Sunday, May 25, 2008

Was Syesha 1A news, or "Idol" chatter?

Today's Letter from the Editor gives you a glimpse into one of the daily discussions within our newsroom: what belongs on the Herald's front page. And the headline in question centered around "American Idol" and our local contender, Syesha Mercado.

Most days, either Jim or I are making those decisions. As he points out, tradition has pretty much gone the way of fat newspaper staffs. And has turned that into a non-stop discussion -- what should be the dominant photo? How often to change out? Should that breaking news stay on the home page? What's the sexiest headline to get the most traffic?

Rather than merely agonize, though, we find ourselves having a bit of fun. It was almost a relief to have Syesha up for discussion with her fresh outlook on stardom, her strong ties to home and her whirlwind tours. And we won't share the newsroom banter that surrounded the "Daves."

Newsroom humor is often our method for behind-the-scenes coping. When your staff is immersed in the latest murder case, the spiraling economy, soaring foreclosures and school cutbacks, a terse joke sometimes is the only thing to break the tension.

And just when we think we've found something new... well, do a google on The Front Page. Reporters Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur wrote an award-winning play way back in 1928 that starred Hildy Johnson in a steamy Chicago press room, filled with bad jokes, agonizing decisions and good gumshoe journalism.

That's the press, baby. And we love it.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Obama is local news today

Florida is the political hot-spot this week for the presidential race.

Today, with most observers saying he's got the Democratic nomination in the bag, Barack Obama is stumping in the Tampa Bay area.

And we'll be posting live coverage throughout the day. Reporter Maura Possley is at the St. Pete Times Forum, where Obama is scheduled to appear at noon, along with photographer Tiffany Tompkins-Condie and videographer Paul Videla.

Stay tuned.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Editor's Letter on foreclosure series

Today's Letter from the Editor closes with this scenario:

The plant I worked at for the last 10 plus years suddenly closed down last November. Since I am over 50, no prospective employers will even grant an interview much less hire me . . . we may be homeless in a few months' time . . .

This came from a Manatee resident in response to the Bradenton Herald's series exploring the foreclosure crisis gripping our community and many others across the nation. He has depleted everything and missed a mortgage payment. Will the lender work with him and his wife to try and prevent another foreclosure? How about all the others? Can our legislators at the state and federal levels help stem the bleeding? What else can be done?

These are questions we'll be addressing in the weeks ahead as we further explore the devastating toll of foreclosures in our community.

As I recapped in the column, our reporters found the final tally for 2007 came to 2,528 foreclosures in Manatee County. In the first quarter this year, that number was already approaching 1,200. In this online foreclosure package, we have built an interactive database with these numbers, and tracked where they have hit hardest in Manatee neighborhoods. But the real stories are told in the videos and words of those trapped in this nightmare. We'll continue to add to this package as you help us find solutions.


Friday, May 16, 2008

McCain/Obama/Clinton -- what an image

An online reader sent me a good question yesterday: Why did we still have John McCain’s photo as the link to our political page? It had been there for weeks -- and the Democratic contenders are still going at it.

Day Editor Jennifer Conklin had the solution: Let’s get all three out there.

Take a look at our home page in the bottom left corner.

And if you haven’t perused the political content on, you probably will spend some time there. Here’s a direct link. The latest headlines are compiled here, along with interactive calendars, polling results, delegate updates, and summaries of the candidates’ positions. You can even get some entertainment with a political horserace game.

Just think -- the finish line is still six months away.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How 'bout those Rays!

How surprising is it to see the Tampa Bay Rays atop the American League East Division standings?

Now don't tell us you knew they'd be ahead of the Red Sox and Yankees on May 14. This team, a perennial last-place finisher, has never been in first place after the first week of any season. As outfielder Carl Crawford said last night, "At this time of the year, we're usually out of the race. The season is pretty much over for us. This is a different feeling.''

This is a great feeling. After sweeping the Angels and taking two from the Yankees, the feel-good Rays have won six straight and sit atop one of the toughest divisions in baseball.

OK, it's still May — they have 123 games left to play. But go ahead and enjoy the moment.

And enjoy our coverage of the team, beginning with Roger Mooney's story today, online updates and Web-exclusive notebooks on Also, be sure to check our Monday print edition for Rays Report, a page devoted to the team. In setting up this week's schedule, Mooney boldly wrote that "the Bronx Bombers are in town for four games, and you can make the argument they aren't the best team on the field.''

The argument gets more convincing with every victory.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sunday's Letter from the Editor

What is it like to see the future flash before our eyes?


It's always that way when Manatee County's top high school students take the stage for the Golden Herald Awards.

We might as well add humbling.

That's the beginning of today's Letter from the Editor, commemorating a grand event last Thursday. For the past 31 years, the Bradenton Herald has honored the best and brightest of our high school seniors. We've been honored to be part of the event for the past nine years. Each time, our faith is renewed in this community's future.

As we were leaving, co-sponsor Todd Hoskins of AutoWay Ford stood with his wife and son outside of Bradenton Auditorium, still grinning from the thrill of giving Dacia Thompson the lucky prize of a Ford Mustang lease. In just seven more years, his son expects to be among those seniors on the stage.

That's great promise -- that every year, we'll continue to watch outstanding students launch into their future, with well-earned recognition. Here's to Manatee County's future.

Joan & Jim

Friday, May 9, 2008

Syesha trumps presidential coverage today

You'd think the President was in town.

Hey, it's far better than that. Syesha (no further introduction needed) is in Bradenton. And the town has gone wild.

If you'd told me a month ago that we'd have five reporters, two photographers and a videographer dedicated to covering an American Idol finalist -- well, I would have had some choice chuckles for you.

But that's our plan today to keep track of Syesha and her extremely loyal local fan base.

Stay tuned -- we'll have updates throughout the day with photos, audio and more. And we want your photos added to this link on


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Oops! on that blueberry recipe

Our Down Home Cook, Diann Greene, emailed this morning to alert us that an ingredient had been dropped from her Blueberry Crisp recipe in today's Herald.

The topping ingredients should include 2/3 cup all-purpose flour. We fixed the problem online here, and will run a correction Thursday on 2A of our print edition.

We apologize for the mistake, fully aware that a few folks probably will test the recipe, sans flour, and not achieve the desired results.

That reminds me of a recipe mistake published years ago that prompted a reader's letter. It went something like this:

"I thoroughly enjoyed your recipe for pan-fried flounder, but found it difficult to keep the fish from jumping out of the skillet. Is it possible that the recipe called for 1/8 teaspoon of pepper, instead of the 8 teaspoons listed in the paper?

We appreciate how many cooks we have out there testing our recipes, and realize that even a dropped character can spoil an entire meal.

Sorry, and we'll try to be better.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Learn CPR, save a life

An eye-opening statistic from reporter Beth Burger's centerpiece story today in Accent: Health & Fitness:

About 450 people die each year in the three-county area of Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte because either somebody didn't know how to give CPR, or 911 was not dialed soon enough.

Learning to dial 911 immediately shouldn't be a problem for most of us. But CPR(cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) is a different deal. Most people are exposed to CPR training in school, then never have to use it as a practical application. If somebody suddenly needed help breathing, could you — would you — be able to help that person? Apparently, too many people could not.

"If more people knew CPR, 300 (of the 450) would have been saved,'' Bradenton Fire Department Firefighter and paramedic Dan Hedgeman told Burger.

A series of classes will begin this month at Manatee Memorial Hospital in hopes of teaching more people how to administer CPR. Details are here at the end of Burger's story.

People who are squeamish about mouth-to-mouth contact with a victim may be relieved that new guidelines from the American Heart Association recommend untrained people provide compressions rather than administer mouth-to-mouth.

But the training locally involves both compression and mouth-to-mouth. After all, a life might very well be on the line, and both firefighters and paramedics want us to be competent enough to provide emergency assistance until qualified personnel arrive.


Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sunday's Letter from the Editor

Sunday’s Letter from the Editor is another chapter of getting to know our community, believing in our community, and covering our community.

And Sunday's Herald is another edition reflecting the challenges and caring that define this amazing community. It really struck me as I read our cover stories again this morning -- life ain't easy. But it's something to be cherished, as the stories of crash victim Christi Charles and little Lexi Antorino make clear.

Let's get out there and make a difference -- the sun is shining.


Friday, May 2, 2008

Airport name change a bad idea

Reporter Sara Kennedy was attending a Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority meeting this week when she heard a conversation that a name change might be in order for our fine regional hub. Specifically, airport authority commissioners Jack Rynerson and Paul Sharff broached the idea of replacing "Bradenton" with "Manatee."

The idea didn't sit real well with some folks on this side of the hyphen.

"That's a terrible idea from somebody who doesn't know anything or care anything about marketing,'' responded Larry White, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. "There's no geographical reference to the name 'Manatee.' It's a cute, cuddly animal. People don't know where Manatee is.''

Added Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston: "You don't name things for counties. The airport authority has a lot to work on and changing the name doesn't need to be one of them.''

Our online poll at generated some brisk traffic, with readers agreeing it was a bad idea. Of the nearly 700 votes cast by noon Friday, 432 (63 percent) said keep 'Bradenton' in the name. There were 107 votes (16 percent) favoring 'Manatee' but nearly as many who said "Drop Sarasota'' (93, or 14 percent).

My favorite comment came from Janet Lovesky, a resident of Sarasota County who lived in Bradenton for 15 years.

"It touches a nerve to me because people turn their nose up at Bradenton since it's not a fancy-schmancy town like Sarasota,'' she said. "It's sinful to drop the name. It's an insult to the people of Bradenton, and those people shouldn't be snubbed.

The airport, after all, sits on our turf.

SRQ President Piccolo downplayed the suggestion, calling it a "brainstorming session'' and stating there are no plans to change the airport name.

We hope that puts the issue to rest.