Thursday, October 30, 2008

Presidential hopefuls target Tampa Bay

Interest in the presidential election is at a fevered pitch in Manatee County, with early voting setting records and the campaign moving back this week to our battleground state of Florida. The Tampa Bay area is a key target. Gov. Charlie Crist extended early voting hours to 7 a.m – 7 p.m. through Saturday, including at Manatee County’s one site at 600 301 Blvd. W, 941-741-3823.

Democratic candidate Barack Obama is in Sarasota today, where he is expected to continue the charge for early voting at Ed Smith Stadium. We will provide online updates on his visit throughout the day. Caroline Kennedy was in New Port Ritchie on Wednesday campaigning for Obama.

Republican nominee John McCain was at the University of Tampa on Wednesday, where reporter Carl Mario Nudi covered his visit. But Carl couldn’t get in to hear McCain’s speech – it was limited to “pool coverage,” which means one representative of print media was allowed to report on the event and then share that coverage with other media.

We challenged that setup, trying to get our own report for this local news event. Instead, we had to rely on that pool report, with Carl gathering interviews from the crowd outside the speech. I question why, within a week of the election, both candidates wouldn’t want as much exposure as possible for voters to decide.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

There's always next year, Rays

“And the tying run is on.”

Joe Buck, son of the venerable St. Louis Cardinals announcer Jack Buck, said the magic words just minutes ago as the Tampa Bay Rays launched their last challenge tonight in the top of the ninth inning. Much too soon, Buck declared, “Phillies are World champions!”

After nasty weather Monday night had delayed the last 3½ innings of this game, Herald reporter Roger Mooney started his blog tonight with:
The only difference is the first 5½ innings are in the books and the score is tied 2-2. With just 3 ½ innings left, there is a strong possibility the team that scores first wins.

His were betting words.

We'll have full coverage in Thursday's Bradenton/LWR Herald, and here tonight on

In cheering for the Rays, my St. Louis Cardinals loyalties weren’t challenged in the least for this series. I am loyal to my Cards to a fault. But I wanted our hometown Rays to win so badly, and their run was exhilarating.

As my Dad would be saying, “There’s always next year.”


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Staff keeps Rays alive on

The Rays came out fightin' in Philly last night, but they lost it in a classic ninth inning -- this morning. With our paper edition already gone to press, the editors and reporter Roger Mooney kept the story alive online. As Roger writes in his web-only story:

PHILADELPHIA – Carlos Ruiz’s dribbler up the third base line with the bases loaded and no out in the bottom of the ninth inning scored Eric Bruntlett and gave the Phillies a 5-4 victory over the Rays in Game 3 of the World Series.

The hit came at 1:47 a.m.

Rain delayed the start of the game 91 minutes and pushed back first pitch to 10:06 p.m., making it the latest start time in World Series history.

And by 1:49 a.m., Roger had the final score posted to

Sports news editor Alan Bellittera emailed me at 3:53 a.m. to pronounce:
"Game 3 Web-only stories were posted to at 2:05 a.m. and 3:50 a.m." for all the final interviews and analyses.

Whew. That's one long day for these guys, who started their jobs both in Bradenton and in Philadelphia around noon Saturday. But then it is the World Series. And it's our job to get you the news, as quickly as possible. And we're playing it on 1A for you -- well, at least most of you, as I wrote in today's Letter From the Editor.

Here's hoping for clear skies -- and even spunkier Rays -- tonight.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's a Bay News 9 moment

Talk about multi-tasking for multimedia results!

Several of us were discussing new laptops in my office today, and in the background my TV was tuned into Bay News 9's noon report. Suddenly our business editor's voice joined the conversation -- as TV broadcaster/biz editor Jennifer Rich. Funny how TV can give you instant fame!

She was only steps away, sitting in front of the camera we have installed in our newsroom for "talkbacks" with Bay News 9, our TV partner. But we gathered around the TV, cheering her on as if she was miles away. She's been a regular this week, representing the Herald as Bay News 9 reports on the economic meltdown, in its "Watching Your Money" series.

One phenomenon Jennifer discussed was reporter Grace Gagliano's story today on pawn shops and how much business has increased. People are pawning their jewelry so they can afford medicine and gasoline -- it's that desperate.

Stay tuned -- here, on TV and in print -- for your news.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

How are we 'Surviving the Squeeze'?

Last year, the Bradenton Herald published a series of stories that examined "Manatee's Money Squeeze." As the housing crisis gripped Florida, as insurance costs spiraled out of sight and property tax increases crippled the average homeowner, we wanted to know what was happening to the middle class of our community. Topics included housing, employment, insurance, retirement, disposable income and consumer goods.

Today, as the economic tailspin continues to affect every sector of our community, we are taking what we explored in last year's series and launching "Surviving the Squeeze." As I wrote in today's Editor's Note:

The roller-coaster economic meltdown is causing many of us to reconsider major life decisions.We're finding ourselves, friends and families faced with huge choices: "Should I take that job instead of going to grad school? Should I postpone that dentistry work and make sure I can pay the mortgage? How will I pay for my kids' college tuition? Should I delay retirement -- or do I even have a choice?"

We're looking for smarter ways to ride the storm out. Today, the Herald starts an occasional series, "Surviving the Squeeze." These stories will examine real-life dilemmas, seek advice from experts, and find tools to help our readers learn to cope, react and change. And, we hope, find a touch of hope and humor along the way."

In today's story, reporter Sara Kennedy examined the dilemma faced by many baby boomers: What about my retirement? She explored this through some real-life situations in traditional story form.

She also found several useful web sites, but the list didn't make it in print. They are:
Suncoast Workforce Board:
Social Security:
Service Corps of Retired Executives:

As this coverage evolves, we also plan to use more alternative story-telling forms. The goal: to build a stronger network throughout the community and help put each issue in perspective.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Newsroom welcomes new computers

Our biggest news in the newsroom today: We have a new computer system! You wouldn't believe how long we've waited for this day.

It's not without its glitches, which is one reason I'm blogging on this. We're relearning every step of production, and there are hundreds. That's no excuse for the mistakes you noticed in the paper today (Ronald Reagan is not Bill Galvano, despite our tagline; John Folds was sentenced in the DUI case, and has only one spelling of his last name), but it contributed.

As we learn our new system -- Saxotech -- it will give us more time each day to focus on production details, both in-print and online. Our old computer system was literally not a member of this century. We plan to have a smashing goodbye party in the very near future!


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Early voters seek early coverage

We've heard from a growing number of readers in recent days who are clamoring for information about the six proposed amendments that are on November's ballot. Their calls and letters may signify a trend that more citizens are voting early. They want to be informed as they cast their votes, and they don't want to stand in the traditional lines on Election Day.

And they're turning to their local newspaper for that information. The prominent races tend to get plenty of coverage, both online, in print, on TV and radio. It's encouraging that voters are looking at the entire ballot, because some of these changes to our state's Constitution can have longer-lasting effects on our lives than any single candidate.

In today's editions, reporter Nick Azzara took a look at the controversy surrounding the proposed Amendment 2. That initiative would make gay marriage unconstitutional in the state of Florida. As Nick's story points out, proponents believe this issue shouldn't be decided in the courts and belongs in the constitution. Opponents say individual rights should not be threatened by such a measure, and they warn that the amendment might affect far more than gay couples' rights.

It appears voters will decide this by early November. However you decide to vote, please make an educated choice -- not just an emotional one.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Battle of the Bands rocked the house

Manatee County’s musicians rock.

They turned out in force last weekend to prove just that. Sure, this may be a bit biased -– the event was our’s inaugural “Battle of the Bands.” But I don’t need to sugar-coat anything. This community is blessed to have such a wide range of bands that thrive on local support –- and feel lucky to be here.

Battle of the Bands was the brainchild of Bradenton Herald’s Interactive Media VP Jackie Luper and Advertising VP Erin Humphreys. What better way to generate some new revenue than to tap into one of the most vibrant scenes in our town: The Bands.

And so, Battle of the Bands was born. In the midst of grim cost-cutting days, you should have seen the spirit generated throughout the Herald as committees were formed to handle everything from recruiting the bands to designing logos and handling the “pit.”

Posters went up all over town, and dozens of bands made the deadline for the finals. Heading into last weekend, 28 bands were named finalists to compete Friday and Saturday for the grand winner.

The finalists were awesome, and while the contest was deemed a “battle,” the synergy among competing bands was astounding. For hours, guitars, drums, bass, keyboard and fans rocked the Manatee Convention Center. The categories: rock, country, jazz/blues/reggae, and Christian. And they had the chance to win more than $3,000 in cash and prizes.

All local talent. All here to strut their stuff for local fans.

Full disclosure on my part: When Richard McNeil, our online designer who grew up in Jamaica, learned that I was a judge -– and that included judging the Reggae category -– I almost had to call 911 to revive him. He was literally in tears of laughter. But my love of music prevailed, and I humbly joined a great panel of judges to pick the best those nights.

Reporter January Holmes covered the competition for the Herald -- including on her day off. “Are you kidding?’ she said when editors "begged" her to help out. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world. This will be way cool.”

Totally cool. Here are the winners:

Traci Conrad,'s interactive sales & marketing manager, was front and center through all of this. She forwarded me some of the feedback we got in the past few days from The Bands:

Steve Satyr (bassist for SINERGY):
My thanks to the Herald and all staff involved in this event. It could not have been organized and executed any better. The event staff ran things flawlessly and professionally. I have never performed a large venue where all went so smoothly. Special thanks to Tracy Conrad, who kept it all together and made it a real pleasure to be a performer. I hope this will become a regular event.

Seven Years Past - Grand Prize Winner
Great job on setting everything up, it was an awesome show.

Seth White Worship:
Thank you so much for allowing us to be a part of everything. We loved meeting everybody and hanging out. You guys did an awesome job! Be blessed.

Meeting Aaron:
Hey, this is Bill, the drummer for Meeting Aaron. Thanks for an awesome time yesterday. The band really enjoyed themselves. Things couldn't have been run much more smoothly. Everything was on time and all of your staff was terrific. The tech and sound guys were extremely professional and made every band sound great. We got a kick out of all the cool video. The ladies from the Bradenton Herald are the best! Thanks and I hope you'll do it again next year.

Thanks for the great time, and the opportunity for us to play!
Hope we can do it again next year!!!
The Martin Westrick Combo :
Thank u all for having us!! We all loved it and had a fun time performing in the battle!

We can’t wait until next year.


Monday, October 6, 2008

Delays on being fixed

Note: Our site has been more than a bit sluggish this morning because of technical problems with "Pluck." Many of you have called, thinking the site is down. It's not, but it was sloooooow.

Pluck is the "social media tool" being used on our site to eventually host all of the comments, forums, blogs and other content. Other well-known sites that use Pluck range from and, to all the other McClatchy newspaper sites.

But there was a glitch in Pluck's network upgrade over the weekend. In the interim, McClatchy Interactive is removing Pluck from all our sites until the issue is resolved.

As McClatchy Interactive notes, we apologize for this inconvenience. And thanks for your patience.