Ran into some angry partisan Democrats Saturday night at the Floyd Country Store upset over no reporter or photographer from the local weekly paper showing up at the Friday appearance of Anthony Flaccavento, running against GOP incumbent Morgan Griffith, who represents the county in the 9th district of Virginia in Congress.
“Why didn’t anyone show up,” said one. “Why deny our candidate coverage.”
What coverage? The Floyd Press comes to its readers on Thursday. The election is Tuesday, two days before the next edition comes out to its readers. With luck, votes can be counted and a victor selected by Tuesday night.
If Flaccavento or his campaign team wanted coverage of his last-minute tactics and proclamations by the weekly newspaper in Floyd County, he should have visited the area on Monday, or Tuesday at the latest. The paper does make endorsements on political races.
Floyd Press editor Wanda Combs and I discussed the Flaccavento visit and agreed that coverage served no purpose on an event that occurred after publication of the last week’s paper and where the next publication comes after the election.
As a contract reporter and photographer for the paper, I would have been the one assigned to cover Flaccavento’s visit but I also had a conflict. The schedule called for him to arrive at The Floyd Country Store at 5:45 p.m. for his first stop. My schedule put me to at Floyd County High School by 6 p.m. to prepare for Senior Night activities that preceded the last football game of the varsity team’s season, which I also photographed for the paper along with the homecoming in the halt. , I would have had, at best, about 15 minutes for Flaccavento, if he arrived on time (which is always a variable in political campaigns).
As a political operative working for the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Senate National Committee during campaigns in 1982, 85 and 88, I made sure each campaign had knew the deadlines of all media in each district. We also ranked the media to determine which paper, TV news or radio station mattered the most when it came to coverage.
In the overall scheme of things political, Floyd County is — at best — a bit player in Ninth District considerations. The towns of Blacksburg and Christiansburg alone have populations that far exceed the The 15,755 residents in the county. We are a miniscule up against the 771,755 residents of the 19 complete counties and parts of three others of a congressional district that is larger than the state of New Jersey.
The media market of The Roanoke and New River valleys ranks high in the 9th district, with three TV stations and a daily newspaper. They were the media targets for the Floyd visit, not a county weekly that does not publish against until after the election.
Can Flaccavento win? That’s a long shot, but not impossible. Griffith unseated long-time Democratic congressman Rick Boucher in the midterm elections of 2010, which became a watershed year for Republicans and Griffith didn’t even live in the district at the time.
Such is the “reality” of news coverage of politics, where “real” is often a difficult matter to find, much less report on.