Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

November 11, 2012

No rest for the election weary with gunfire, car crashes and more

It’s quiet in the newsroom. Not a bad thing since we’re all in the process of exiting our post-election zombie state. We’re still a bit sleep deprived, and a little loopy, but it’s nothing like the immediate aftermath of election 2012.

Election night in the newsroom was typical. Lots of caffeine, lots of adrenaline, lots of pizza. We stayed up late and did our jobs — only to return to the newsroom a few hours later, tired, cranky and yes, zombified.

On Wednesday, the newsroom atmosphere was strange but also kind of normal. We’re accustomed to working on zero hours of sleep with only chocolate-covered expresso beans to keep us going. The day was a daze, but one with memorable moments — like when a reporter opened up his lunch tote only to realize he had put no food inside.

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After making it through the election, and the day after, we had hoped Thursday would be normal. A day with a minimal amount of crime and destruction. A day to catch up on everything we had put off until after Nov. 6. The morning was quiet but, as afternoon approached, the police scanner erupted.

Something was happening on Airport Road. I was in my office on the phone. I’m always on the phone because it’s always ringing. I take editorial complaints, election complaints, government complaints, crime complaints and, on occasion, complaints about the weather. I am the go-to person for gripes. Call me when you want to vent about anything and everything under the sun.

Normally such complaint calls do not bother me. But on this day I was focused on the police scanner. The squawking box of mayhem that brings me joy. It’s my gray noise — my babbling brook, my ocean waves.

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I gather up the slew of insurance forms on my desk and toss them in a folder. It’s open-enrollment time, which basically means it’s the once-a-year opportunity for staff members to update their insurance policies. It’s these mundane paperwork duties that make my job as editor complete (read with sarcastic tone).

Grabbing the folder I exit my office en route to the business office. Walking out the door I see Copy Editor Amy Persinger and Lifestyles Editor Jamie Parsell huddled beside the police scanner.

On Thursday Amy is usually focused on pagination of the Princeton Times while Jamie is concentrating on the early run of the Sunday Lifestyles section. Both editions print on Thursday night. On this day, they’re both intent on scanner traffic. Something big is happening. I smile when recognizing the ladies’ priorities.

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The scanner is reporting gunfire, a potential of five victims and a possible hostage situation. Bill Archer is on his way to Airport Road. Charles Owens is frantically taking notes to post details on our website. Amy and Jamie are scribbling down a timeline.

Our photographer for the day, Jon Bolt, and senior reporter Greg Jordan are in Cedar Bluff covering the opening of a new fire station. They head toward the scene in Mercer County but are a good 45 minutes away. Senior photog Eric DiNovo is at home enjoying a rare day off. I call him anyway. Soon Eric is on his way to the scene.

The scanner alerts us to a related scene in Green Valley. I dispatch reporter Kate Coil. Sales manager Natalie Fanning has drifted over to the newsroom. She — like me, Charles and Jamie — can’t tear herself away from the scanner traffic. Meanwhile, Amy has cleverly placed her cell phone by the scanner with voice record mode on, insuring we don’t miss any details of the action.

The all-important folder of insurance forms is now forgotten on my desk.

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The next few hours are hectic. I abandon my office for a seat by the scanner. After numerous phone calls from Bill, Eric, Greg, Jon and Katy we begin piecing the story together.

There was no hostage situation and, apparently, no one was actually shot (it would appear that many of our criminal element are extraordinarily bad marksmen. Take that as a good or bad). There was gunfire, a car crash, the detainment of a few individuals and the pursuit of another who fled into the woods near Kee Dam.

Jamie takes constant dictation, while Charles continually updates our website with stories and photos.

At one point in the midst of the craziness I’m talking with on-the-scene Bill, who nonchalantly mentions that he needs to alert the detective to a few drops of blood that haven’t been noticed by police.

Our work days are definitely not normal.

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Business Manager Rhonda Watson pops into the newsroom and I take a break from the scanner to hand over the insurance forms. “There was a gleam in your eye,” she says, referring to my earlier state of mind when chaos began ensuing. I realize I’m forgiven for my momentary neglect of paperwork.

The election may be over but in the Telegraph newsroom there is still no rest for the weary. Maybe next week.

With hope, we’ll remember to pack our lunch.

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

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