Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Charles Owens

April 30, 2014

Warlock, bobcat, hand grenade and blood moon eclipse politics

— — The news business is just like everything else. We go through cycles of sorts. It’s kind of like the weather where you have warm days and cool days. In our business, you have busy news weeks, slow news weeks and those occasional periods when the headlines can go from strange to downright unusual. We had one of those weeks last week. I blame it on the recent “blood moon” lunar eclipse in the absence of a more logical explanation.

Here is a quick recap of recent headlines. A man claiming to be a warlock with magical powers is arrested by police on sex crimes. A false report is called into Mercer County 911 about a bobcat being on the loose in a woman’s house. (That one caught everyone’s attention in the newsroom when we heard the initial police scanner traffic). A bobcat in a house? How could that happen? A man looking for mushrooms stumbles upon a rare World War II-era pineapple style hand grenade off of the New Hope Road area of Mercer County.

Those are headlines you certainly don’t see everyday. And during this same time period, the good folks with the New York Times traveled back to our area to do yet another story on McDowell County. So while everything was going crazy here in the coalfields of southern West Virginia, it was apparently a slow news week in New York. Go figure.

But the headlines didn’t stop there. A woman who attempted to rob a Bluefield bank at gunpoint was captured in Tennessee. The Reconnecting McDowell campaign received a welcomed $300,000 boost from AT&T to help students who are at risk of dropping out of school. Project Clean Sweep in Bluefield got off to a fast start as litter control officials in Mercer County began cleaning up a large illegal dump near Bluewell. A new president, Dr. Kendra Boggess, was selected for Concord University. A shooting at a Bluefield apartment complex left one seriously injured. New rules aimed at reducing the amount of allowable coal dust in underground coal miners were unveiled. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed a bill that would have codified a student’s right to pray at school. A body was found in a riverbed in McDowell County.

And the list of headlines go on and on. It was quite honestly a very busy news week.

I’ve learned from years of experience that there is no way to gauge, or accurately predict, when things will be calm as opposed to crazy in the newspaper business. We, of course, always prefer a busy news day over a slow one.

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In the midst of a busy news week, we had quite a few politicians in the newsroom, including the six candidates who are vying for a single seat on the Mercer County Commission. The group included Democrats Terry Basham, Robert W. “Bob” Carter, Phillip B. Ball, Lyle Cottle and John Sommers, along with Republican Greg Puckett.

After meeting with all six of the candidates, it was the general consensus of everyone in the room — including a few of the candidates themselves — that voters will have an impressive lot of candidates to choose from come May 13. Unfortunately, there can only be two winners on May 13, and then only a single winner in November. The race is being held to fill the commission vacancy created by the death of the late Joe Coburn.

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who is completing his first year and three months of service in the U.S. Senate, also stopped by the newsroom last week to update the editorial board members on a number of topics of both local, statewide and national interest. Kaine had just came from a meeting with a group of Tazewell County officials regarding the planned Bluefield College School of Dental Medicine before arriving at the newspaper, and expressed strong support for the project which will anchor the new Bluestone Regional Business and Technology Park.

Kaine, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is a lot like his friend Joe Manchin in that he comes across as a very personable individual. He has been working to break the partisan gridlock that has crippled Washington in recent months.

And as a former governor of Virginia, Kaine is already very familiar with the greater Southwest Virginia area. We had a good interview with Kaine, and were impressed with his responses to many of our questions, including a very candid discussion on the future of coal.

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

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