Lilly brings us the sounds of the Sophia bluegrass jam band and discusses why this tradition is so important to Appalachia. 

West Virginia’s U.S. Senators responded Tuesday to President Obama’s announcement that should the Keystone XL Pipeline be approved by Congress, he intends to veto the bill.

The proposed pipeline would run from tar sands oil deposits in Canada through the heartland of America to oil refineries on the Gulf Coast. Industry groups say the pipeline would create construction jobs, but many activists say the environmental costs outweigh those benefits.

WVDNR

Senator Joe Manchin has appointed the former state director of the division of natural resources to a new, elevated post. 

Manchin named West Virginia's former director of the Division of Natural Resources Frank Jezioro the senator's new liaison to sportsmen and natural resources. Manchin was recently tapped to serve as co-chair of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus and will hold a position on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in the new Congress.

As we continue our recap of our favorite stories of 2014, we start by meeting a veteran who suffers from PTSD, but found his life changed when he found the West Virginia Warrior and Veterans to Agriculture Program.

A Marshall University student shares the pride she felt when her hometown was named host of the 2014 Winter Olympics. She spoke with Clark Davis about the changes she saw in Sochi, Russia, as the media previewed the Olympic games. 

We're featuring our favorite stories of 2014 this week on West Virginia Morning. 

Monday starts the week with an interview with Fiona Ritchie, host of NPR's "The Thistle and Shamrock." Ritchie, along with noted musician David Orr, published a book in the fall which details the history and connection between Irish and Scottish heritage and Appalachian music and culture. 

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Republican Senators and Delegates met with members of the National Conference of State Legislators for a detailed look into something they participated in, but never been in charge of before: committees.

In-coming House Speaker Tim Armstead and Senate President Bill Cole invited the group to Charleston to lead a morning session taking Republican leaders through the ins and outs of organizing and running a committee meeting, setting agendas and managing not just time, but also the committee members.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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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