Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

October 24, 2012

Trick or treating debate creates a spooky controversy during an otherwise slow news period

We’ve noticed throughout the years in the newspaper business that things tend to slow down in the final week or two before a big presidential election. Folks are generally in a wait and see pattern as candidates make their last pitch for an increasingly dwindling pool of still undecided voters.

Those of us who are still undecided voters can, of course, make all of the difference in battleground states such as Virginia, Ohio and Florida. At some point, an undecided voter must make up his or her mind. And that’s what President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney are counting on. But time is running out for the undecided voters to become decided voters.

And guess what? We are down to the final wire — 14 days and counting before a long-awaited return to a sense of sanity for this great nation. No more crazy television commercials. No more puppet marches in Washington in support of Big Bird and Sesame Street. No more campaign rallies or continuous 24-7 network news cycles preaching the pros or cons of a particular candidate.

Just think how nice it will be after Nov. 6. We can all sit back and relax. No more politics. No more finger pointing. No more mud slinging. Just football, cooler temperatures outside and the looming arrival of the joyous holiday season.

But until the election is over, local projects and politicians aren’t making a lot of news at the moment. Except for the Mercer County Commission, which, inexplicably, decided to change the date of Halloween from Oct. 31 to Oct. 30. But Bluewell, Brushfork, Oakvale and Bluefield opted to ignore the commission’s mandate and keep Halloween on Oct. 31. As a result, it appeared that we would have little trick or treaters out and about on both Oct. 30 and Oct. 31. But now the commissioners are having second thoughts about the Halloween controversy. They have scheduled a special called meeting for Thursday to discuss moving Halloween once again — this time back to Oct. 31. Confused yet?

But we’ll take a little controversy during a slow news week. Even if it means the possibility of having to celebrate Halloween two days in a row. Of course, an otherwise slow news day is normally a bad news day for those of us in the business of reporting the day’s top headlines. And as of this writing, things have been a little slow. In fact, the highlight of the week for several of us in the newsroom was watching “Sins and Secrets: Iaeger.”

Back in the old days, a slow news day wasn’t grounds for panic. But things have changed in recent years. Our online edition is something we try to keep updated and fresh throughout the day. That’s a challenge when nothing is happening. The same goes for our Twitter updates, and email news alerts. If there is nothing happening of particular significance at the moment, you can’t exactly send out an email blast telling our readers, “All is quiet at the moment across southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia.” Nope, they probably wouldn’t appreciate that.

Many businesses have also been reluctant to expand, or announce expansion plans, until after the election. After all, the past four years have been difficult on all of us. The hope is that the economy will slowly begin to grow and improve. But millions across the nation are still unemployed as a result of the Great Recession. So the long road to recovery will remain a challenging journey. But we must retain hope for a better future, a better tomorrow. And that is regardless of who is elected on Nov. 6.

But until we head to the polls on Nov. 6, folks remain jittery. They remain angry. And many are still not very optimistic about our nation’s future. Hope is something that seems to be lacking in our great country at the moment. Remember the 2008 campaign? It was all about hope and change. You don’t see or hear a lot of that at the moment.

The news cycle also will begin to pick up after Nov. 6. When the smoke clears, and we finally know who our next president will be, and which political parties will control the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House, our local officials will start to make news again. You will start to see movement again on local projects. You have to. Our region can’t remain stagnant forever.

Of course that doesn’t mean that construction will resume anytime soon on Bluefield’s bridge to nowhere. Unless local officials stumble upon a pot of gold hidden somewhere on the mountain high above Stoney Ridge, a new federal highway bill won’t be up for consideration again until 2014. And by then we will either have a Congress that is working together for the betterment of America, or one that is once again bitterly divided over party lines.

In the meantime, at least we can look forward to Halloween. It’s going to be a big event this year in Mercer County. So big, in fact, that trick or treating will take place over a span of two days — unless the commissioners make good on their promise Thursday to move the holiday back to Oct. 31. We’ll see what happens.

Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s assistant managing editor. Contact him at cowens@bdtonline.com. Follow him @BDTOwens.

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