Monday, December 31, 2007

A final farewell to 2007

The year is finally closing out -– and what a year 2007 has been. Sure, every year has its ups, downs, thrills and defeats. But somehow this year’s tensions seemed to set the tenor for everything.

As the newsroom prepared our yearend packages to publish this past weekend, the economy led most discussions -– except when talk turned to the war in Iraq. That stayed in a category all its own, somehow at the core of everything else happening around us. And, as always, sports, movies and TV brought out much-welcomed lively banter.

To compile our local lists, reporters, editors and photographers focused on their beats and their top stories in 2007. The compilations dominated Sunday’s newspaper and, and were definitely among the top-viewed stories online yesterday -– and they remain among the most popular today. In my own personal review, I found an encouraging thread throughout -– not just the hope for a better 2008, but efforts throughout the past year to take a painful or tragic event and use it to find a solution.

And then I came to the “Final Farewells.” Our news editors know I treasure that page each year, commemorating those who died in the past 12 months. It’s humbling to see the legacies each person left, to take time to remember. This time, though, my heart stopped as I turned to Page 9A in Sunday’s edition. Somewhere in that blur of words, I knew all over again why so much had changed for me this year. I had bid a final farewell to my Dad, who had always been my vision, my inspiration, my foundation.

I know too many friends who lost a parent this year. But in each condolence, I heard the joys shared in a lifetime. One of those friends noted in her Christmas card that she hadn’t ever really felt like an adult until she lost a parent. How oddly true…

That might be why I know I'm finally making a realistic New Year’s resolution: to never say farewell to Dad and his dreams for me.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Fore! It's the 2008 Golf Guide

Be sure to check out our 2008 Manatee/Sarasota Golf Guide, which was inserted in Sunday's Bradenton Herald and Lakewood Ranch Herald. Low handicap players and duffers alike will want to keep a copy handy.

Besides a course locator map and essentional information on where to play, the guide includes some helpful stories written by golf reporter Mike Henry on improving your game and tracking down local bargains.

Mike, a true golf historian and devotee of the sport, might also start a few arguments with his Top 20 lists of the game's best players, courses and notable moments. Would you rank seven players ahead of Tom Watson? Could there be a course better than Augusta National, where the greatest story ever unfolded in 1986?

We also included our Dream 18 holes -- showing layouts and descriptions of the spectacular holes that make Manatee/Sarasota such an inviting place to play.

Enjoy the guide, and start making some tee times!


Monday, December 24, 2007

A (very) white Christmas

Greetings from the beautiful but frigid Midwest!

I awakened this morning to the clopping sound of horses' hooves. The Amish seem to have no trouble traveling through this winter wonderland. Those of us attempting to travel in motorized vehicles, however...

The weather advisory last night called driving conditions "treacherous to impossible.'' Think about that today as you make your way around Manatee County to do some last-minute shopping.

Here in west central Wisconsin, the temperature had risen this morning to a balmy 18 degrees. About 10 inches of snow has fallen since Saturday. No need to dream about a white Christmas here. We're all set!

It's enjoyable to read and keep up with the news from afar. My sister couldn't believe the debate raging over smoking on the beach. A non-smoker, she was certain she would be able tolerate a butt or two for the opportunity to lounge on Anna Maria Island this afternoon.

We're bundling up now to head out and feed the horses. If the roads are clear we'll probably head into town for a latte at the coffee shop. Church is at 4 p.m., and the Christmas carols will again be sung in Norwegian. Yes, they do have a different perspective on things in these parts.

But one thought is universal: Holiday greetings and best wishes to all!


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Reaching out for the needy

Ashley Canesse, development director of The Salvation Army Manatee, sent me an e-mail last week. We touch base regularly, so the note wouldn't have been unusual.

Except the subject line in this e-mail implored, "We need help..."

Ashley is an amazing person, if you haven't met her. Despite her line of work, she simply doesn't ask for anything. She's always giving, and closes every conversation with "God bless." Somehow, you always walk away feeling better, stronger -- you know, blessed.

This e-mail was different. It captured the tenor of struggling times throughout our community:

In the 7 years I've been with The Salvation Army, I've never seen donations and Angel Tree adoptions be such a struggle. It's too late for people to adopt and truly the community has been generous. But the financial contributions are now down and it's affecting programs and services, especially if the downward trend were to continue.

We asked columnist/reporter Vin Mannix to take a pulse throughout our non-profit support groups, and he found so much of the same. We have a very generous community. And we have a community very much in need.

Let's hope Vin's story prompts a few more donations, a few more volunteers who will make a difference in someone's life. If you are in need, our wish is that this helps you connect with that special someone who can help.

Who to contact here:
The Salvation Army, 1204 14th St. W., will serve dinner 4 p.m. Tuesday
Our Daily Bread, 1426 14th St. W., will be open Christmas from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Meals On Wheels Plus of Manatee County: Call 747-4655 to donate.
United Way: Call 746-4088 to donate.


Friday, December 21, 2007

We're not Scrooges, but no gifts, please

The Manatee County Building Department, already losing its director under challenging circumstances this year, has come under increasing scrutiny this week, as reporter Natalie Neysa Alund has extensively covered the unfolding story.

Prosecutors dropped charges against Mike Todoroff, a building inspector fired after he admittedly took materials from a building site. Todoroff claimed he had permission to take the material as a gift. The charges were dropped in large part because of testimony from another inspector, John Darley, who stated that he and other county inspectors routinely accept gifts. Darley has been suspended without pay, pending the investigation now launched into the department's practices.

County Administrator Ed Hunzeker has noted that building department employees are prohibited from accepting gifts, spelled out in their ethics policy -- revised in July after Todoroff's arrest. Some readers have taken exception to enforcement of that policy, and have speculated that even Herald reporters might accept such gifts.

Herald newsroom employees cannot accept gifts of monetary value, and it's a firm chapter in our newsroom's ethics policy. At the least, any newsroom staffer accepting freebies could create a conflict of interest. And there is the potential for much worse: compromising the integrity of our news report.

Here's our guidelines, as written in our ethics policy:

Gifts, Tickets and Meals
You are required to return anything of more than token monetary value given to you by any news source. If that isn't possible, you must contribute the item to an appropriate charity. You also must send a letter or e-mail to the news source, explaining our policy.

Books, tapes, CDs and software may be accepted from publishers for review or story purposes because they are difficult to pay for or return. The items should eventually be donated to a non-profit enterprise.

If you are dining with a news source, you must make every effort to pay for your own expenses or to pick up the check for both of you. You should not dine with the news source a second time unless he or she agrees in advance that you will pay for your meal.

-- Joan

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Dan Miller Post Office

Congratulations to former Rep. Dan Miller, who's in line to have Bradenton's downtown Post Office building named after him.

The announcement was made Monday on the steps of the 71-year-old building at 824 Manatee Ave. W. by U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, who occupies the seat Miller held from 1992 to 2003.

It's fairly common to have buildings and landmarks named for politicians and public servants, though not everyone agrees that it's a good practice — partly because the idea often springs up from other politicians. The Florida congressional delegation introduced the bill to honor Miller that was approved by Congress and now goes to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge, one of Florida's most visible landmarks, was renamed in 2005 to honor former Gov. Bob Graham, who was instrumental in getting the bridge built after the original structure collapsed in a tragic 1980 freighter mishap.

At Monday's ceremony, Miller's wife, Glenda, said she was surprised that her husband would agree to have his name on a building because he has never sought recognition.

And critics — not of Miller, but of the practice to honor former officials this way — say that's exactly the point: These people were simply acting on the will of the people, and they should remain selfless out of office.

We're not taking sides here, but it is a relief that the place where many of us buy our stamps won't be renamed the Nike Post Office. On the other hand, the revenue generated by selling corporate naming rights might actually keep the price of stamps from rising again.


In case you missed the story,here’s a link.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Newsroom takes a holiday break

We're heading into the typical crunch of year-end madness in the newsroom. And it's always highlighted by trying to make ends meet as too many of us try to cram in the rest of our vacation days before we lose them.

So many, in fact, that we decided to start celebrating the holidays a bit early this year, so more of us could enjoy the festivities. Thanks to universal desk editor Mary K. Means, we have an annual potluck feast that starts at noon, and continues well into the evening as the night crew brings in the umpteenth round of courses. There was ham and turkey, of course. Everyone was asked to bring a side dish -- and they ranged from Business Editor Jennifer Rich's scrumptious casserole to the night crew's typical cuisine expertise, KFC's classic cole slaw. (Mary K reminds us every year that potato chips are not a vegetable...)

We threw in a gift exchange this year -- nothing flashy, mind you. With a $10 limit, the gift had to have that personal touch to be priceless.

Which brings me to why I'm sharing this with you. Our newsroom made time stop for just a bit last Wednesday. We stopped answering phones and emails. We stopped posting breaking news. We looked up from our computers, took a break from all those interviews -- just for an hour or so.

We gathered around the center of the newsroom, and tapped East Manatee Editor Jim Jones to be the official Santa. Draped in red ribbon, Jim started handing out the gifts: a bottle of wine, a toast of champagne, a Books-a-Million gift certificate. The hook-em horns hat for always-Texan Gary Taylor. News Editor Matt Pallister got Photo Editor Tom O'Neill some classic Tupperware so Tom would quit spilling his soup as he rushed past Matt's desk, eating on the run. Graphics artist Eric Chapman found just the right slice of Wisconsin cheese for Managing Editor Jim Smith, the newsroom's favorite cheesehead. Local news editor Kelly Lipp found the ultimate calendar for Angie Monroe, who as newsroom manager is always tending everyone else's calendars. Photographer Grant Jefferies knew when he drew my name that the perfect gift would be that stocking for Joan and Joey, my Tibetan spaniel...

Each of the 50 or so gifts brought a smile, and the realization that we care for each other. We somehow have taken the time to get to know each other. And when we turned the real world back on, we knew a bit better that we're all in this together.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Community prays for Lexi's family

We have been following the tragic story of little Lexi Antorino since we got a tip Sunday afternoon about her swing-set accident at Palmetto Pointe. As reporter Maura Possley reported in the Herald today and in an online update, the 2-year-old girl remains in a coma in the intensive care unit of All Children's Hospital, surrounded by family and friends hoping for a miracle.

I watched the online comments from readers attached to the stories Monday and today, almost dreading what I might find. Too often, it seems those anonymous message boards are mistaken as an invitation to spew gripes and ugly retorts.

Instead, we are reading notes from a community expressing its grief and hope for Lexi and her family. Messages of faith and encouragement have filled page after page. Most of all, many are praying for that miracle.

Trust God..... He is right beside your little girl every minute..My prayers are with you.

Bless her little heart, we all are hoping and praying that she fully recovers. I hope the media is going to keep the public updated on her progress so we will all know.

One comment did manage to suggest legal action, but they were quickly rebuked:

To the commenter "EMS" shame on you for suggesting legal action at this time. The poor family is dealing with a horrific tragedy and all you can tell them is to get a good attorney? Where is your heart?

All these messages should give us hope. Though we wish it didn’t take a tragedy to pull the community together, there is much goodness out there. This poignant posting, which one of my reporters interpreted for me, sums up the thoughts expressed throughout:

Que dios te quide nina

May the Lord keep you, child.

-- Joan

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Talking stocks: Our latest blog

You’re probably beginning to think I’m blogging only to send you to other Herald blogs. Hey, I figure we’re all in this together -– why not tout my fellow bloggers!

So here's the latest. We’ve launched a blog on our Business home page:
Taking Stock, by business reporter Brian Neill. Here’s Brian's introduction:

A lot of guys like to spend hours talking about sports. Not me. I'd rather talk stocks. Taking Stock is a place to do just that. I want to hear about your proudest picks and your lousiest laggards. And I'll be sharing mine with you as well, in addition to talking about the overall market in general.

Taking Stock is not investment advice and should not be construed as such. It is a forum for stock market and investing enthusiasts. Any stocks or strategies mentioned by myself or other posters are not to be considered endorsements. You can, and quite possibly will, lose money.

He has even picked a fictitious portfolio, which we’ll track each week and report how it did every Monday -– both in the Herald’s print editions and here online. (A tease: Brian had some impressive gains last week!)

Check out Taking Stock first thing Monday morning. This week, Brian blogs on locking in gains on stocks: when to hold 'em, when to fold 'em.

Among the do's: Sell any losing position if it's 8 percent below your buy point. The stock publication also recommends selling some of your shares to capture gains once you've profited 20 percent or more in a holding.

Or not. You decide. But I guarantee Taking Stock will give you something to think about.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

A voice from Afghanistan

Tiffany Tompkins-Condie, our photographer/Military Moms blogger, forwarded me an e-mail this morning that was so humbling it made both of us cry. She has it posted, too, but I hope you agree that it's worth this double exposure.

After her blog yesterday on Mr. C -- a local angel to those who are serving and their families -- Tiffany got an email from a soldier stationed in Afghanistan. SSG John King, who noted he has been in communications for six years, wanted us to know that Mr. C has been awesome for him and countless others. And John also reached out to Tiffany, thanking her for her blog. It's always an amazing feeling when we realize that some story or effort by the Bradenton Herald has touched someone and helped them.

Here's John's e-mail:


I am a soldier currently stationed in Afghanistan. I've received two care packages from Mr. C and his class. I plan on dropping in on him and his class when I return in March. I also am touched when I realize how much people back home really care. A lot of people go out of their way to make sure they let us know they are thinking about us. It's a great thing they do and you'd be surprised how much of a difference it makes for us here.

You are doing a great thing as well. I read your blogs daily. They kind of help me feel closer to home. I can imagine my mother going through the same things that you articulate so well. Thank you for the service you are providing.


Thank you, sir. We owe a lot to you.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The R-A-T stuff

A friend who grew up in the Panhandle swears there was a high school whose cheerleaders led this cheer:

R-A-T, R-A-T,
We want a touchdown
RAT now!

If you've heard the native drawl from that part of the state, you can believe they not only led the cheer -- it was probably a huge hit with fans.

That's just a way of backing into this week's big water-cooler sports story. The Florida High School Activities Association just announced the state's all-time top 100 prep football players.

Included on the list are two very deserving athletes who hailed from Manatee County: Henry Lawrence and Tommie Frazier. But missing are Peter Warrick and Adrian McPherson, two terrific players who played under Paul Maechtle at Southeast High.

As Roger Mooney points out in his Wednesday column, it's a daunting task to compile a list such as this, culling players from one of the nation's richest football proving grounds -- over 100 years.

I guess you could say that, for one reason or another, some players just didn't have the RAT stuff.

If you haven't seen the list, here’s a link:

And let the arguments continue.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Are reporters safe covering crime?

Law enforcement reporter Beth Burger joined our newsroom exactly two months ago today. She “escaped” Wisconsin just before the snow set in –- and today’s 1A weather story should cement that decision. Beth was an education reporter at her last newspaper, so this is a significant change of beats for her.

When I asked Beth to jot down her observations yesterday for this blog, I was planning to tell you about the trepidations of an editor sending their reporters to a crime scene. I was planning on pointing to a story that Beth had planned for today’s editions on a community patrol, where residents are teaming with sheriff’s deputies to help a neighborhood living in fear.

Instead, Beth was sent Saturday night to Holmes Beach, where a body was found near a homeless encampment. So I’m sitting here on a Sunday morning, counting how many deadly scenes Beth has covered in just a few weeks. At least two murders, two drownings, two decomposing bodies –- all here in Manatee County. Not Miami. Not New York. Here. Our home.

Beth is a young, fearless and determined reporter. But is she safe?

That concern should grip every editor as they send their reporters into potential danger. We don’t feel uncertainty about covering breaking news, but we always need to remind reporters and photographers to be careful. We try to pair reporter and photographer, so they're not alone. We try to know exactly where they're going to be. It’s a little easier today in the world of cell phones and instant communication. Just 10 years ago, I’d send a reporter to a hostage situation or a homicide, and we might not hear back for hours -– until they found a pay phone, or an officer allowed them use of a phone or radio.

Beth’s experience last week at her second murder scene in just days is worth sharing, if only because it underlines the importance for us to be covering these stories –- not for bleeding headlines, but to keep exposure on challenges and crises that need addressing in our community.

Beth was covering the vigil for Machelle Brinson, a woman killed last month in front of her daughters in her home. Here’s what she found:

The street was lined with cars. I parked one block away. There were hundreds of people, some wearing T-shirts. There was a loud speaker system. Religious and community members spoke of the need for revival. One man spoke about reaching out to young black men so violence stops. After talking with family members I found my car and left. I could still hear singing on the speaker system as I made it to my car…

Minutes later, the night metro editor called her with reports of another shooting. It was on the same street, just outside Palmetto.

I arrived on the scene greeted by several squad cars with blue flashing lights. Those same memorial T-shirts I had seen less than an hour ago greeted me again. The woman, Velma Mooney, who lived in the home where the shooting took place was in shock. She was trying to figure out what was going on.

Was our reporter safe? As terrible as it sounds, Beth felt so.

Police were there. I already knew the people in that neighborhood from covering the vigil. Even if I didn't talk to them they had at least seen me there. I felt comfortable enough. There's something about doing your job that doesn't let you think about those things too much.

I often send my reporter stories home. One of my journalism teachers at Georgia wrote back: "There is something about walking in, doing your job, being a reporter, that forms a semi-solid shield about you. Won't stop a bullet, but it often slows a knife or blunts the blow from a baseball bat."

The most terrifying moment for me is going into these neighborhoods and talking to someone for the first time. At times, I've been cussed at and yelled at trying to get stories. They think I'm not a part of their world. They think I'm there to take a piece of them away. I'm there for their story. There has to be a moment in which we all realize we're people. Then it doesn't matter if I'm covering a shooting at a crime scene.

Wise words? I think so. And she’s just getting started. I hope she never loses the awe of what she can accomplish as a journalist. And I hope she never loses that opportunity.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

A new entertaining Herald blog

Our Editors’ Blog is getting some entertaining company on

A trio of Bradenton Herald features department staffers –- editor Jana Morreale, and reporters Bobbie Nelson and January Holmes -- launched our “Buzz Worthy” blog this week.

They promise to entertain and inform all of us with tidbits and pithy insights on everything from the local arts and entertainment world, to the national stage when it’s abuzz.

Here's how you find it from our home page. Click on this link or Entertainment from the home page's left rail, and you'll find the prominent blog logo.

Or bookmark this, and you'll be there whenever you need.

You’ll learn more about their interests -- and, well, their quirks as they get more comfortable writing to you. So please, let them know what you’re thinking.

Today, Jana challenges us to dump any Scrooge vibes as the holidays consume us, and instead celebrate our blessings. What better way than to highlight the best lights in town -– Christmas, that is. Send your favorites to

The Herald Features crew plans to blog every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Be there. Check out the blog -- and while you're at it, send Jana and the rest of us your thoughts.

We’ll keep updating you as we add more blogs and interactive features to A reminder that sports writer/columnist Roger Mooney has two blogs on our Sports page:

The Strike Zone on baseball,


The End Zone on football,

OK, Roger, this executive editor wants to know: When are you going to blog on that miracle No. 1 team, the Missouri Tigers?! No pressure from this Mizzou journalism alum…

Go Tigers!


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

'In Memoriam' stirs war debate

We recently began running the daily list of U.S. deaths in Iraq on Page 2A under the headline "In Memoriam: Casualties in Iraq.''

The decision to publish the Iraq deaths came after requests from readers who feel it is important to acknowledge the sacrifice our military men and women are making in the war. We agreed.

So did letter writer Dolores Sauer of Palmetto, who wrote:

Whether one agrees with the current administration's policies, or the lack of them, it is good to focus on the young men and women who currently serve and have given so much in this questionable war.

And Thomas Hannon, a Herald subscriber, thanked the paper for publishing the feature “on behalf of all of those whom have given their lives in the war in Iraq.”

But a caller over the weekend said it is "depressing'' to see the deaths each day. He didn't ask that we stop publishing the list, but suggested we use smaller type and give it less prominence.

War is never an easy subject for readers. Some feel we give Iraq too much coverage; others say the war should be on the front page more often. (A caller chastized me one day after Iraq failed to make 1A, asking, "Where is your conscience?'')

Too little? Too much? There's no happy middle ground when it comes to coverage of a war, including how we acknowledge the dead.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

An "add-at-end" you can't cut

“Add-at-end” used to be a common newsroom term, back when national and international stories moved in “takes” over the wires. For whatever reason, the story had developed further, or additional information had been requested. So that last take, the “add-at-end,” would be sent.

Technology and ever-tighter newsholes have made that an almost archaic phrase. You’re far more likely to see “opt-trim” and “end-opt-trim” throughout a longer story, helping copy editors fit a story into whatever space has been allotted without cutting essential information.

Well, this blog is an “add-at-end” for last week’s blog about "Gallery" that shouldn’t be an optional trim. In today's Sunday Herald, reporter Donna Wright examines how the new face of homeless in Manatee County -– those workers suddenly jobless, in large part, because of the housing industry downturn –- is draining resources available for those in need. Photographer Brian Blanco actually shot the family in "Gallery" while on assignment at Our Daily Bread for Donna’s story. Efrain, Beatriz and their 7-month-old child are one of a growing number of families seeking help for the first time.

"We are going to see more homeless and more children in the street as foreclosures increase,” Maj. Robert Pfeiffer, the Salvation Army's director of social services, told Donna. "We are reaching a critical melting point in the social structure in this country. Social-service agencies that provide assistance are being inundated."

Another nostalgic symbol from newsrooms of old is “-30-", the tag that was used to signify a story's end. Well, before you end this one, here’s the invaluable add-at-end for Donna’s report:

To help, call (all are 941 area codes):
• Project Heart, Manatee County school district: 708-4971, ext. 222
• Salvation Army of Bradenton: 748-5110
• United Way 211 of Manasota: Dial 211 for social-services referral or 308-4357 for information
• Community Coalition on Homelessness: 747-1509
• Manatee Community Action Agency: 827-0188
• Our Daily Bread: 746-4088 during business hours or 745-2992
• Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness: 955-8987


Here's a link to Donna Wright's story:

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanks for giving, readers

The response to Herald photographer Brian Blanco’s “Gallery” photo centerpiece has been the perfect antidote to some of the vicious news this week.

We publish “Gallery” every Monday –- a single image by one of our photographers that captures some poignant local scene or moment. This week, Brian chose a scene from a visit to Our Daily Bread, Bradenton’s soup kitchen for the needy. He knew as soon as he saw this couple and their baby that
their story should be told.

Watching Efrain and Beatriz walk into Our Daily Bread on Thursday morning with their 7-month-old son Manuel, I get the sense that they're not a family accustomed to accepting handouts.

A victim of the struggling real estate market, Efrain, a skilled drywall worker, was in high demand a year ago. Today, he says he's lucky to find work a couple of days a week, and two weeks ago he was forced to resort to bringing his family to the Bradenton soup kitchen for the homeless.

Brian told readers how humble they were, how respectful -– and how thankful that they had a meal to share. And when he explained that Efrain and Beatriz were too proud to share their last names, we knew that had to be respected.

Readers began calling and writing Monday morning, wanting to know how they could help. A Palmetto woman’s note was typical of their reaction:

I read the story on Efrain and Beatriz and their son, Manuel. It brought me to tears. I would like to help them, or others like them, especially over the holiday season. If you could provide me with some way to donate items to them I would be very grateful. I am a mother of 2 children, so this story especially touched my heart.

We directed them to Our Daily Bread (941-745-2992) and thanked them for caring. I talked with director Mary DeLazzer at the kitchen this morning as they were preparing for their big meal today. She was overjoyed by the kind responses -– but Efrain and Beatriz haven’t been back again.

“They are hard-working, very private people,” Mary said. “That photograph showed so many what really, really wonderful people they are. I had one lady come in crying, with the newspaper in her hand… Another family wants to adopt them for Christmas.

“They’ve come into Our Daily Bread before, but when he finds work, they don’t come. They won’t ask for anything.”

So Mary is keeping the envelopes she has received for the family, hoping they do come back to receive the gifts so selflessly given. She couldn’t talk much longer this morning as they were preparing for their lunch -– Our Daily Bread takes care of Thanksgiving Eve, and then the traditional Thanksgiving feast is served Thursday by all the volunteers at The Salvation Army and local churches.

On this Thanksgiving, we thank our readers for showing a little kindness. We thank Mary and the countless other selfless people like her who give so much of their time to help others. And I’m reminded to take a moment along with friends and family, as Brian did in his Gallery, to remember the true meaning of Thanksgiving:


The Salvation Army serves a traditional holiday meal from noon until 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. The dinner will take place at the new Salvation Army Center for Worship and Service, 5328 24th St. E (corner of State Road 70 and 24th Street East).

Monday, November 19, 2007

Global warming is no festival

It was encouraging to see another healthy turnout Saturday for Efest, the festival at Lakewood Ranch that serves to inform and enlighten us about environmental issues that threaten the future of Mother Earth, and to offer alternatives for greener living.

We hope the message means more to people than enjoying a glorious November in Florida with balloons, juggling and free entertainment. Because our planet, to steal an old expression from my mother, "is going to hell in a handbasket.''

Our Sunday coverage of Efest included a story by correspondent Wendy Dahle, photos by Tiffany Tompkins-Condie and a column by East Manatee Editor Jim Jones, who spoke to vendors setting up for the event. Jim's takeaway:

Until Efest arrived, I couldn't have told you what a "double flush toilet'' is. Or that a skylight can be installed that conveys light around a 90-degree bend.

Well, that's a good start. Jim applied the prediction from a fortune cookie to the mess we're all in with the environment: "A crisis is coming your way. Get ready for it.''

Meanwhile, a loud warning was sounded in our lead World story of the day, out of Valencia, Spain. According to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, representing the world's top climate experts, the effects of global warming are "so severe and so sweeping that only urgent action will do. We are all in this together. We must work together.''

Events such as Efest and Earth Day are helpful in creating public awareness. But the United States — recognized as one of the world's worst polluters — must quit dragging its heels and become a global leader in the cause.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

The joys of Living Here

If you need a reason to remember why living here is sweet, all you had to do this morning was step outside. You were greeted by another cool, clear, bright sunshiny day in Manatee County. Simply put, grand.

That’s what my friend reminded me as we mulled the Sunday paper. There’s a bonus magazine section inside today’s Bradenton/Lakewood Ranch Herald. Today’s blog is a shameless plug for Living Here -– capitalized because it’s the title of our second annual magazine, and capitalized because it deserves to be.

At least for an hour or so today, put aside all the gritty challenges of living here, lower-cased. You know the list: crime, corruption, the high costs for gasoline, insurance and keeping the roof over your head.

There are countless joys for the young and young at heart found throughout Manatee County. That’s the theme of this year’s Living Here. As Managing Editor Jim Smith, who oversaw production of the magazine, writes in his opening column: “Old and young alike embrace the benefits of our tropical climate. Sometimes, together.”

That was the assignment as Herald reporters and photographers set out to capture the highlights of their beats for Living Here. From culture to care-giving, from outdoor sports to indoor dining delicacies, I’ll bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised by all that’s captured here.

And all that capturing came together in 80 attractive pages thanks to Presentation Editor Jennifer Conklin. This is probably the most challenging project she tackled this year, folded in with all her other duties. And, we hope you agree, she has come up with a winning package.

We plan to have all the pieces of Living Here online soon for you to enjoy and share. For that tabletop keeper, however, grab an extra copy of today's Sunday Herald. Seriously. Some good friends of mine in Chicago are trying to decide where to spend their holidays. I plan to mail them the answer.


Friday, November 16, 2007

How do you take your Barry Bonds?

The Herald is one of the few papers I viewed today that didn't run a full story about Barry Bonds on the front page. Why didn't we? Do you think it belonged there?

I'm sure you know by now that Bonds, baseball's career home run king, was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice Thursday. That's big news anywhere you play it. We chose to strip the news across the top of the Sports section, and here are a few reasons why:

First, we gave the Bonds story prominence on 1A by placing the bold headline "BARRY BONDS INDICTED'' in the skybox above the Herald masthead. That headline was nearly as big as our strip headline, which pulled readers into a strong local story by reporter Donna Wright about nonprofits that are struggling to provide resources because of gas prices.

Second, our centerpiece story on 1A was a sports story — and another strong one. Roger Mooney wrote about a former Manatee County High football star who now serves as the team chaplain for Fort Myers High. Those teams were scheduled to rekindle an old rivalry by meeting in the first round of the playoffs.

Local sports is strongly woven into the fabric of our community, and making the football playoffs is a big deal — just ask Manatee, Palmetto and Bradenton Prep, the three county teams who teed up the ball Friday night. We're not squeamish about giving big play to these kinds of stories.

Even so, we often hear complaints from readers when we run any kind of sports story on 1A. "Put the sports on the sports pages,'' we're told. And it's extremely rare that we run two sports stories out there.

In addition to the prep football centerpiece and the gas story, we had two other worthy local reads on 1A: the latest turn on the Anna Maria Island Bridge story by Duane Marsteller, and Stacey Eidson's take on the first cold snap of the season. That made for a good mix of four local stories (a fifth in the Bradenton edition was a McClatchy story about a move to ease congestion in airports for Thanksgiving), and fulfilled our daily quest to be the definitive source for local news in Manatee County.

But back to Bonds. Was the story worthy of 1A? Yes, we believe it was. Did the story itself need to be out there? It deserved a presence, certainly, and we feel we accomplished that with the bold skybox headline and photo of Bonds — without sacrificing our local coverage.

As always, we encourage your feedback.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Farmworker package didn't work

The best news presentation of related stories, photos and graphics usually occurs when everyone works together on a project. Poor presentation can plague us when we fail to communicate from editor to editor, photographer to reporter, and on through the chain.

The latter happened to one of our stories Sunday, and the impact of the story was a far cry from what the reporter wrote. Reporter Maura Possley set out to update the condition of farmworker housing in Manatee County as this year’s harvest season begins.

In 2000, Herald reporters found deplorable conditions, and their stories helped bring better inspections, better cooperation and better accountability for workers. They also found business owners who were working just as hard to get it right. Bob Spencer was one of those employers, and he has worked at both the local and state level to strive for continued improvement in farmworker housing.

As Maura walked through Spencer’s West Coast Tomato and other properties with inspector Jeri Briggs, she saw respectable living conditions -– even “cushy,” as Briggs noted. That story, however, ended up being illustrated by a negative quote, a questioning headline and a photo of a gritty bathtub -– the only exception of that day’s tour.

Not fair. When Bob Spencer called on Monday, he had every right to be upset. We had rushed to get a section out on deadline, without thinking about the impact of all those pieces together. In his letter to the editor in tomorrow’s editions, Bob writes:

West Coast Tomato has invested millions of dollars in purchasing and maintaining migrant housing. Our goal is to provide a safe and sanitary living environment for the workers who leave their families to come and work for our company…

The Bradenton Herald chose to publish only the photographs that reflected our housing in a negative manner. This violated the journalistic ethics that require a story to be reported fairly.

Being in the business of communication, we sometimes forget to do that in-house. I apologized to Bob for the poor combination Sunday, and applaud him here for the work he does in our community.


Monday, November 12, 2007

My my, hey hey...

Good morning, it's Nov. 12 -- Neil Young made it to 62!

If you were reading our print edition today you noticed that 7-for-7, a regular 1A feature in the Monday Herald, was nowhere to be found. My bad. I'm normally responsible for the pithy content in that rail, and no excuses. I took the day off.

But thanks to our news desk for running Young's photo on 2A with the daily list of birthday celebrants. (They could have chosen Tonya Harding.)

Had the rail appeared, the Monday segment almost certainly would have been devoted to Young and his incredible catalog of music. Trying to think of just one meaningful phrase to share today isn't easy -- here are hundreds and hundreds of rich songs to mine. Guess I'll take the easy way out and go with one of his most recognizable rock anthems:

My my, hey hey
Rock and roll is here to stay
It's better to burn out
Than to fade away
My my, hey hey

Having a Neil Young song in your head is not a bad way to start the week.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

A writer's best tool: listening

When I asked columnist/reporter Vin Mannix how he found Vietnam veteran Brad Smith, I knew there would be a story behind the story. He didn't disappoint.

Vin has been mulling how to share Smith’s story for months. He met the Bradenton resident on Good Friday last April, at a children’s parade in Palmetto. And, in Vin’s words: “I was immediately taken by his story-telling ability, his vivid recall and his willingness to discuss an experience that was traumatic in every aspect.”

So today, on Veterans Day, we have the honor of a window into the resilience of a Vietnam POW. Vin’s first official interview with Smith was on Memorial Day, and after two hours of coffee and listening, Vin had more than 100 inches of notes. How did he mold that into today’s story? Here’s a bit of insight into this writer:

Of all the things he told me, two things grabbed me:
One was how he overcame the hate for his captors.
The other was the brown sock and white sock he realized he was wearing before the fateful mission, his reaction, and that he still has a piece of that brown sock.

Vin knew he had his story’s lede-in, and the ending. And, he says, he simply let Brad Smith tell everything in-between.

Late last week, Vin and online editor Ed Scott captured the video here on with Brad Smith. It’s a strong exclamation point to Vin's story and Grant Jefferies' photos today.

Here’s one more glimpse of Vin’s modest dedication: He thanked us for the opportunity to give this veteran’s story –- representative of so many thousands of other veterans today -- the time and space it deserves.


Friday, November 9, 2007

Quit the mud-slinging. Please.

Tell us the truth, now: Which headline in the Herald troubled you the most this week:

"$4 per gallon in our future?'' or "It's a runoff''

Local gas prices are scary, for sure, but waiting until Nov. 27 to find out who'll be Bradenton's mayor is a tough one to swallow. Don't you wish they could Get 'R Done sooner?

We heard Friday that the incumbent, Wayne Poston, has promised to run a clean campaign the rest of the way, and let's hope that's the case for both him and former mayor Bill Evers — who said he'll respond to Poston's pledge in his own good time.

These guys just don't like each other. We've known that for a long time, since well before they ran against each other the first time in 1999 (another runoff), and neither guy did a very good job of staying above the mud-slinging that characterized this contest.

Our city faces some major challenges and we'd love to hear some positive dialogue framed in the form of concrete proposals from both men before we head back to the polls to decide this thing once again.

How about it, gentlemen?


Thursday, November 8, 2007

Now, for the rest of the story

Several readers called and e-mailed this morning, wondering what happened to “the rest of the story” in the Bradenton Herald. They were referring to the well-written saga about the 76-year-old Broward deputy killed on-duty.

Readers of our Bradenton edition were engrossed in that front-page story, turned to Page 6A where the story (written by Miami Herald reporters) was supposed to jump -– and found an Associated Press version of the same story. But no jump.

Oops. That was a victim of poor zoning between our two print editions. In the Lakewood Ranch Herald, the story was contained inside and only on Page 6A. That’s our first deadline, and the Miami Herald –- our sister McClatchy newspaper -- hadn’t sent their version to us yet. So the News Desk used the AP story.

For the next edition, we brought the story out on 1A, and we now had the Miami Herald’s version. The plan was to jump that to the same news hole on Page 6A -- but the new jump page never got on the press.

That shouldn’t happen, and we apologize. I am glad you’re reading us and holding us accountable. The good news is that the entire Miami story is here online, too.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Anna Maria residents get results

Now that’s power of the people!

Within one month of learning that the Anna Maria Bridge was going to be shut down for 75 days during peak tourism season next year, the Florida Department of Transportation has recanted today.

Herald reporter Nick Azzara has been relentless in his coverage of the issue, with stories ranging from who would be most affected and what options should be considered, to how dangerous the bridge might be and what it really means to have PCBs in a bridge structure.

Nick sent an update for within minutes of the announcement this morning that FDOT will close the bridge for 45 days in October and November 2008, instead of 75 days starting in April. Because the work needs to be done, this scenario won the most support from people who responded to FDOT’s survey.

We hope our coverage helped keep the pressure on government officials to pay attention. Hats off to residents and businesses for getting involved -– from the public forum last week where hundreds of you turned out, to Barry Gould’s web site that tracked all the stories and developments, and to all who took FDOT’s survey.

What a pleasant change of pace -– residents and businesses were actually heard by a government entity, and action was taken. We’ll continue to follow developments throughout the day, and give you a complete report in Wednesday’s Herald.


Saturday, November 3, 2007

Busting gang members, Mafia style

Don't forget to set your clocks back -- and get an extra hour to read this Sunday’s Bradenton Herald.

You’ll find an examination of the affordable housing market in Manatee, stories on festivities ranging from the Snooty gala to the Taste of Manatee (which continues Sunday), Parade magazine, arts coverage, a look at the interior design business, a near-final look at Bradenton’s mayoral race, and plenty of college football.

But the story I found the most intriguing is by reporter Natalie Neysa Alund, who explores how Manatee County law enforcement officials have opened a new arsenal against illegal gangs in our community. And they’re the first in the state of Florida to try this:

Gang members are being prosecuted through state racketeering laws — modeled after the federal Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act created in 1970. In the first months used in Manatee County, 23 members of two criminal street gangs have been arrested.

As Natalie reports:
For years, the government tried tackling illegal gangs by taking gang members to court one at a time. And, just like the classic mob cases, witnesses would disappear or refuse to testify against the gang members.
Case dismissed.
So prosecutors, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement decided to try using RICO laws. With racketeering charges, cases can be prosecuted without the testimony of witnesses and victims. That solves one of the biggest problems prosecutors have in attempting to convict gang members…

Why Manatee? Because the public has never been more aware of the growing threat of gangs since the Easter gang shootings on Coquina Beach and the shooting death last May of 9-year-old Stacy Williams III.

The RICO approach is not without its critics, and Natalie talks to them, as well. It’s a compelling report.

And, for the sleuths in you, one of the area’s top fugitives was caught in the past week, thanks to CrimeStoppers. There’s also a new suspect being sought on charges of attempted murder. See our report exclusively on Page 4C.


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tracking our storms

Squalls out on the gulfstream
big storm comin' soon...

Here comes Tropical Storm Noel, just as we were thinking we might actually make it through a storm season unscathed.

Noel's current track poses no real threat to us on the west coast of Florida, but our wary eyes will watch until -- hopefully -- it makes a projected right turn up the Atlantic.

Scarred by the terrifying hurricane season of 2004 that saw four major storms rip through the state, we've learned not to take these weather systems lightly. And that's where comes in. Click on the Tropical Storm Update to get updates throughout the day, including stories, the weather service tracking map and a photo gallery.

We also provide the best coverage possible in our print edition, updating the storm coordinates at 11 p.m. each night before the Herald goes to press and publishing weather guru Martin Merzer's informative and entertaining stories.

Here's hoping we can hum a few bars of Jimmy Buffett's "Trying to Reason With the Hurricane Season'' without having to contend with a serious storm this year.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

About Tiffany and her Military Mom's blog

Tiffany Tompkins-Condie has a way of bounding into my office and putting the exclamation point in front of her first sentence. But she often has good cause –- and that certainly was the case when she came in to propose a new blog.

Tiffany is an aggressive photographer, a dedicated journalist who wants to capture everything in images. And she’s a mom. On this day, she had both hats on as she outlined her plan.

She wanted to make sure it was OK to “embed” herself with her son’s squadron. And I admit I did have a moment of hesitation. Photographers, more than anyone in a newsroom, lose their trepidation in dangerous situations. Something about that lens, between them and the scene unfolding in front of them, gives them a strange sense of protection. But there really wasn’t any danger in this, just strict oversight from her son’s superiors.

I remember the day Tiffany told me Daniel had joined the Marines. We both had tears in our eyes –- hers of pride, mine probably a mix of respect and fear. Now, he’s ready to take on his first overseas assignment. Tiffany has captured the moments in this awe-inspiring gallery: Here's a link:

And she has launched that blog: Manatee’s Military Moms

Just as Tiffany’s lens brings us the images of dedication and patriotism, her blog will offer a way for family and friends to connect. And it offers the rest of us a link to that world, regardless of our beliefs.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The magic of space and my Dad

As the seven astronauts blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center today, I had a huge lump in my throat. My dad worked on some of the earliest space missions for McDonnell Corp. in St. Louis.

The words “Cape Canaveral” were magical as I was growing up in the ‘60s, and we dreamed of traveling in space. It could happen -– my dad had models of the Mercury and Gemini at home! We kids were in awe of the possibilities, and Dad was proof that it was within our humble reach.

Now, in another century and with decades of triumph and tragedy behind it, space travel has lost much of that luster. With the world at our Internet-addicted fingertips, kids have far more to capture their fancy.

Or, maybe, just maybe…

Herald reporters Jessica Klipa and Carl Nudi went to school today, joining fourth- and fifth-graders at Kinnan and Abel where the magic was back. They are traveling in space, with their names signed on a banner that is on that shuttle headed to the International Space Station.

The kids sat watching and cheering as Discovery blasted off safely from the Kennedy Space Center. "It's pretty cool," 9-year-old Peyton Jones told Carl. "It's like a part of you is in space."

You can read their stories, and Marty Merzer’s shuttle coverage, in Wednesday’s Herald, and get updates throughout the 14-day mission here on But enough for now of blogging and the Internet and all that stuff.

At least for a little bit today, I was back with Dad, a kid who believes in that magic. And believing -– no, knowing -– that Dad’s out there watching with me. Because he never stopped believing in me or in magic and all things possible.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Reader is right on Kerr

A reader made a valid point over the weekend, criticizing our placement of two feature celebrity obituaries in Friday's Herald. The notice of actress Deborah Kerr's death appeared as a brief on 2A, while the notice for comedian Joey Bishop received a full story on 3A.

Poor news judgment on Kerr? I agree with the caller. Kerr was a remarkable actress, with numerous Academy Award nominations for some very memorable roles. Her beach scene with Burt Lancaster in "From Here to Eternity'' is one of the classic scenes in cinematic history. My personal favorite was her performance opposite Cary Grant in the tear-jerking "An Affair to Remember.''

We treated Kerr and Bishop equally in 1A teasers acknowledging their passing, then dropped the ball inside. Kerr deserved a full-length obit — which she receives belatedly here

No excuses. We need to do better on these judgment calls in our print editions.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Why the Herald endorses

Today, the Bradenton Herald's editorial board makes its endorsement on Sunday's opinion pages for the mayor’s race in Bradenton. (In keeping with the spirit of this blog entry –- which is not about who is endorsed, but why –- you'll need to find out who in Sunday's Herald.)

Why do newspapers endorse in elections? That question has sparked endless debate, inconclusive research and soap-box soul-searching for decades.

Political endorsements were once universally accepted –- whether respected or reviled -- as the role of the Fourth Estate. Then newspapers began trying to dispel the reputation of being an “ivory tower” of know-it-alls. Today, some endorse, some don’t…

This blog would go on way too long to weigh all those issues –- and I won’t in this space. But the Bradenton Herald believes we must weigh in on the leadership of our community, especially in local elections. We intend to ignite community conversation.

We need to care. That’s probably where I intended to start this blog. For the Bradenton Herald, our leadership role is most important in local issues, where you rely on us for coverage you can’t find elsewhere. You don’t have time to research all the issues –- that’s what our reporters and editors tackle.

It’s also important for you, our readers, to know that our news reporters are totally independent of that opinion process. Their reporting and discoveries help the editorial board form its platform, but that platform doesn’t dictate coverage.

Our editorial board uses that coverage, as well as interviews and candidate debates, to endorse the strongest candidate. Today's editorial presents the Herald’s choice so readers can compare with their own views.

Our No. 1 goal: to compel Bradenton residents to vote. That’s the foundation of this country.


Here's a link:

Friday, October 19, 2007

Warning! Coming Sunday: fright flicks

We're not above having a bit of fun here at the Herald, even if it gives us the shivers...

With Halloween approaching and horror movies everywhere on TV, we asked our newsroom staff to reveal the scariest flicks they've ever seen. The result is a frighteningly good centerpiece in Sunday's A&E.

I'm probably aging myself to note that one of my personal favorites is nowhere to be found on the staff's list. And that would be ... ''Village of the Damned,'' a 1960 English science fiction film. It only ranks No. 92 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments, but don't tell that to my older sisters. Their screams can still be heard at night in the old Pix Theatre building.

Zombie mutant children — yikes!

Check out Sunday's A&E to see if your scariest movies made the list.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The bridge hand we've been dealt

Breaking news:
THE bridge to Anna Maria Island -- the destination that's the real reason our community is on the map -- is getting shut down for more than two months. Shut down! And everyone's stunned by the incredible news.

We bannered the story in Tuesday's editions with reactions from residents and local officials. And we came back today with reaction from those entrusted with our safety -- fire and police -- as well as publishing the Herald's editorial stance.

My question: How can our local officials be surprised by this? Where's the communication, the planning, the long-term vision? The island's economy is under enough of a strain without businesses having to now build this into their 2008 expectations. And living on the island has plenty of challenges, magnified moreso there than most of Manatee County by soaring insurance rates. Now the state government is telling them that their main access is going to be severed for 10 weeks.

Why aren't those we elect and pay to "get 'er done" working together? It's only October -- so start talking now.

We plan to keep asking and keep tabs on this work.


The late, late, late show (continued)

We have a winner: Colorado Rockies over the Arizona Diamondbacks for a berth in the World Series. The result is posted at

Did you watch Game 4 of the NLCS to its conclusion? It ended after 1:30 a.m. our time, which was a far sight better than Friday night's Game 2. That one started at 10:12 p.m. and ended at 2:46 a.m.

And to the point made earlier about nobody watching baseball that late at night: Game 2 set a television low with a 2.2 national rating -- that's less than half of the previous lowest-ever rating for a league championship series game played in prime time.

The Rockies, who have won 21 of their last 22 games, appear to be an amazing story. Unfortunately, a lot of fans haven't been paying attention. Of course TV now has eight days off to hype them -- the World Series isn't scheduled to begin until Oct. 24.

Maybe we'll all be caught up by the time the Fall Classic finally begins in either Boston or Cleveland.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The late, late, late show

An editor at the afternoon news huddle today asked a curious question. "When did the National League play Game 3?"

It would be easy to miss any number of games in these baseball playoffs. The problem, of course, is the starting times.

First pitch for Game 4 of the National League Championship Series — which could determine the NL's World Series representative — wasn't scheduled until 10:18 p.m. Monday. That's just plain crazy.

OK, Arizona-Colorado might not be a marquee matchup. That doesn't mean you should schedule it when everyone's in bed. Even if you're a big baseball fan you might not choose to hang around for the conclusion. Let's face it: If you can't make it to the closing act on Leno, you probably have no shot of seeing the final out of this game.

And these late starts prevent most newspapers on the East Coast from printing the result (but please do go to to discover the winner).

If Major League Baseball is mystified by sagging television viewership for its playoffs, it should rethink its decision — based on advertising dollars, of course — to allow games to be broadcast when people aren't going to be watching.

You can't blame it all on the D-Backs and Rockies.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Where are the parents? Right here

One of the most frequent questions that shows up in comments on our news stories about kids in trouble: Where were the parents? Well, a story that has landed on 1A Saturday has a much different twist. Parents are front and center -- and demanding to know how their kids could be in trouble for winning a basketball game.

The parents made sure that the Bradenton Herald knew they cared and wanted answers. They packed two vans full Thursday night and drove to the Herald's front door to tell their story, catching newsroom staffers Brent and Jennifer Conklin just as they were leaving for dinner.

The parents couldn't get the words out fast enough: Their sons, members of the Buffalo Creek Middle School boys basketball team, had won a huge last-minute victory a couple nights earlier, against none other than Lincoln Middle, the school where most of them had attended last year. But the parents weren’t celebrating. They were demanding to know why –- after the fact –- the victory had to be forfeited.

Their boys apparently hadn’t met a district-wide rule: They are eligible for middle school interscholastic games only if they meet a “conduct requirement.” They hadn’t met the requirement a year ago at Lincoln Middle. But they sure are trying now, their parents insist. And only to have a game thrown out after a questionable challenge.

The Herald's night metro editor Joe Saunders joined the discussion with the parents, and he got education reporter Sylvia Lim working on the story. So, for the rest of the story, read Lim’s report.

Here's a link to Saturday's story:

I’m sure there will be follow-up stories on rules, children’s sports, parents’ involvement and the like. It's a hot topic that will have tongues wagging. And there's a huge asterisk here: I’m not condoning parents getting all lathered up and overly competitive when their kids are competing. I’ve seen too many parents ruin the day by getting ugly over a game that’s supposed to be teaching team play, team spirit, character building...

But these parents told us they just want a fair shake for a group of kids pulling themselves together to have a great time and stay off the streets.

And that should be a winner.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bleeding for USF

That was quite an idea Florida Blood Services came up with to latch onto the mercurial interest in USF's football program: Donate blood this week at any of the 13 donor centers and receive an "I BLEED GREEN & GOLD T-shirt.

Grant Jefferies' photo on the front page of Thursday's Herald captured the spirit of the cause. Blood donor Jeanette Wirz was all smiles as she accepted her shirt — a great-looking one, too, in the Bulls' green and gold colors with the school's official logo — from Tracie Smith at the Lakewood Ranch Blood Center.

The promotion has been so successful that FBS is extending the T-shirt offer beyond this week.

"Everybody wants one,'' said Amy Lee, FBS community relations manager for Manatee and Hillsborough counties. Lee told me this morning that another 6,000 shirts have been ordered, and FBS hopes to have the shirts available in its mobile units next week.

It's one thing to fork out $10-$20 for a T-shirt. It's another to receive a free shirt of the area's hottest team for donating blood that might be used to save lives.

"We've done shirts before with USF,'' said Lee, ''but it's never been like this.''

Having the fifth-ranked team in the nation changes a lot of things.


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Story stirs emotions -- good ones

At a time when everything is under intense budget scrutiny and tightening resources (including yours truly), it was heartwarming to publish a story about a $50,000 grant that is bringing families together.

Reporter Donna Wright’s 1A piece this Monday explored how the grant from the Manatee County Children's Services Tax Fund is helping the Grandparents As Parents Support group. This group helps relative caregivers who are raising children not their own --anyone who has become mom or dad to children not their own, whether they be grandchildren, nieces and nephews or other relatives.

Donna focused on Diana and Jerry Brown’s extended family: son, Jason, 7, four nieces -- Kayla, 12, Cheyene, 10, Ashley, 7, Hannah, 3 -- and nephew Danny, 5. With the help of Grandparents As Parents Support, the Browns are planning to adopt all five siblings. After our story ran, Kayla took a copy of the Herald to school to show her friends. As the oldest, she has had the toughest time adjusting to her new home. “What a burden for those kids to bear,” Donna said to me in recounting their hardships.

The Browns are trying to make a difference for others, too. As an advocate for relative caregivers, Diana has met with lawmakers in Tallahassee to lobby for changes in Florida law that will give relative caregivers more authority to speak in court on behalf of the children in their care.

There are so many families like this right here. Just look at the online comments with Donna's story -– so many of you are working so hard to give a child a brighter future. This story, we hope, will help others find the guidance and support they need.


Monday, October 8, 2007

Service is a wonderful thing

I'm off the journalism path a bit today -- forced to wait at home for a service call. And it has been some wait...

It started seven weeks ago when I learned I would need an upgrade (it doesn't really matter what upgrade, or whom would be providing it). Although I've been a good paying customer to this company for more than eight years, I was told it would be six weeks before a service crew could come out. Six weeks!!!

What can you do? I waited six weeks. Finally, last Wednesday, the day arrived. As I waited for the service provider, my phone rang. Sorry, there's no merchandise in the warehouse. We'll have to reschedule.

The new service window is today, between 8 a.m. and noon. But instead of holding my breath while I'm being held hostage, I thought I'd do something productive and blog.

I'm sure you've all had similar experiences. It makes you wonder how companies can stay in business -- or how much better their businesses might be if they could just provide reliable service to customers.

A friend was promised satellite television service before the NFL games kicked off two Sundays ago. He invited friends over and planned a football-watching party. The workers never showed up. They did arrive the following Sunday morning, but forgot to bring a tall ladder that was needed to install the dish. He's still waiting, too.

I wish the Herald was delivering so many newspapers every day that we couldn't keep up with our customers. I say this knowing that we're not perfect -- it's possible you've had missed or wet papers, or your Herald hasn't been delivered on time. But I can assure you that service is important to us. Circulation Director Terry Tramell and his staff work hard each day, seven days a week, to make sure that the sort of frustration I'm feeling right now isn't experienced by our good customers.

Oh, uh. My phone just rang. The service crew is running late...


Sunday, October 7, 2007

Kudos to our newsroom

On this Sunday, we pause to enjoy some work well done over the past year.

The Florida Press Club has honored outstanding journalism for 56 years, and we're proud of some 29 recognitions given to Bradenton Herald journalists this year.

No, it's not about winning awards. But it's nice to have our staffers recognized among their peers and now our readers for journalism that makes a difference. We think that's worth a headline, and so it is on the Herald's Sunday Local cover -- and here on

A round of applause for each of these winners.

Joan & Jim

Friday, October 5, 2007

Poston/Evers merge in cyberspace

Familiar faces are squaring off again in the Bradenton mayoral race: incumbent Wayne Poston and his predecessor, Bill Evers. This campaign, though, is taking a new dimension of online shenanigans.

Reporter Melanie Marquez got a tip late Thursday that all wasn’t what it appeared online. Take your browser to, and up pops Evers’ campaign site. All parties claim ignorance of the crossed lines, but as of this posting, it still wasn’t fixed.

Poston does have a valid campaign site (Melanie missed that one in print; her online story includes that now) at –- and the gloves are off there, too. Bill Evers’ “legacy” is little more than eroding infrastructure through the incumbent’s website. And Evers’ site has a gritty side-by-side comparison of what he accomplished, vs. Poston’s efforts. (In case you missed Melanie's story,here’s a link:)

Ah, politics. But since Evers' site solicits contributions, there may be more to this story. One attorney told Melanie that while the redirection from the site to Evers' site might not fall under First Amendment rights, the solicitation portion might have commercial value. Stay tuned.

And check out this afternoon, for the latest after these candidates square off at noon at the Bradenton Country Club.


Thursday, October 4, 2007

There's no place like home

We hear more and more stories about Bradenton kids who want to stay here — or return if they left for school or early careers elsewhere.

Thursday's cover story in Weekend provides yet another example. The band "We The Kings" — whose four members attended King Middle School, hence the name — has a new CD on a New York label featuring songs with titles like "Skyway Avenue'' and "This Is Our Town.''

Hanging around Bradenton has fueled the band's energy and creative juices. As frontman Travis Clark explained in the article: "We kind of wanted to give an original point of view to the kind of music that we do, and use Bradenton as a model for what we want to say, how much it means for us to be from here.''

The band apparently has a solid fan base and is landing some good gigs. They open next Wednesday at Jannus Landing, a popular St. Petersburg rock venue.

"We couldn't find a better place to call home,'' said Clark.

Now how cool is that?


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

LWR vs. Bradenton: Neighbors or foes?

Our two print editions – the Bradenton Herald and Lakewood Ranch Herald – have almost everything in common, but allow us to tailor the news for each area.

Having those editions has created a microcosm of the debate that sometimes rages between those areas. I regularly get calls –- mostly from longtime Bradenton residents –- about why they have “all” that Lakewood Ranch news in their newspaper. When we walk through the paper, it becomes far more obvious that the rest of Manatee County has even more local coverage. But perception can be everything. So how to tackle that “us vs. them” -– from both sides?

A current poll on seems to indicate you all are trying just that. Check out some of these voices:

The poll question: If Lakewood Ranch incorporates, should the new town have its own police department or continue to rely on the sheriff’s office?

And your responses go to battle:

"It's a great idea for the community."

"Yes, they should be required to provide all their own services. All the residents there have more money than they know what to do with, so let them pay. Why should we furnish them with anything? If they want to be on their own, let them totally be on their own."

"With the arrogance or, better put, disdain that some LWR residents view the rest of Manatee County, I say 'Don't stop with incorporation. Become your own county.' With that would be all the infrastructure required and expense. Let's see, law enforcement, government, water processing facility, waste water facility, fire dept., EMS & waste pickup. Oh yes, Public Works and Road Maintenance to fund and build all those roads so that the new arrivals can get around easily. Just think, you'd be masters of your own future! … It's called 'Paying your own way.'"

"Wow, such resentment toward LWR. The taxes that LWR generates for the rest of Manatee County I guess could be put back into just LWR instead of supporting the rest of the county. That would be ideal! I say to all those resentful people out there, be careful what you wish for and remember who is paying the taxes!"

"All those taxes LWR generates? Have you considered that LWR does not pay its way. That all those taxes are being eaten up by all the infrastructure, roads, schools, water lines and on and on. And still the rest of us have to pay more for everything we buy, more for gas and higher property taxes to add to what you pay…"

"Not sure if we are dealing with ignorance or jealousy here. Many out east, not just Lakewood Ranch, are paying a lot more in taxes for their homes than residents who have been here a lot longer. These residents out east are not getting back as much as paid in. There definitely is not much police presence and there are extra CDD fees that we pay out east for the landscaping. Many people just do not like changes. But get used to it, it is happening everywhere in our country."

And then there was this generous observation:

"Sometimes as a Bradenton / Manatee resident you could feel a little offended when talking to LWR residents. But take into consideration:
-- You are not living on what was a cow paddock 10 years ago in "neverland" area caught by traffic congestion.
-- You probably might have some subdivisions in your area which are usually connected to each other. I.E. you can even "visit" your neighbor on the property behind your house without the need to go back on LWR Boulevard.
-- They indeed do have nice shores, don't they. I mean those "sandy" shores on these little lakes and shores on tiny rivers. I for my perspective prefer having a real nice beach on the Gulf of Mexico or being in the natural part of Florida… So anytime you talk to a LWR resident who paid waterfront prices for a piece of cow paddock and you think he annoys you:
Relax, sit back and enjoy the sunsets on the Gulf...
And if you are living out in the county: Enjoy the freedom you have.
No offense meant!"


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

A tail-wagging story

It began as a photograph published Sept. 10 in Gallery, the Herald's weekly showcase of favorite images taken by staff photographers. Paul Videla had snapped a shot (do photographers still ''snap'' shots in the Digital Age?) of a German shepherd holding a rubber toy.

Paul wrote that the Animal Network was seeking donations of extra-large and sturdy toys for big dogs, which often have longer waits before being adopted or placed with rescue organizations. (The German shepherd photographed was waiting to go to a shepherd rescue group.)

Well, it was as simple as that. The donations came pouring in, none more signifcant than from the Kids R Kids learning center, which collected at least $600 worth of toys and food for more than two weeks and presented them Monday to the Animal Network.

It's a great example of "Giving Back," a Herald feature that spotlights good deeds in our community. Check out Tiffany St. Martin's story, with photos by Grant Jefferies, in Tuesday's Herald and at
In case you missed the story,here’s a link:

The German shepherd, by the way, is now at Bishop Animal Shelter awaiting a new family. You can check on her status by calling 792-2863.


Monday, October 1, 2007

How to reach your elected officials

At least one blogger and several online readers have asked for e-mail addresses to reach our area representatives. Here are their addresses -- the old-fashioned way, and by e-mail (via their web sites). All have indicated they would like to hear from you on the issue of children's health insurance.

In the U.S. Senate:
• Mel Martinez, Republican
5100 W. Kennedy Blvd., Ste. 190, Tampa, FL 33609

• Bill Nelson, Democrat
Sam Gibbons Federal Courthouse, 801 N. Florida Ave., 4th Floor, Tampa, FL 33602
or: U.S. Senate, 356 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510

In the U.S. House of Representatives:
• Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota/Manatee
1001 Third Ave. W., Ste. 380, Bradenton, FL 34205
235 N. Orange Ave., Ste. 201, Sarasota, FL 34236
1516 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515

• Kathy Castor, R-Tampa (includes some of Manatee)
4144 N. Armenia Ave, Suite 300, Tampa, FL 33607

In the Florida Senate:
• Mike Bennett, Republican
3653 Cortez Road W., Ste. 90, Bradenton, FL 34210

In the Florida House of Representatives:
• Frank Peterman, Democrat
710 Ninth Ave. W., Bradenton, FL 34205

• Ron Reagan, Republican
7011 15th St. E, Ste. B-1, Sarasota, FL 34243

• Bill Galvano, Republican
1023 Manatee Ave., Ste. 715, Bradenton, FL 34205

• Keith Fitzgerald, Democrat
1660 Ringling Blvd., Stes. 310-311, Sarasota, FL 34236

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Insuring our kids

“Our children first.”

That’s a pretty straightforward statement, and one that the Herald newsroom has tagged for a yearlong project aimed at improving public awareness of the challenges -– and opportunities -- facing Manatee County's children.

In today’s Sunday Herald, you’ll find the latest chapter on 1A, and it focuses on health insurance. How timely. The clock is running out on federal funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program, known as SCHIP.

The program has become a political football between an encouragingly unified Congress and President Bush. He reiterated in his weekly address yesterday that he plans to veto pending legislation -- supported by Democrats and many of his fellow Republicans -- that expands SCHIP. The bill would more than double the $25 billion program, adding $35 billion over the next five years. It calls for raising the federal tobacco tax to $1 a pack to finance the expansion.

Herald reporter Tiffany St. Martin reports today that as many as 750,000 children are uninsured in Florida. That number is nearing 9 million throughout the country, the U.S. Census estimates.

On the Herald’s opinion pages (10-11C) today, two of Manatee County's elected representatives -– both Republicans -– joined pens to write in support of expanding SCHIP. U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan voted for the House version of the bill. State Rep. Bill Galvano chairs the Healthy Families Committee in the Florida House and sponsored the KidCare reform legislation this year. The Children’s Health program, they write, “gives kids from low-income families access to the care and medicine they need to live healthy lives.”

As some argue over the danger that this is moving toward "universal" or "socialized" medicine, thousands of our children are living without that guaranteed access to health care.

We hope the Herald's continued coverage will spark at least discussion, if not prompt more calls for action.

We need to hear from you about how we can work together to make “Our Children First” a success. Add your thoughts here in our blog’s comments, or send me an e-mail. And if you are interested in joining a Herald-sponsored focus group for “Our Children First,” raise your hand. We hope to have the first meeting within a few weeks.


Friday, September 28, 2007

Singing the Florida blues

Do you think it's time for Florida to adopt a new state song?

For the record, our "official'' song is the 1851 Stephen Foster standard "Swanee River (Old Folks at Home),'' which was adopted in 1935.

Written by a great American musical storyteller and commemorating a river (actually, the Suwannee) that flows across Florida to the Gulf of Mexico, it's a song about yearning for your beloved home. I always assumed that Foster must have known the river and its people to have captured the dreamy sentiment so well.

Apparently Foster never even visited Florida, which shouldn't disqualify "Swanee River'' as the state song. However, folks have complained for years about the southern black dialect Foster used for lyrics. Specifically, the song contains a reference to "darkeys'' which many find racially offensive.

Now a movement is under way — again — to replace "Swanee River'' with a new state song. The Florida Music Educators' Association is leading the search, and more than 100 entries have been received. (Details are available at

And, as education reporter Sylvia Lim wrote in today's Herald, our own Rowlett Elementary boys choir has submitted a version of the song with new lyrics written by music teacher Dave Walters.

There's no harm in having some musical fun. If Foster were alive he might even submit a new song himself for consideration. But no doubt there are much bigger decisions facing Florida's future, so we hope the Legislature doesn't get all hog-tied on this in the next session.

Anybody for Jimmy Buffett's "Margaritaville''?


Thursday, September 27, 2007

This is not a sports blog, but...

OK, this really isn't a blog about football. You don't want me writing about football, trust me! But who can resist when there's so much team spirit in the air? It's fun to embrace USF Bulls fever -- a welcome change of pace. What would you rather read today: another housing scare story, or reporter Jessica Klipa's 1A story on University of South Florida's school spirit running rampant -- on our own campus?

I know my druthers, and I'll bet you're with us on this one. For football fans, it's a no-brainer, and our sports section has been packed with stories. But we can't resist touting the revelry and local pride on the front page this week, either.

As Jessica wrote, the fever has gripped the Manatee-Sarasota campus. The mayor of Tampa may have declared Friday Green and Gold Day, but our students are already packing green in anticipation of Friday night's sold-out game against West Virginia U.

Maybe only a non-football fan like me would hope that this high stays around for a while -- win or, gasp, lose!


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Are you a pigskin picker?

So who do you like Friday night, West Virginia or South Florida?

Do you really think the Bucs can beat Carolina on the road?

The Herald's weekly Pigskin Picks contest, which appears on Page 6D in Wednesday's paper, is becoming as popular as the USF Bulls. More than 300 people tested their football acumen last week for the chance of winning cash prizes of $100, $50 and $25.

The entry form lists 10 matchups each from the colleges and NFL, and you'd better get in the neighborhood of 16-18 correct if you expect to be in the running for a prize. Believe me, that's not easy. I'm going to play myself this week — just for fun, I'm not allowed to win — to see how I do against some formidable competition.

Now about that USF game ... you gotta coin?


Monday, September 24, 2007

Herald story connects myositis sufferers

Donna Wright, our health/social services reporter, has written countless stories that have reached out to people in need. Her recent story about victims of myositis, a group of autoimmune diseases characterized by profound and extreme muscle weakness, is a good example.

Donna wrote about Marianne Moyer, a 59-year-old Bradenton retiree with an adult form of the disease known as polymyositis. Moyer recently organized the Southwest Florida Myositis Support Group to offer support and find treatment options from others suffering with the incurable diseases.

Since the story ran in the Herald, Moyer has heard from several people in both Manatee and Sarasota who have symptoms and welcomed a place to turn. One of the more gratifying calls she received was from a mom whose 8-year old daughter was diagnosed in July and who is struggling with doctors, prognosis and fears. She now has been looped into the support group.

Says Moyer: “We made a difference in these people's lives! Thank you again. I don't think we've heard the last of people reaching out to us.”

In case you missed the story,here’s a link:


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Police blotter adds "Featured Fugitives"

A long-time popular feature in the Bradenton Herald every Sunday has been the “Police Blotter.” Anchored on Page 4 in the Local section, the blotter lists crimes committed during one week in Manatee County -- zone by zone. It’s a labor-intensive feature, because we gather the information from stacks of paper police reports, then input the data into our own computer system. But I know I check out my zone in the paper every Sunday morning to see if there’s any crime trend that should concern my neighborhood.

This month, in a partnership with Manatee County’s Crime Stoppers, we launched a new twist: “Manatee’s Featured Fugitives.” Every Sunday, the Herald will publish information on some of the most-sought suspects in local crimes -– their mugs, basic information and the crimes.

And, the sheriff’s office reports, the word is out and the calls are coming in. In the first four weeks, a half-dozen suspects have been caught. Last week, we noted two suspects -– Billy Thompson and Chauncey McDuffie -– who were apprehended. This Sunday, on Page 4C in the Herald, you’ll find two new suspects along with the others, sent to us by Det. Dan Hutto, Special Investigations Division of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office and Crime Stoppers coordinator.

We list the anonymous tips line and how to contact investigators with information, which can lead to rewards up to $1,000. More importantly, it provides a way for citizens to help make our streets safer.

-- Joan

Thursday, September 20, 2007

This morning's paper, updated online

Well, our 1A centerpiece in today’s newspaper got hit with a rain delay. But it provides a good example of how complements the Bradenton Herald.

The story heralds the return of “Get Down Downtown” after the event's hiatus during hot summer months. Reporter Melanie Marquez captured the anticipation of every Old Main Street merchant awaiting the crowds bringing in good business tonight. She updated how the local business owners have taken over the monthly event, working together in a partnership to give residents more reasons to come to downtown Bradenton.

But outdoor events in Florida always have that weather asterisk, and the storm clouds have gathered. So when organizers canceled the event just a little while ago, we didn’t have to wait until tomorrow’s editions to let you know. We posted the cancellation notice online just a few minutes after it was announced at noon.

The good news: The “Get Down Downtown” crew will try again next Thursday evening (Sept. 27). From your comments online, you are ready to get back downtown. Don’t let a little rain stop you!


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The real Dick Vitale

Dick Vitale showed us again why he's really a very easy guy to like.

As reported by Vin Mannix in today's Herald, Vitale spoke to students Tuesday at The Horizons Academy about getting their lives straightened out.

"Here you've got kids who have very little guidance and direction at an early age, and you're hoping and praying they don't allow that to bring them all the way down,'' Vitale told Mannix after the talk. "But they still have two things going for them — they're young and they're healthy, and if they really want to make it, they can.''

If you only hear the basketball commentator's bombastic courtside schtick, it might be easy to pass him off as just another talking head. But Vitale, a Lakewood Ranch resident whom we've spotlighted on occasion for his charity work, is trying to make a difference in our community.

Way to go, Dickie V.

-- Jim

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Posting your comments on

The Web is seemingly endless in opportunities, and we want you to tap into that world via every day. With that, we hope, comes some pride of shared ownership on your end as the user.

Our local content is our pride and joy –- stories, photos, graphics, slide shows, audio and more. And we want to hear your comments about those local stories, events and issues -– that’s the premise of this blog, for instance. And that’s the premise of “Post-a-Comment” on the Herald’s local stories. It’s a great place to have a community conversation.

But why do some of our Web users seem to take every anonymous chance they get to go off on a sometimes-ugly tangent about a subject or even a person -– especially when it has no relevance to the story? Some of our high school football stories have been a sad example of that. Team rivalry and competitive spirit aside, we’re disappointed by some of the really negative bents they have taken. In some cases, the kids and the game aren’t even part of the discussions any more.

In most cases, the obnoxious comments are moderated by the next person’s entry -– and that’s encouraging. We aren’t asking you to censor your beliefs, but we are asking you to be fair and focused. Here are some guidelines from, a site about commenting:

Post intelligently and calmly.
Stay on topic, and be original.
Read it before you post -– is that really what you want to say?

We’ll keep you posted on new and improved methods of moderating as we continue to develop In the meantime, here are the rules attached to all of our commenting lists:

Although we do not have any obligation to monitor this board, we reserve the right at all times to check this board and to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable to us in our sole discretion and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy the law, regulation, or government request. We also reserve the right to permanently block any user who violates these terms and conditions. All threats to systems or site infrastructure shall be assumed genuine in nature and will be reported to the appropriate law enforcement authorities.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Our next generation of journalists

We're happy to be participating with our county high schools in a project we call Journalism Next. In today's Herald, Bayshore senior Kara Rush shared her feelings about being in her final year of school. Look for submissions from other high school journalists each Monday and Thursday on the front page of the Local section.

It's encouraging to see students show an interest in journalism. Understanding the role of the Fourth Estate and learning the importance of protecting our First Amendment freedoms are as essential today as they've ever been.

I recently flipped over a page on my Freedom Forum calendar and was greeted with this quote from Emilio Castelar, a Spanish political figure:

"When I take in my hands a newspaper, when I survey its columns, when I consider the variety of its matter and the richness of its news, I cannot help feeling a rapture of joy for my age and pity for those ages which did not know this prodigy of human intelligence.''

Those are comforting words for newspaper veterans -- never mind that they were written more than 100 years ago -- and inspiring words for young journalists who might help us perpetuate the important role newspapers play in our changing society.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday Morning Coming Down #2

Good morning, it's Sunday, September 16. And how are you spending your day?

In Monday's Herald we run a short feature called "7-for-7'' in which we look at the week ahead and point out events and things of interest for readers. I mention this today because one of the features of 7-for-7 is a category called "Summer of Love flashback,'' and I happen to be having one right now, a SOLF that is. There's this song in my head and I ... well, you know what that's like.

Now, while it's true you have to be nearly as old as me to have an official SOLF, anybody can Google a few key words and you're almost there -- in bellbottoms.

I just found the video and audio of the song on YouTube -- I'm listening to and watching Spanky & Our Gang perform "Sunday Will Never Be the Same''. Another click and you have the lyrics (which don't agree from site to site), the chart position (Billboard No. 9), even the guitar chords. Just about everything you'd want to know about the song is available (including: Terry Cashman of "Talkin' Baseball'' fame co-wrote the lyrics).

But nowhere did I find a warning that the catchy "la-la-la-la-da'' intro melody will be impossible to get out of my head.

Even so, not a bad way to start the day.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

We're tired of O.J., too

There he is again in the news. He even made the front page of the Herald (and we invite your feedback on our news decision).

This time the dateline is Las Vegas -- yes, the tired act known as O.J. Simpson has now become a Vegas punchline -- and the latest questionable deed involves stolen memorabilia.

Who would want O.J.'s memorabilia anyway? Sure, it would be cool to own the jersey of a Heisman Trophy winner, but wouldn't it be almost freakish to have a jersey once worn by Simpson? Would you really want to be anywhere near that DNA?

It's easy to believe that collectors and fans might be interested in divesting themselves of his memorabilia. I just can't imagine there would be any takers. Except for O.J., of course.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday Night Lights

Be sure to read high school reporter John Lembo's column today on the Southeast-Manatee football game. It's really the only setup you need for this classic rivalry.

John disdains cliches, but recognizes it's nearly impossible to write about the matchup without resorting to, well, cliches. So his ending (and I won't spoil it for you here) is perfect.

When I moved to Bradenton in 1999 there were only five high schools with football programs in Manatee County. Now there are nearly twice that many. Other good programs are springing up and certainly some new rivalries are taking shape.

But there are no brighter lights than Southeast vs. Manatee. It's special every time these storied programs with their legendary coaches meet. And we really can't say more without, well, stepping into more cliches.

It'll be standing room only tonight around the rim of Hawkins Stadium. If you don't want to get lost in the sea of rowdy fans, you can tune in on television and radio. And by all means visit for the best online coverage available.

(add your own cliche here.)


Thursday, September 13, 2007

How is your local news zoned?

A director at a local non-profit organization asked me a common question today: Does her news release get in both editions of the Herald?

The answer: Yes, with a footnote: It might appear on different pages, with a slightly different "look" or headline.

We have two editions: the Bradenton Herald and Lakewood Ranch Herald. That allows us to tailor our local news presentation better for readers in different areas of Manatee County. Readers of the Bradenton Herald will see more front-page news about North Manatee, Bradenton, the islands, Palmetto and other areas. In Lakewood Ranch, readers will find the same stories, but they sometimes are in the Local section. Their front page will feature more about the Lakewood Ranch area.

Today’s front pages are a good example of different story play.

The Bradenton Herald has a centerpiece story following the tragic helicopter crash in the Gulf. And Vin Mannix wrote a story celebrating the 60th anniversary of Manatee High School’s Sugar Canes.

The Lakewood Ranch Herald’s centerpiece features the great fun Braden River Middle School students had when knights actually appeared on horseback. The helicopter saga is also on the page, just a bit lower. And the Sugar Canes’ story is in the local section.

The other stories appear in both editions: Reporter Sylvia Lim’s exclusive story on how a Florida Supreme Court ruling could affect how local governments can pay for development projects; Washington Reporter Lesley Clark’s story about our local representatives’ reactions to the latest developments on troops in Iraq; and Miami’s Martin Merzer weighing in on those pesky storms brewing out there.

-- Joan Krauter

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9-11 brought home

One thing that rings true six years later: Remembrances and speeches commemorating 9-11 are best conveyed by those who bore witness to the unthinkable devastation. Today's Tribute to Heroes memorial service at Bradenton City Centre featured a chilling keynote speech from Garrett Lindgren, a retired member of FDNY Rescue 3.

Lindgren, who now lives in Bradenton, had to choke back tears as he recounted in vivid detail the events of 9-11 as they unfolded and the brutal aftermath. It's impossible to imagine what he and his "brothers'' endured as they rushed to provide rescue and support after the Twin Towers collapsed.

Many of Lindgren's comrades were lost and -- as he took time to point out at the end of his talk -- many others suffered permanent injuries.

We can't possibly know what the rescue teams went through, other than it was probably more than most of us will ever be asked to do.