Friday, February 29, 2008

Live, from spring training!

If you can't make it to all the Pirates and Rays spring training games this year, be sure to check out our live blogs for both teams at

We'll do more than keep you up to date with the action on the field. We'll capture the sights, sounds and smells (think: the whiff of Coppertone). You might not be able to actually TASTE those juicy hotdogs, but this Grapefruit League coverage is going to be good -- and fun.

Here are two nuggets from Thursday's Pirates opener at Bright House Networks Field in Clearwater from reporter John Lembo, who was covering the game with Pirates beat reporter Mike Henry:

Top 8th: Pirates at Phillies
The Phillies won a division title last year, right? Where is the hoopla? Nowhere is there a mention of the team winning its first division title in nearly 15 years. Nothing on the scoreboard, on the outfield wall, or anywhere.

There is, however, a framed spring training schedule from 1990 hanging in the press box. It’s autographed by Von Hayes. What's really weird is this stadium is five years old, so someone consciously brought over this old, framed schedule to hang in the new press box. But, hey, it is autographed by Von Hayes. They should probably post a security guard next to it or something.

Bottom 7th: Pirates at Phillies
Here's a great story: Jaret Wright, who nearly pitched the Cleveland Indians to a World Series title 11 years ago, enters the game for the Pirates.

He’s a non-roster invitee whose promising career has been derailed by injuries. Nonetheless, he throws a shutout inning, keeping the Pirates’ lead intact.

The action and insights will be updated each half inning, so you'll be able to stay on top of what's happening.

We're blogging today from the Pirates' home opener at McKechnie Field, and we're also at Ed Smith Stadium for the Rays and Reds. Check them out on our Sports home page and enjoy.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

We goofed on today's jump page

We’ve had calls from a number of readers this morning, looking for the rest of reporter Sylvia Lim’s story about the preservation of Bradenton’s Pillsbury Temple Mound. The story starts on 1A, refers readers to 4A – and it’s not there. And that’s definitely not the end of the story.

What happened? In the crunch of deadline, the updated Page 4A never got on the press for the Bradenton edition. (Our Lakewood Ranch readers found Lim’s report in entirety on Page 2C.) The power-story jump on 4A in the Bradenton edition is missing a couple lines, and the jump to the courthouse security repeats several paragraphs. But they are there.

Lim's mound story was a significant development in efforts to preserve the mound, with Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Cabinet throwing their support to preservation -- making it eligible for state funding. Lim initially broke the story last year when efforts to develop the property surfaced, and she has doggedly investigated the issue since. Her reporting has been credited, in part, for continued recognition of the mound’s significance.

Needless to say, we have one disappointed reporter today. We’ll republish the story in Thursday’s local section, with any updates if warranted. And while we wish we had gotten it right in the first place, we’re glad we’re getting the calls. Readers want the rest of the story.

Here’s a link.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Tough lessons teach, inspire

Joan Tomeo went back to school without a degree at age 40 –- at the same time she was raising five children eight years apart on her own. A decade later, she had her first master’s degree, and now has earned yet another.

Jackie West has been a teacher and administrator for 34 years, most of those serving the Manatee County school district. She has taught countless students and coworkers to lead by example. Oh, she almost fails to note, she was diagnosed with breast cancer several months ago –- and that has only added to her resolve to help others.

Amy DeTone is a former PACE student, looking out from the podium at girls where she sat just four years ago. She has had to use every ounce of focus she learned at PACE Center for Girls –- she had a baby when she was 18. Where is she today? Planning to get married in May, and getting her teaching degree from USF in December, with husband Kevin and their daughter at her side.

All three were honored today at the Junior League of Manatee County’s Women in Strength awards luncheon for the PACE Center for Girls. As I listened to each of their stories, I saw that woman of strength. I watched each woman stand just a little taller as they choked back the fear of speaking –- especially sharing such private moments –- with the hope that their story would inspire the PACE students sitting at the tables with Junior League members.

They certainly inspired me. It was the fastest 90 minutes I’ve spent in a long time. And, perhaps because all coincidentally are employed by the school district, they taught us about strength.

Joan Tomeo, a social worker for the school district’s Drop Out Prevention Department, was the first honoree. She was introduced by Catherine Bartz -- one of Joan’s five children, all of them gathered there at the Bradenton Country Club for their mom’s honor. Catherine contrasted a “strong woman” with a “woman of strength” -– and what a great takeaway. A strong woman has confidence; a woman of strength has grace, a way to instill passion in everyone else’s heart. “That’s the same kind of passion I hope to give my daughter,” Catherine said proudly. “Mom, you are a woman of strength.”

And Joan’s message to the PACE girls: “Someone has seen the potential in you… now it’s time for you to embrace that potential.”

Jackie West, principal at Seabreeze Elementary, was the second honoree. She, too, deflected the honors bestowed on her toward the girls instead. “It’s all about choice,” she said. “Your whole life is a tapestry of all your experiences. And you choose which path you take.” Here was a woman who is learning to deal with breast cancer, and she still adamantly believes in choice – and threw the challenge back at us, with a huge smile. My own challenges immediately fell into perspective.

The third honoree didn’t leave a dry eye in the house. Amy DeTone, a former PACE student, warned the girls that they should soak up the self-esteem PACE would teach them. She did –- and she credits that for her determination to walk across the stage for her high school degree, even though she was five months’ pregnant. As she spoke of that “sense of great honor” standing before us, she teared up at the strength of those memories –- and broke the silence by chastising herself, with humor: “It wasn’t that devastating!” The laughter embraced her, a woman of strength.

The Bradenton Herald sponsored the event, with the help of our marketing director Jill Lakner. This element of our jobs –- community involvement -– is one of the most important ingredients in defining the Herald as a leader in the community and a stimulus for needed change. The 50 girls from PACE are our future. Let’s hope they, too, gleaned strength from today’s honorees.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Advantage: Home buyer

If you happen to be shopping for a home this weekend, I hope you're armed with our Saturday Real Estate guide.

"It's a great time to buy'' might sound like an enticing advertising slogan -- and, yes, this bulging 48-page section is an advertising supplement of the Bradenton Herald and Lakewood Ranch Herald. Our advertising department worked with Manatee Realtors to produce this special edition that includes updates on the market, tips on finding the right home and the weekend's best deals.

All you need to do is look at the housing prices, the volume of listings, and the special weekend pricing packages -- like Wagner Realty's 10 percent off Red Tag sale -- to know that there are some very strong motivators in place to spark a housing market comeback.

The cover photo is for a house priced at $178,800 -- a number that was virtually impossible to find for a single-family home two years ago in Manatee County. There are 4 1/2 pages of Open House listings and a color double-truck map of Parade of Homes properties. And plenty of Realtor listings so you can have professional assistance in your search.

The debate continues about whether the local market has bottomed out after a record spike in housing prices that left many would-be buyers out of the equation. But most experts agree if we're not there today, we're close to a turning point where values begin to rise again. And that means homes purchased now very likely will appreciate in value over the next few years.

If you're a bargain hunter like I am, you're out there looking this weekend.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Community group will guide our coverage

Last September, we announced plans for an ongoing series, Our Children First. The starting goal was a yearlong project aimed at improving public awareness of the challenges -– and opportunities -- facing Manatee County's children.

In the months since, the Herald has sponsored two drives to collect supplies for schoolchildren and for the needy, and published a variety of stories examining the challenges facing our community’s youth.

But that was a “soft launch.” What we really needed was guidance from the front line –- community leaders, parents, caregivers and, most importantly, the kids themselves.

We sought diverse volunteers to join a community focus group for Our Children First. That group met for the first time last week –- and their passionate commitment to helping the Bradenton Herald dig into this is inspiring.

For two hours, we sat in a circle and talked reality. Actually, those of us from the Herald listened as our new focus group talked. These folks are living what we want to write about. These folks are determined to get help in finding solutions to build a safer, saner environment for our kids.

The group includes that diverse representation we sought – including five high school students who vowed to get peers from all our high schools involved. Their contributions are already invaluable –- honest, brutal insights into their world today. We have our work cut out for us.

You’re not seeing participants’ names here yet because we want to keep this group brutally honest and open with us, instead of fearing their teacher, boss or neighbor might resent or prevent what they can share.

One of the more interesting outcomes of our first meeting: Adults and teenagers in our forum group usually agreed on what isn’t working, and that the challenges are taking root at a far younger age. In fervent unison, the entire focus group agreed that lack of discipline -- and lack of respect for discipline -- is key.

One other pointer we heard: Don’t just point fingers at who’s to blame. Help find solutions. And we will do that, with your help. Please keep the ideas coming. Send your thoughts, and watch our stories to give feedback.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Let's fight this one for Joey

If you know me, you know Joey, my Tibetan Spaniel. You probably know his formal name, too: Joseph Pulitzer Krauter. That’s what a little guy gets when his mom’s a journalist.

Joey has had a tough few days –- we think he had a stroke last week, and he has been struggling ever since. He and I spent Valentine’s Day at a doggy neurologist -– she’s an amazing veterinarian, searching for the cause of my dog’s hyperextended head, his sad darting eyes, his pain…

She decided he needed an MRI, which was risky because of his age (he’s a teenager at 13!) and because he has a heart murmer. But he came through like a trooper. The vet had braced me: She feared cancer, some sort of brain mass or an inner ear disease. But all she found was Joey’s smart brain -– a relief, but we still don’t know the root of his troubles.

Why am I blogging this? Because Joey made some progress over the weekend. Because I have hope. Because so many friends have reached out to say they are here for us (when we ended our marathon day with the doc, there was a card from all the neighborhood dogs in our mailbox…). Because my long-distance pals who read this blog will want to know.

And because I’ve searched the Internet for four days, looking for anything that could help Joey. I’ve probably read 100 sites, for instance, explaining canine vestibular disease –- Joey might have an idiopathic form of this.

I don’t think anything could have highlighted the reality of my business more than this for me. How we get information, how we reach out, how we communicate has changed rapidly and forever. Newspapers and their web sites -– including ours at the Herald –- are working hard to be at the forefront of that change.

As I combed through site after site, I realized how impossible it was to tell which site I might be able to trust most. And that is what we at the Herald must instill in newspaper readers and online visitors: Trust that the journalists in our newsroom will dig as hard as they can to find accurate, truthful and insightful local news.

Back to the real reason for this blog: my pal Joey. Here’s to you, buster. Thanks for being a fighter. I’m a lucky mom.


Here's Joey celebrating his 13th birthday last Dec. 10:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What's up with changes on

I was traveling over the weekend, without access to a computer. (OK, I still had the dang Blackberry –- but no laptop!) So I didn’t see the changes on until early Monday morning. I did a bit of a double-take, and bet you did, too. Here’s some insight.

These “tweaks” are the first in a series of changes to make our site easier to navigate. Every change is meant to make more user-friendly, handy for both quick viewing and longer visits, and a clear snapshot of breaking news, top local and national stories, and any information you need about our community.

As our publisher, Will Fleet, puts it, “It is all about the user.”

The changes are being instituted by Jackie Luper, the Herald’s vice president of interactive media. “All of the changes have the same end goal in mind: to make the site the best place to find community information and to make the site easy to use and interact with,” Jackie notes. “We won’t make changes just because they look good.”

The most significant change right now is that the navigational tool bar has moved. It truly is a “bar” now, with the menu across the top of the page for easy viewing. It used to be down the left side of the site, a clunky arrangement. We eventually will have menus that drop down when you hover on the tabs. Right now, you can click on each for deeper content.

As you move through the pages, we hope you’ll find a lot fewer traffic jams with content spread more evenly. There are a few glitches (no Weather page yet, for instance -– and with storms on the horizon, we’re working quickly to fix that!) and we want to hear about those from you. Please send an email to Jackie or me

Or comment here on our Editors' Blog.

New content we have planned in coming weeks includes community sites and more videos –- from you as well as our reporters.


Friday, February 8, 2008

Welcome back, Pirates

Be sure to check out reporter Roger Mooney's feature today on the grand history of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who return this week for their 40th season of spring training in Bradenton. (You'll also find the Grapefruit League schedules.)

We can hardly wait for baseball to return to McKechnie Field. Folks up north anxiously await the return of the robins -- the first sure sign of spring. Well, spring comes to us with the sharp crack of the bat. We never get over the excitement of having Major League Baseball in town for a month.

We'll dig out the old glove, slap on a coat of suntan lotion and head out to the ballpark for some games. Say, could you blast some Johnny Cash on the P.A. system this spring? We've missed "Ring of Fire'' with our foot-long hotdogs and ice-cold beer (on days off, of course).

The added attraction this spring is lights -- the Pirates will play their first-ever night game at McKechnie. As exciting as that sounds, we look forward to catching an early burn in the sun-splashed left field bleachers as we wait ... and wait ... and wait ... to glove an elusive foul ball.

Watch for our expanded online coverage of the Pirates at this spring, in addition to the best print coverage of the Buccos in the Herald.

See you at the ballpark.


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

After all, it's the presidency

Anyone who has lost faith in the American political process should be buoyed by what's happening in these presidential primaries.

It's a long way to November, but there's still some intrigue to hold our interest. And some encouraging signs that, just maybe, there are better days ahead.

In particular, the battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is a sizzling matchup that could go either way and might not be decided before the Democratic National Convention convenes in Denver Aug. 25-28. Forgive a sporting analogy, but this looks like a Frazier-Ali matchup that goes 15 pulsating rounds. And the Dems seem confident they can't lose no matter who's standing at the end.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney's decision Thursday to drop out of the Republican race pretty much seals the nomination for John McCain. There wasn't a whole lot of suspense left on the GOP side after McCain's performance on Super Tuesday, but Romney and Mike Huckabee deserve credit for staging game campaigns that stirred up the Republicans. And we still want to hear what they have to say as McCain polishes his restored bid for the presidency at the GOP Convention Sept. 1-4 in St. Paul.

No matter your stripe -- Republican, Democrat or Independent -- it's encouraging to see the manner in which Americans have been responding to these races. Our cynicism about the presidency and Capitol Hill's tired partisan politics has given way to the promise of a new beginning.

And this welcome sight: Young people are participating. As someone who voted in the 1998 Minnesota election for governor, I can remind you in two words how important the youth vote might be come November: Jesse Ventura.

The reassuring news is, there's not a single former professional wrestler among the remaining presidential hopefuls. Just a slimmed down field that has sparked our interest and commands our attention the rest of the way.


Monday, February 4, 2008

Color me a Geckofest fan

OK, so we’re between the Supers, and I’m looking for some colorful relief. Here’s an item that’s nothing but fun –- and should help brighten up our town.

The Bradenton Geckofest is back, with gusto. Throughout town, you see vibrant geckos hanging from the walls of businesses –- sponsors for each creature that will be auctioned off to raise money for our local arts community.

The original Geckofest was a blast in 2006 –- and yes, I fell culprit to a gecko at that auction. I am the proud owner of a beautiful cut-glass gecko that graces the high-arched wall in my living room.

So as the date draws near for this encore, sections editor Jana Morreale knew I’d be on board for our own gecko contest. Because the auction's funds will go a long way in helping guarantee that our schoolchildren will continue to be exposed to cultural activities and arts learning, we decided to ask them to color the next-best Gecko of Manatee County. The Bradenton GeckoFest 2008 loved the idea, and is sponsoring it with us.

We think we have a hit. We just announced the Geckofest Coloring Contest last week and on the A&E cover Sunday. And this morning, more than 100 entry forms had already been picked up at the Herald’s front desk.

The forms are available at the Bradenton Herald offices: 102 Manatee Ave. W. OR 11121State Road 70 E. And you can go here online for a form, too.

Entries will be judged by local artists.

The rules:
AGE CATEGORIES: 3-5 years, 6-8 years and 9-12 years

PRIZES: The first-place winner in each category will receive an engraved plaque, their winning entries framed, and a $25 gift certificate from Keeton's. Second-place winner in each category gets a $20 gift certificate from Keeton's and third-place winners get $10 gift certificate from Keeton's.

Winners will be published in the March 9 Bradenton Herald.

HOW TO SUBMIT: Deadline to enter is Feb. 25. All entries must include your name, age, address and phone number. Submit entries to either Bradenton Herald office or mail to Geckofest Coloring Contest, c/o Jana Morreale, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton 34206.

Get out the crayons!


Friday, February 1, 2008

Feeling Super yet?

We have to ask: Giants or Patriots?

A friend who has spent years rooting defiantly against the New York Giants just called to say he will be spending Sunday night rooting for ... the Giants.

That seems to be the prevailing attitude approaching the big game. Unless you're a diehard fan of the New England Patriots, it's likely you'll be pulling for the Giants — maybe you would have pulled for anybody — to spoil the Pats' perfect season.

Now my friend does carry some baggage. It was the Giants who beat his team, the Buffalo Bills, in Super Bowl XXV in Tampa. He hasn't forgotten. But he also hasn't forgotten that the Patriots are in the Bills' division, and it hasn't been a pretty rivalry in recent years as the Pats have pretty much dominated the action. They're just, well, too perfect.

My friend isn't alone. Far from it. People just don't seem to like the Patriots. You've probably heard the grumbling: Their coach is an arrogant slob. Their quarterback is a pretty boy. They're cheaters -- they got caught spying on another team this season.

In Florida, of course, there's a legion of Dolphins fans who want the Pats to go down, which would allow the '72 Dolphins to remain the only unbeaten NFL team in modern history.

I have no rooting interest. I'd just like to see a good game, so if the Patriots — who are almost two touchdown favorites — get a big lead early, I'll probably switch it off. Forget the commercials. Forget Tom Petty at halftime. Well, maybe I'll stick around for Tom Petty. Like the Patriots, he seems like a sure bet.