He received several writing awards from the West Virginia Press Association, and even more of his stories were “picked up” by the Associated Press during the course of his 18-year career as a newspaper journalist in Wheeling, but for more than two years Mark Bell has been spreading his humor throughout the Upper Ohio Valley with his “Good As News” Facebook timeline.
Bell began his career at the Wheeling newspapers when he was in his early 20s and he was one of the “city editors” for the final five years with the outfit. But once his daughter was born, he decided it was time to seek out a position that provided him and his new family with increased compensation.
But Bell didn’t completely, vanish and he’s never quit writing. Initially he launched a website called “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” a platform that featured more than 10 local writers and journalists who composed fairly serious pieces on local government and local issues.
“I spent a lot of years sitting in three-hour council meetings when I was a city reporter for the local newspapers, and I always dreaded having to go back to the office and write three stories in one hour,” Bell explained. “This makes up for all of the daydreaming I was doing during those council meetings about what I would like to report as opposed to what I knew I would have to report.
“I worked at the newspapers for 18 years until the time when the Nuttings took over the Pirates, and after that happened I was immediately scared that they would trade me to a Japanese newspaper,” he said with a smile. “‘Good As News’ is my way of being a little sarcastic like I wanted to be back in those days, and I believe people really appreciate satire, and I think a lot of people want to put that kind of spin on a lot of the news stories they see these days.”
That is why Bell usually publishes three times per week, but that also depends on what news material is available from around the Upper Ohio Valley.
“It also depends if the spark plugs in my brain are working,” he said. “There are times when you can look at a story, and it just writes itself, and then there are other days when you struggle. I look at the paper, at the local TV stations, and I listen to talk radio to see what they are all reporting so I can find something that I can put a humorous twist to, but at times it just doesn’t work.
“One of the things that turned me toward satire while I was a newspaper reporter was the first story I covered. It was about a runaway monkey named ‘Alphie’ from the Pittsburgh Zoo, and there I was, sitting in a police cruiser with the chief of police form Bellaire, and we are driving out into the country to chase the monkey. We ended up in the middle of a cemetery, and we saw the monkey and tried to pursue it. But then he just looked at us and took off and was gone,” Bell explained. “That’s how I spent a couple of months in my early reporting career, chasing a monkey around Bellaire.”
Oh, it was news all right. Huge news.
“There were a lot of people there for it, and the monkey was actually taken back to the WPXI helicopter,” Bell remembered. “That ceremony was like it was the grand opening of a new highway or something like that.”
He also expects Wheeling City Council and Mayor Glenn Elliott to provide fodder for the Facebook page because of a change