Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Charles Owens

January 29, 2014

Deep freeze outside can have an adverse impact on the news cycle inside

— — All of the arctic air and accumulating snowfall of recent days has made for a bit of a lull in terms of traditional breaking news. And a slow news day can make for a frustrating morning and afternoon for those of us in the newspaper business.

A good example was last Wednesday. The morning started with temperature readings that ranged from zero degrees on the outside thermometers in the Bluefield, Va., area to reports of a balmy 4 degree reading in the greater Bluewell community. But regardless of the actual air temperature outside, one thing was sure — it was cold. And apparently it was too cold for any would-be criminals to do something capable of generating a few A-1 headlines.

So the morning in question started out somewhat slowly. I attempted to engage writers Greg Jordan and Anne Elgin into a meaningful brainstorming session for story ideas, but Anne was somewhat resistant, changing the conversation instead to topics like her approaching birthday. The police scanner was relatively quiet during our brainstorming session, and folks outside were apparently driving safely as well. There were no accidents to report — despite snow covered and somewhat treacherous road conditions.

I suggested to Anne that we should check with Bluefield, Va. Mayor Don Harris and Bluefield Mayor Tom Cole to see if there was anything new to report in terms of a proposed regional or joint project between the neighboring municipalities. I wrote the original story about a proposed joint project between the two Bluefields back in September of last year, and we really hadn’t updated the discussion since that time. Anne called both mayors, and learned of a plan to renew the wedding of the two Bluefields. As local history buffs may recall, a crowd of about 15,000 people attended the historic July 12, 1924 “Marriage of the Bluefields” when Graham, Va., officially became Bluefield, Va., at a ceremony on the state line at the old Bluefield Fairgrounds, which is now the site of the tennis courts at Lotito Park. Back then both Gov. E. Lee Trinkle of Virginia and Gov. Ephraim F. Morgan of West Virginia attended the ceremony. Harris and Cole are hoping to attract a similar crowd later this summer with a symbolic renewal of the wedding vows. Who knows, maybe the two mayors can convince West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and new Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to attend. Both are Democrats, so I guess anything is possible.

As the mercury slowly climbed out of the single digits and into the teens, the slow news cycle also began to thaw. Editor Samantha Perry informed Greg of an email received from a concerned citizen, who reported that a local businessman was proposing to donate 10,000 square feet of prime property to the city of Princeton if the council members would agree to move city hall to the old Dean Company site, and in return allow New River Community and Technical College to use all of the old First Community Bank Building on Mercer Street for a new college campus. Greg promptly called Princeton City Manager Elke Doom, and confirmed that a meeting had been scheduled to discuss the proposal. About an hour or so later, Greg learned that a sentencing hearing had been scheduled in a local armed robbery case where the suspect used a BB gun.

A short time later, Copy Editor Jackie Puglisi was the first to learn through a tweet by the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office that 800 pounds of copper had been stolen from the Bluefield, Va. Industrial Park. Before I could ask who had time to call the sheriff’s office, Senior Editor Bill Archer was on the phone with the deputy in charge of the investigation. Bill is certainly quick.

About an hour later, I received an anonymous call regarding an investigation into an animal cruelty case in Tazewell County that involved several dead horses. I told Samantha, and she immediately asked Anne to contact Sheriff Brian Hieatt. Within a matter of minutes, Anne had confirmation from the sheriff that county animal control officers were on the scene and investigating.

As is often the case, the slow morning had given way to a somewhat busier news afternoon. It was still cold outside, but suddenly we had more stories for our A-1 news line-up than we actually needed. Anne was no longer talking about her birthday, Greg and Bill were hard at work hammering out stories, and I found myself constantly updating our website, linking stories to Facebook and tweeting more stories via Twitter than I would do on an average news day. So much for that slow start to the morning.

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

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Charles Owens
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