I was saddened to learn today of the passing of longtime Charleston Gazette investigative reporter Paul Nyden. I was an avid follower of his work ever since I started paying attention to what was happening in West Virginia.
I was in awe of his high-impact exposures of corruption and greed in corporate and government settings He was a tireless advocate for coal miners, working people and the disadvantaged.
It was a privilege to get to know him when I began working for the American Friends Service Committee in 1989. From then until his retirement a couple of years ago, if there was a story of injustice that needed to get out, you could count on Paul to do it.
He wasn't just a great reporter. He was a great reader and thinker, an avid baseball fan, and just a bit of a wild man at times.
With a PhD.from Columbia (documenting coalfield struggles), he could easily have had a cozy academic career. Instead, he was drawn to West Virginia by the struggles of miners during the Black Lung and Miners for Democracy movement.
He once told me of a conversation he had with a university administrator who was critical of his interest in such apparently trivial matters as the well being of coal miners. Paul just started staring at the ceiling.
"Why are you looking at that?: his critic asked.
"Do you ever worry about it falling on you?" Paul responded.
"No," said the administrator.
Paul just said, "They do."