Sunday, March 30, 2008

What's cooking in our print editions

It was during my second helping of roasted pork butt, cheesy potatoes and pretzel Jell-O salad when the question formed in my mind. (Actually, it came straight from my stomach):

Can I come back here again soon for dinner? How about tomorrow night?

The occasion was Easter, the setting a picnic table on the back patio of Bob and Diann Greene's Bradenton home. Family members shuffled in and out through the kitchen screen door to replenish their plates and drinks. Festive music filtered through the mounted outdoor speakers. Late afternoon sunshine flashed along with cheerful smiles.

I've known the Greenes for only two years, a friendship born out of a mutual admiration for guitars. Bob, a house painter and handyman by trade, has a vintage guitar shop on 26th Street and plays guitar like many of us only dream of playing (but we're working on that). Diann keeps the company books for both businesses and, as I quickly learned, cooks the heartiest mouth-watering meals you can imagine.

The Greenes ran a restaurant outside Buffalo, N.Y., before returning to Diann's Bradenton roots in 1994, so whipping up a dinner for a gathering of friends and family is no big deal for them. And they love to talk about food and cooking almost as much as they enjoy preparing the meals. When they reminisce about bustling Friday night fish fries at Lulu's, you wish you could have been there. Then you realize: It's even better to have a spot at the Greenes' picnic table.

And now, without much coaxing, Diann Greene is bringing her culinary passion and homespun wisdom to your kitchen in a weekly column, Down Home Cooking. Beginning Wednesday in Accent: Taste, the fifth-generation Floridian will share her experiences and tips on cooking. I promise you'll enjoy this new addition to the Herald.

The cooking column represents just one of many changes you'll see beginning today in the Herald. Remember the word "Accent'' — it is the thread that binds together our newly themed features sections.

We've mentioned our commitment to building a vibrant and vital Web site,, for Internet users, and that mission is well under way. But we're also firmly committed to the future of our print editions. To that never-ending challenge, we're making significant changes and enhancements.

A few highlights (you can read more details on today's A&E cover):

-- The daily comics and puzzles will move into our new themed Accent features sections, beginning Monday.

-- Most of our features sections are changing in size from tabloid to the bigger-canvas broadsheet (the one exception is Thursday's Weekend, which readers prefer in tab form).

-- A new section, Friends & Family, debuts Monday, offering family features, school news, advice on raising kids and related content.

-- Religion news, which had been published inside Saturday's Local section, becomes part of a new Faith & Values section.

-- Two existing features sections have been re-energized and moved to different days: WellBeing, which appeared on Saturdays, becomes Health & Fitness and moves to Tuesdays; Neighbors moves from Tuesdays to Fridays.

-- A stronger emphasis on community news — including ''hyperlocal'' content provided by you and your neighbors, both in print and online — will be evident when you see our new page, "Your Community. Your Town,'' on Tuesdays through Saturdays.

-- We're expanding our popular People society page and Susan Wilcox's social column to five days a week. Each day, Tuesdays through Saturdays, you'll find Susan's "The Social Scene" and photos from galas and social events.

Virtually all of this content will also appear, and often be expanded at, with supplemental photos, slideshows, video and audio clips, and a growing lineup of blogs.

You could say we're cooking on all burners here at the Herald. It's a hectic time, but probably no more chaotic than a busy night in Diann Greene's kitchen. I just wish we could deliver some pretzel Jell-O salad along with your morning paper.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Doonesbury takes a vacation

Even though we ran a story on 1A today, several readers were surprised to pick up their Herald and notice Doonesbury absent from the Comics page.

The story explained that Garry Trudeau, creator of the popular political cartoon, is taking three months off to recharge his batteries. We decided to use that period to "test drive'' some other comics, rather than publish reruns of Doonesbury.

The early calls and emails are about equally divided on our switch to Prickly City, which also has a political bent, albeit less liberal than Doonesbury.

One email sender wrote: "As a reader of the Herald for 45 years please believe me when I tell you that even the liberals won't miss Doonesbury. I loved the first installment of Prickly City and I hope we'll find that strip in the Herald for a long time.''

But an early caller voiced her displeasure with the change. "Doonesbury deserves to be in your paper. If you don't bring it back we'll have to cancel our subscription,'' she demanded.

We never said we planned to drop Doonesbury for good, but it doesn't take much to set readers off about their favorite — and least favorite — comics. This is a topic no one seems bashful about, so keep weighing in. We enjoy the feedback.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Our continuous newsroom

Today's letter from the editor**:

Our days are starting earlier and ending later here at the Bradenton Herald.

Why in the world would I want to make a reporter and editor get going at 6 a.m.? Or have the Page 1A editor finish the print product and then build the home page for at 1 a.m.? Sheer torture seems like a logical guess.

Nope. The reason? You. Our newsroom has to mirror your habits. Your demands for information. Your need to know.

And when you need to know it.

We are building a "continuous newsroom" — a local newsgathering operation that can provide you news and information around the clock by integrating our print and online products to be that seamless source.

We’ve reallocated newsroom resources and changed how we produce the paper version of the Herald to help make this change. It’s proving to profoundly change how and what we deliver to readers through, the Bradenton Herald and the Lakewood Ranch Herald.

We’re getting our first breaking news, story updates and tips for the day posted to by 7 a.m., Mondays through Fridays. Early-birds with connections to Manatee County are loving it, from the feedback we’re getting. The phones and emails have never started so early, or continued through the evening so late as news develops.

One of our most intrepid reporters, Carl Mario Nudi, has been promoted to full-time online reporter. You’ll still see his byline in print, because the stories will be that good. But his beat is online, all the time.

Carl is a great snapshot of how we’ve changed. He’s an amazing journalist who has literally done it all. He started as a pressman in Detroit years ago, when newspapers were still "hot type" and gritty. In our Bradenton newsroom, he has been copy editor, cops reporter, computer super-user, layout editor, Palmetto reporter and islands reporter. For the past two years, he has been hammering at me to let him at the world of web reporting. So now he’s in at 6 every morning. You go, Carl.

His backup, law enforcement reporter Robert Napper, is at the helm when Carl is on vacation. Two other veteran journalists have been tapped as early-morning online editors: Gary Taylor, communities editor, and Jennifer Rich, business editor. And all the other editors are helping post the breaking-news updates and blogs coming from just about every reporter throughout the day.

Within the next few weeks, you also will be finding more news videos on Paul Videla, a staff photographer for the past five years, is becoming our videographer to help develop daily videos and slide shows on He is working with Photo/Visual Editor Tom O’Neill to train all the reporters and photographers in capturing video and audio to enhance our key stories throughout the week.

Enough of the early-bird specials. For you night owls, Night Editor Matt Pallister, 1A Editor Brent Conklin and Night Metro Editor Joe Saunders are working later to give you the complete scoop of that day’s newspaper online. We’re usually online by 1:30 a.m. to complement the print copy of the Bradenton/Lakewood Ranch editions.

And your Bradenton Herald/Lakewood Ranch Herald still gets to your doorstep or driveway between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. — sometimes even earlier. There’s nothing better with a cup of coffee than the Herald.


**Joan Krauter is executive editor of the Bradenton Herald. Starting today, she and Managing Editor Jim Smith will be writing a "Letter from the Editor" published on Sunday's op-ed page.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hug a book today

If you love to read, you have a mission.

We have to get every kid we know juiced about reading. And this isn’t just my usual rant about reading newspapers.

Go hug a book today. It might be the most important thing you do.

I just bought two novels at lunch -– and I’m juiced about reading them, thanks to the author, Chris Bohjalian. He was the featured speaker at today’s Library Foundation Author Luncheon, held to benefit the Manatee County Public Library System. He’s on a whirlwind book tour touting his novels -– Bradenton is his 27th city since Feb. 11.

Chris has the gift of owning his audience. He had us chuckling as he shed any notion that a book tour is all about glamour and rubbing elbows with famous people. He had us applauding after telling how his hometown in Vermont lost its library in a flood, and how three generations of townspeople bailed out what they could from the library even as their own homes were flooded. He had all of us wannabe authors amazed at how his novels are borne from some crystallized moment or event that touched his life.

Each of his tales came together in one message: “Nothing is more important than getting kids juiced about reading books.” Reading is meant to be fun, no matter the vehicle. Just like we are unsure what a newspaper will look like in 100 years, we don’t know what books will look like by then. “But we’ll still be reading books,” Chris declared.

And we believe him, despite the discouraging numbers he dished out at the start. A National Endowment for the Arts survey found that, in the mid-1980s, 57 percent of American adults had read at least one book. Today, that number is a dismal 46 percent -– a decline of 20 million readers of fiction.

Here’s the flip side of those numbers. When his town lost its library, the word went out. Donations came in from around the world to replace it, and Burlington has a new library today.

Manatee County has discussed cutting library hours and even closing some branches in these tough budget times. We have work to do, fellow readers. An amazing chunk of that work has been shouldered by the Library Foundation for the past 20 years. That group has raised more than $450,000 for books, children’s literature and even a bookmobile, local attorney and foundation president Mark Barnebey told the luncheon.

Chris Bohjalian called us all "medieval monks" because we’re still avid booklovers. But he left us with this encouraging factoid: There are still more public libraries than MacDonald’s fast-food restaurants.

Love those double-cheeseburgers, but not without a book in the other hand!


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sunshine Sunday: It's your right to know

I was sitting at McKechnie Field this afternoon, soaking in all that is springtime here and loving it -– and the sun finally came out. Baseball, hot dogs, old friends, a sold-out crowd to see the Sox and Pirates -- wow, a perfect spring training day. And a reminder that I should blog on all that sunshine to remind you that it’s Sunshine Sunday here in Florida.

Actually, it’s Sunshine Week around the country, thanks to the leadership of the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. We launched Sunshine Sunday in 2002, when some Florida legislators tried to create dozens of exceptions to this state’s exemplary open records laws. Their timing? In part, they were capitalizing on our nation’s fears of terrorism after 9-11-2001.

In the next three years alone, Sunshine Sunday efforts by Florida's newspapers, including the Bradenton Herald, and the First Amendment Foundation headed by Barbara Peterson blocked at least 300 exemptions that would have locked away information from every Florida resident.

FSNE picked the Sunday that coincided with James Madison’s birthday on March 16 -- the fourth president of the United States known as the "Father of the Constitution." Now, in large part because of the success in Florida, the American Society of Newspaper Editors expanded the effort into a national initiative to “spotlight the importance of public access to government and freedom of information.”

While journalists spearhead Sunshine Week, the list of participants has grown as the word spreads on the importance to protect our right to know: civic groups, libraries, non-profit organizations, schools, neighborhood organizations and -– yes, many, many elected public officials.

The Bradenton Herald led today’s front page with a Sunshine Sunday story by reporters Nick Azzara and Grace Agostin, who spell out how you can access information from every public entity in Manatee County. Our editorial on Page 10C and on stresses that “public records are open to everyone. They belong to you.” We also provide you every contact point to obtain those public records in Manatee County at this link.

There’s a great collection of editorials, cartoons and columns from newspapers throughout Florida at FSNE's Sunshine Sunday web site.

Here’s a succinct explanation from FSNE on why access to public records is so important:

“The public’s ability to review public records enables citizens to see how their tax money is being spent and how government decisions are made. It provides the public with another check and balance. There are countless examples where the press or the public used freedom of information laws to bring to light inefficiencies, incompetence and outright corruption.“

Learn more about the national Sunshine Week and your right to know.

And revel in our sunshine. The Pirates won, 6-3!


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Manatee's women have a lot of heart

History buffs, Manatee County is your kind of place. And June Hartlieb, docent for the Gamble Plantation, can walk you through time here since the 1800s better than most.

While she typically will tout Major Robert Gamble and his namesake mansion that is the oldest structure in Manatee County –- and apparently the only surviving plantation house in South Florida –- Hartlieb focused on women tonight.

Hartlieb was the keynote speaker at the Heart to Heart Celebration by the Women’s Leadership Initiative of Manatee County, taking place during Women’s History Month. The event, to honor women “who strive to make a difference and contribute their leadership, time and financial resources to the community,” was fittingly held at another historic gem in our community, the Crosley Mansion.

She could have talked for hours. That’s how rich our county’s history of influential, successful women really is. I can’t begin to capture Hartlieb’s highlights here –- I have a lot more to learn about our history, that much became clear as she talked of women pioneers in the 1800s who made brave, daring decisions that gave birth to this community. She later told me she draws from dozens of history books and documentaries –- there’s that much out there.

Marianne Moyer, chair of Women’s Leadership Initiative, guided us through the evening from the podium. As she stressed the mission of this group -– investing in the youth of our community –- I heard the same goals that the Bradenton Herald has stressed in one of the newsroom’s key focus groups this year: Our Children First.

And then Moyer sealed a partnership that the Herald shares in helping lead this community:

“We are creating history as we go.”

That’s a helluva responsibility. As this community’s newspaper, we have been here for decades to record that history; to herald successes that can be built on; to challenge failures and shortcomings as the watchdog for a better future; and to bring together citizens who care about that future. The community not only deserves this –- citizens must demand this from us. And help us make sure that such journalism survives.

Tonight’s highlight of “Heart to Heart” was the recognition of four amazing women, nominated for all they do in the community in these four categories: time, talent, treasure and tomorrow:

Stacey Laidlaw, a trained mentor at Booker Middle School, for all the time she generously donates to youth.

Lisa Morrison (an added bonus – Happy Birthday!), a leader with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, who puts her talents to use in recruiting and inspiring so many others to volunteer.

Beverly Beall, who with her husband founded scholarships for Manatee students in a program now helping almost 70 kids, honored for being a treasure and sharing unselfishly – and for perpetuating giving, because she insists the students give back to the community.

“Charlie” Brunson, a volunteer with SMART (Sarasota-Manatee Association for Riding Therapy), who is tomorrow’s face of leadership among women. This teen volunteers at 6 a.m. every Saturday, donates all her babysitting money to SMART, and is training to be a certified member.

You all truly are the heart of this community. Congratulations.


Friday, March 7, 2008

Groover's headline was misleading

A reader felt compelled to call today to complain about the headline above a story explaining efforts to curb crime outside Groover's Market north of Palmetto. The headline on 1A of our Bradenton edition:

Targeting Groover's crime

The Groover family, said the caller, is a respected family that has lived in Manatee County for many years. But to read the headline, "for what it is, makes the Groover family look like they're the criminals,'' said the caller. He added that a neighbor of his in Parrish stopped by to voice a similar complaint.

Agreed. Neither the family — nor the market itself, which was sold recently to Tampa businessman Chetan Shah — is the culprit here. It is the crime and loitering outside the market that are being addressed by local officials. It would have been easy to write a more concise headline, and we have changed it at

Now, a suggestion for Mr. Shah from myself and the reader: If you're hoping to change the reputation of your new market, why not start by changing the name? "That's exactly what I thought,'' agreed the caller.


Monday, March 3, 2008

You now must register to comment online

You’re reading this because you’re already on, checking out our online offerings -– from breaking news, unique advertising, community contacts, videos, slide shows, documents –- and story “commenting.”

That last element in particular falls under what probably can be classified as freedom of speech: the right for anyone to speak their mind. Unless…

Unless that “speech” is so ugly, so injurious, so libelous that it becomes garbage. Do you have that right? Maybe, but we don’t have to allow such hatred on the Herald’s web page.

Unfortunately, such abuse has been increasingly rampant on our commenting boards, which are attached to each story we publish. The vitriol, the racist hatred and the gutter talk that have surfaced with increasing frequency has been despicable.

Media websites around the country share this dilemma: How do we continue to provide a voice for the community and a way to interact with our site while keeping the extremely ugly commenting out?

Starting this week, we have made a significant move on to curtail such commenting, even though it initially cuts into our online traffic. You now must register before you can comment. Other newspaper sites that have gone this route report that it decreases ugly anonymous postings.

Here’s what you’ll see:

If there are no comments yet on a story:
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If others have already commented on that story:
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Along with this, here is our policy on postings at
It is not our policy to monitor the boards, because we are simply not staffed to do it. But as soon as we are alerted to inappropriate comments, we will remove them.

And a note that we hope to act on soon:
We are considering having community volunteer monitors. If you are willing to be one, let us know and we’ll contact you if we go that route.

Several concerned readers who have voiced their concerns have voiced interest in such monitoring. Here’s the response from one resident:

Thanks for acknowledging my concerns. I am sure the newspaper will put forth every effort to tackle this problem. If you do decide to go the community policing route, please send me the guidelines of the program; I will definitely consider it.

Let me know if you want to join that monitor list. We don’t have any desire to be forced to create censures of information. Please, help us weed out the jerks out there who want to spoil freedom of information for all of us. That’s why it’s one of our guaranteed rights as Americans –- and why the Fourth Estate must continue to prevail, in print, online, on air –- everywhere.