Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

November 4, 2012

Here’s hoping angry electorate will calm after pizza night in the newsroom

— — As election 2012 enters its final stretch, there is one thing most Democrats and Republicans can agree on — thankfully, in a few days, all the craziness will be over.

Each election cycle the bitterness, partisanship, finger-pointing and non-stop campaigning seems to get more intense. We’re inundated with “he said,” “she said.” “He did,” “he didn’t.” “He will, she won’t.”

At some point the madness has to end. Fortunately that will be Tuesday night, when the final votes are counted and the winners named.

With 20-plus years in the news business I’ve never witnessed an election with this type of heated emotion. Many supporters of candidates on both sides of the aisle are intense, driven and, it would appear, angry.

This year, as in decades before, the Daily Telegraph interviewed many candidates in editorial board sessions. And, in most cases, these interviews ended in endorsements. We did not go into any race intent on endorsing one candidate over another. But, when the choice was clear, we called it.

We endorsed some candidates who we feel will win, and others whose victory may be a long shot.

As usual, I received some angry feedback regarding our endorsements. But when a newspaper puts a stamp of approval on both Democrats and Republicans, one knows there will be long days ahead.

I was a bit surprised, however, by the intensity and below-the-belt anger of some regarding columns and editorials appearing on our opinion page in recent weeks.

One reader and candidate, who apparently knew members of my family, was incensed by a column I recently wrote taking incumbent Democrat attorney general candidate Darryl McGraw to task for his actions during an editorial board session four years ago.

The parting shot in his email was that my father “has worn a hole in his casket turning over in his grave.”

Have we really sunk to this level?

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One interesting aspect of this election season has been the cross-border campaigning of state-wide candidates.

In recent weeks, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin was in Tazewell County stumping for Virginia senatorial candidate Tim Kaine. Readers might remember that Manchin and Kaine were both governors of their respective Virginias at the same time, and made an appearance in our region to promote dual-state cooperation and unity.

U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith, of Southwest Virginia’s famous Fightin’ Ninth district, also had a planned appearance in West Virginia recently to aid the campaign of Republican West Virginia attorney general candidate Patrick Morrisey. The event, scheduled at Industrial Plating and Machine in Brushfork, was canceled due to inclement weather conditions.

Also last week, Republican Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell traveled across the state line to Martinsburg to stump for West Virginia gubernatorial candidate Bill Maloney.

It would seem popularity is more important than statehood during the 2012 election season.

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An editor’s duties on election night can vary, but much of the job revolves around making decisions. Who to assign to cover each race? What stories to place on A-1? When to hold pages in hopes of getting more race results, and when to move them on to the press?

But, according to newsroom staff, my most important job on election night is simple: ordering pizza.

This job first fell to me many years ago when I was Lifestyles editor, and I’ve not yet been able to delegate to another (although current Lifestyles Editor Jamie Parsell is a top prospect for the job).

When attempting to assign this task to reporters in the past, I was met with a barrage of questions: “How many do I order?” “What toppings do I get?” “What about crusts — thin or pan?”

Yes, an editor’s vast decision making skills are quite important.

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Election night in the newsroom is a hurry-up-and-wait situation. Standing ads — stories including biographical information on candidates — are prepared well in advance, ready to be topped off with vote totals and lead paragraphs announcing the winners. Thus, much of election night is spent enjoying the pizza while waiting for results.

I’m sure this Tuesday will be no different.

After all preparations are in place long-time reporters and editors will sit around the newsroom enjoying their pepperoni and sausage on a hand-tossed crust while telling war stories about past elections.

Jokes will be told. Footballs thrown. And, perhaps, a few songs may be crooned (courtesy of Bill Archer).

However when the poll results start rolling in, sleeves will be rolled up as the work begins. Staff members will multi-task, updating our website in real time while preparing copy for the print edition. It’s a few hours of furious work, but a job that’s worth the effort.

When we do leave the newsroom blurry-eyed, pizza-stuffed and on a caffeine high early Wednesday morning, we’ll all be happy we have another four years before another presidential campaign rolls around.

Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at sperry@bdtonline.com. Follow her @BDTPerry.

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