Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Charles Owens

August 28, 2013

When animals make better water-cooler topics than Virginia politics

— — While it may defy traditional office logic, water-cooler moments here in the newsroom seem to inevitably revolve around animals as opposed to politics, television shows or the big movie playing at the local theater.

I like talking about politics, but have had little luck in recent weeks in engaging my fellow co-workers in a meaningful discussion about Virginia’s mud-slinging gubernatorial slugfest. Polls are suggesting that average Virginians aren’t particularly happy with the negative tone the race has taken — particularly with it being so early in the political season. We still have all of September and October to go, after all.  It seems many of my co-workers are disgusted with the ugly politics as well, and are thus less than excited about the all-important gubernatorial contest.

Maybe it’s all of those preposterous e-mail press releases that keep filling up our inboxes each morning, afternoon and evening. In fact, they never quit coming.

Depending upon which particular press release or political party you choose to believe, we are being told that both Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe are not only under investigation, but are both unfit to govern the Commonwealth. And if that is the case, who are we supposed to vote for come Nov. 5.

For example, here is a small sampling of several e-mails received just this week:

• The Cuccinelli camp in an email press release claims the McAuliffe camp filed reports with the Virginia State Board of Elections containing “hundreds of errors.” It goes on to add that McAuliffe has “consistently demonstrated a pattern of management failures.”

• The McAuliffe camps in an email press release claims that not only Cuccinelli, but also his staff, is under investigation. The press release goes on to suggest that Cuccinelli should formally request an investigation into his own campaign.

• Not to be outdone by the two candidates, a third email press release urges President Barack Obama to request the Department of Homeland Security and the Security and Exchange Commission to launch an investigation into the gubernatorial campaign.

And the fun continues. It seems that the respective candidate camps and political parties who are emailing those releases to us each day seem to have forgotten that most journalists are still gifted with a little God-given common sense.

How about a few press releases discussing the actual issues. It would be nice to read and hear about what the candidates hope to accomplish if elected. How about a meaningful discussion on jobs, infrastructure and other issues that average voters can relate to.

Enough already with the silly, negative, mud-slinging press releases. If this continues both candidates run the risk of turning off large numbers of voters this November. I can see why some people aren’t really interested in talking about the race.

But dogs and cats — that’s another story altogether.

The boss, of course, owns two lovable labs and a giant Neapolitan mastiff. Reporter Greg Jordan owns a snake and three spiders. I have a cat who decided he is going to live with me. Sports Editor Brian Woodson just recently adopted a new kitten after his last cat passed away. Veteran newsroom copy coordinator Sue Richmond has a two dogs and a cat.

As a result, there are plenty of animal stories to share each Monday morning, and normally a new slew of photographs of the cats and dogs to proudly show off during those unofficial water-cooler moments. I feel like I already know Penny, Honey and Pugsley after seeing so many photographs taken of them by Samantha. The one time I did show photographs and a video of Puff to the coworkers, the response was almost unanimous. “What are you feeding him?” and “Wow! That cat is fat!” was the normal reaction. But he has lost a lot of weight over the summer being out and about. So I wouldn’t consider him to be that fat of a cat at the moment.

You can’t help but like animals. They are like small children who are dependent upon their owners. With time they become a part of your family. What are you to do? Once they move in, you can’t kick them out.

Maybe the gubernatorial candidates in Virginia should spend a few moments talking about their animals. That would be a pleasant change from the day-to-day finger pointing, and might actually get the attention of a few voters.

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

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