Sunday, August 31, 2008

Gustav report is a shared responsibility

Even as far away from Gustav as Manatee County luckily is, we can still feel its force in stronger winds, blustery skies and surfer-force waves here today. How horrific will its landfall be? We'll know all too soon.

As the morning update stated, its winds are still churning at 150 mph, with its sites still toward Louisiana's coastline. We'll continue to update you here, courtesy of working with our sister McClatchy newspaper, The Miami Herald. As the storm worsened last week and this morning, our editors -- especially in Miami and in Biloxi, where the Sun-Herald staff geared up for the potential of a Katrina repeat -- shared plans and lined up resources.

Sending staff into harm's way is not a lightly made decision, nor will they be asked to take unnecessary risks. But as Nancy Kenney told Jim Jones in his column today, "We can do something in a disaster." This local woman has worked diligently to tap resources needed in such crises. Through the same type of diligent coverage, reporters and photographers will help monitor this storm's approach for you.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

About Crossroads and connecting

I got this email this morning from a friend up north who read my column online:

"Hey, if there were high-speed rail -- heck, I'd take a regular ol' train -- into the heart of Bradenton, I'd grab a book, pack a bag and be on my way..."

Sweet thought, and a nugget of the conversation I hope our transportation series, "Crossroads," will generate here. The series will have so many facets, and we need to hear from you.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fay kept us busy; check out today's photos

We're breathing a sigh of relief that Fay appears to be a non-event for the Tampa Bay area (and knocking on wood that we aren't jinxing ourselves). As with many businesses, the newsroom had to gear up for the worst -- and hope for the best. That meant making sure reporters and photographers were positioned to cover the storm where it might hit -- and we were dizzy yesterday trying to follow the ever-changing tracking lines.

But reporter Robert Napper and photographer Brian Blanco were positioned well today, and you'll see some of the hardest-hit areas in this photo gallery. Napper and Blanco spent the night in the Naples area, and headed this morning to Everglades City on the advice of a trooper. Sure enough, the streets are flooded.

Every single member of the newsroom had a role in keeping the situation covered for the past 36 hours -- a true round-the-clock effort. It's tough to single anyone out for kudos, because everyone helped out in some way. Solid writing, editing, photographs, layout, video -- and online all the time. We'll keep you updated through the day, as with this just in: Back to school on Wednesday.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Our stories help bring needed change

Two stories today are great examples of how the Herald's reporting can help effect needed change in our community.

Law enforcement reporter Robert Napper has covered the case of William White Jr.'s slaying since the teen was shot to death last month. Napper's coverage exposed a serious flaw in how felony arrests of students have been handled in Manatee County. No one at Lakewood Ranch High School had been alerted that the suspect had been arrested earlier. And little exists at the local or state level to oversee such notification, even though it's required by law.

In today's story, Napper reported that school officials and law enforcement plan to close that gap and overhaul how they will work together to disseminate that critical information. It's reassuring that all our public safety departments and school officials recognize that they need to work together on this -- and do it now.

The other example I want to mention: Honor Sanctuary, an animal rescue group, is getting a home, as reported today by Carl Mario Nudi. County Commissioner Carol Whitmore called the Herald last week, heartbroken by the plight of a growing number of animals in Manatee County that are either abused, abandoned -- or both. She wanted to help this group, but knew it would be difficult making it a priority quickly. Reporter Grace Gaglioni wrote about the need and the story ran on Page 1A. By yesterday, Whitmore had a green light to fix up a building for interim shelter as the group searches for a more permanent home.

We certainly wish the need for such solutions didn't exist. But both outcomes reflect a community working to prevent more tragedy.

To volunteer with the Honor Sanctuary animal rescue group, go to or call 941-302-0933.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

County politics lead Sunday's report

County reporter Nick Azzara gave readers a preview of the county commissioners' races today, on the eve of early voting in Manatee County. Here's the "nut graf" of Nick's reporting:

Four county commissioners find themselves in the political dogfight this month as they face six reform-minded challengers from their own party determined to put an end to the incumbents' combined 42 years of experience.

It's not exactly a good year to be an incumbent in Florida.

Page 1 editor Jason Bartolone captured that essence in the headline, "Tough Times, Tough Races". This is the first time in at least several years that the political balance of our county's governing board could change significantly. The county's key developers realize that, lining up financially behind their various candidates. Voters' interest in this race should be just as pitched, and Azzara is providing a thorough overview of each candidate's positions. He offers far more detail here online. And he will watch for any developments and bring them to you instantly on, with a followup report in the Herald.


Friday, August 8, 2008

How to help animals in need

Today's Bradenton/Lakewood Ranch Herald showcased a heartbreaking story for animal lovers on 1A. Reporter Grace Gagliano took a look at the growing need for animal shelter as the cases of both abused and abandoned pets have increased in Manatee County. Honor Sanctuary, a non-profit animal rescue group, is looking for a new home, and County Commissioner Carol Whitmore is trying to help.

But we forgot to include a "How to Reach Them" for those of you who are interested, and I've already received a handful of requests. We've added that information online, and here are some numbers as well:

How to help

If you would like to adopt a pet or need assistance with caring for your pet, you can contact the organizations below:

• Bishop Animal Shelter SPCA of Manatee County, 941-792-2863

• Honor Sanctuary, 941-302-0933

• Humane Society of Manatee County, 941-747-8808 or 941-322-9187


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Candidates have 'immaculate conversation'

We have some interesting political races on the Aug. 26 primary ballot. With just days left before early voting starts, the Bradenton Herald's editorial board has been holding election forums this week in conjunction with Manatee Educational TV and the University of South Florida's Institute for Public Policy and Leadership:

Candidates vying for three Manatee County Commission seats:
On Monday night, Republican candidates for District 5, Donna Hayes (incumbent), Bob Henderson and Benwayne Morrison; and for District 7, Joe McClash (incumbent) and Greg Witham, squared off.

On Wednesday, Republican candidates for District 3, Jane von Hahmann (incumbent) and John Chappie were up for debate.

And tonight, candidates for District 1 gather: Amy Stein (incumbent), Larry Bustle and Felicia Tappan are squaring off. Watch for reporter Nick Azzara's coverage in Friday's editions.

Nonpartisan candidates for 12th Judicial Circuit judge, Connie Mederos-Jacobs and Gilbert Smith Jr.; and 12th District public defender, Larry Eger, Ron Filipkowski and Adam Tebrugge, took the stage Wednesday night.

The moderators have been David Klement, director of the USF institute; Bonnie Greenball, the institute's associate director; and Chris Wille, editorial page editor of the Herald.

As longtime Herald readers know, David was editorial page editor here for years before "retiring" last year and starting his new gig. So he's been doing these debates for a long time.

Well, I got an e-mail missile from him today that I had to share with you. It's probably one of the best-written e-mails I've received in a while -- and he knew he was right! It was our "oops" -- we failed to give credit to our co-sponsors in the coverage on public defender and judicial circuit judge forums (we've added that here online).

So, with David's permission, enjoy:

Good morning, Joan,

We know about the Immaculate Conception. We’ve heard of the Immaculate Reception. Today we have the Immaculate Conversation. Two political debates of some significance that just occurred in a vacuum. No setting, no sponsor, no audience – just these candidates got together somewhere and made political statements and a reporter happened to overhear them.

Obviously, the reference is to the Judge and PD debates we co-sponsored last night at County Bldg. It’s not for ego or even corporate reasons I mention it – just basic 5W’s. Seems relevant whether it was sponsored by a neighborhood association or the area’s top local newspaper and only state university.

Just sayin…,

Your faithful reader

David E. Klement
Director, Institute for Public Policy and Leadership
University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee

Subtle, don't you think?
That's our David!


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Letter from the Editor

Today's Letter from the Editor is an effort to prepare you for changes to our Web site, scheduled to hit later this week. After we launch the redesign, I'll keep you posted here on feedback and other changes in store.

One of our new offerings launched today:, a comprehensive site built for moms and moms-to-be -- especially those in Manatee County. As the welcome note indicates, the goal is for users "to participate, post forums and blog and help us create a new community for moms." Your login to should work for this site, too.

The preparation for this site has created quite a buzz around the Herald, as dozens of moms took part. I'll bet the site's going to attract quite a few dads, too.