Sunday, August 30, 2009

Thank a newspaper carrier today

What happened to sleeping in on the weekend?

Here's a small tribute to all our newspaper carriers, who somehow work a miracle seven days a week to get the Bradenton Herald onto my driveway. They don't get to sleep in.

I was reminded of this as I was restless far too early today. And there on my driveway, just after 5 a.m., was my newspaper. No fanfare, just a double-bagged package of information and Sunday entertainment.

A friend had just shared an admirable experience with his carrier. He ran into her just as early one morning last week. Actually, he saw her on the other side of the front entrance to his condo, a privacy gate separating them. The carrier was taking careful aim for his door, lobbing the Herald expertly to land on his Welcome mat.

We expect our Herald to be on the driveway 365 days a year -- and it's a rare day that it has missed. Thank a carrier today -- they deserve it.

-- Joan

(9:30 a.m. update: The newspaper is a major bonus today, as Bright House seems to be on the fritz and ... no cable. So coffee and the front page make an even better mix.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tributes to the Kennedy dynasty

The passing of Ted Kennedy came with little surprise this morning, but it brought at least one surprising revelation to me: The news blended generations in the newsroom.

Those of us who grew up in the '60s still have vivid memories of the Kennedy dynasty, the trio of brothers we thought would change the world. And those in our newsroom who hadn't been born yet still voiced reverence in discussing how to help capture this last page in that dynasty's amazing story.

Do we ignore the painful, questionable moments in Ted Kennedy's life? We can't in looking at every page. Mary Jo Kopechne's death was a searing debate for years, regardless of party affiliation. But today, it serves little purpose to highlight that when looking at the total picture. Hats off to President Obama, for his words this morning:

"For five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well-being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts. ... An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States senator of our time." - President Barack Obama.

We are looking for local residents who have stories to share about the Kennedy dynasty. Please e-mail me at jkrauter@bradenton.comor give us a call at 941-745-7000.

-- Joan

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Baseball fan tries to grasp fantasy football

As if pre-football season wasn't rude enough to encroach on the heat of the baseball season in August, here comes fantasy football draft. And guess which one has my newsroom in a lather? It ain't the St. Louis Cardinals (hence, you can tell they ain't brown-nosers)...

Check out Universal Desk Editor Jason Bartolone's spectacular package today on that fantasy world. For the past couple years, he has posted a blog on fantasy sports . For this fantasy football season, he proposed a preseason story and an explainer of sorts on his addiction. He composed the blog, wrote the story, designed the sports centerpiece, laid out the package and organized the online-only podcast. That's the definitive multi-tasking -- oh, it makes us old-timers weary...

Here's the lede-in to the sports team's podcast:

Still agonizing over who to take with your first pick in your fantasy football draft? Allow us to help.

Six Herald staffers and self-professed fantasy geeks took part in a special mock draft this week, running through their top 12 picks for 2009 and spurring plenty of debate along the way. Hear Jason Bartolone, Alan Bellittera, Ryan T. Boyd, Grace Gagliano, John Lembo and Timothy R. Wolfrum discuss their selections and ponder some of this year’s biggest fantasy quandaries in our special podcast.

I remember losing my best buddies for hours to fantasy baseball in the early '80s at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, long before computers hastened the addiction. It's another layer of newspaper characters who must be preserved, cherished, promoted, relished. They have every stat known to humankind in their heads. Let's not lose that.

-- Joan

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sunday TV book will become optional

Starting this Sunday, home-delivery subscribers need to sign up to keep getting TVPlus, the Herald's Sunday TV book. We've advertised the change on the TVPlus cover for a few weeks, and in "house ads" throughout the Herald each day.

Just in case you've missed those, you can keep the TV book coming by signing up through this link, or you can call 1-800-748-6666 and press option 6.

Based on the calls we get when the TV book changes, a lot of our readers still love having a weekly TV schedule in print. But many of us have lost that habit over time, as cable added hundreds of channels and the scrolling guide provided on the screen became far more convenient. I was one of those diehard TV book users, swearing I'd never give it up. Well, I humbly admit, I only look at our book now to answer readers' queries.

TVPlus will still be included in single-copy editions in the racks and stores. Let us know if you want it at home on Sundays.

-- Joan

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hazy, crazy memories of Woodstock

People have a fascination with landmark anniversaries, especially those falling on the decade mark. Trust me, if the Herald fails to heed a memorable military milestone on the 10-, 20-, 30- or so year mark -- above the fold on 1A, mind you -- we hear about it.

Woodstock seems like an entirely different arena, yet it really isn't that far removed. The headlines of war in 1969 stoked many of the songs and dreams and, well, hallucinations that generated from those fields in upper-state New York.

As today marks the 40th anniversary of that mudfest of a generation's coming out, you probably have been overwhelmed with reminisces. But I hope you take some time to read Jim Jones' story today with some of our local voices, and reflect back as some of our columnists and letter writers have.

Jim decided to look for locals who were there after he and I talked about where we were that summer. I probably had no clue Woodstock was happening, other than some wild songs hitting K-SHE FM in St. Louis, and my parents yelling at me for tuning in. I had just graduated from grade school in '69, and was terrified/thrilled/paralyzed that high school was on the horizon. Jim? He was getting ready for a second tour of duty in Vietnam.

Humbling perspective.

Jim's story gives a wakeup call to what our generation hoped for, and what some perceive as a letdown.

“It was the feeling like we could change the world — and then we grew up and didn’t do it,” Nancy Hartman, an artist from Sarasota, told Jim.

I'd like to put my money with Brian Finelli of Bradenton Beach, who wrote in his letter to the editor today:

"But, if I learned one lesson back then, it’s to live in the present, be there now. It’s funny how today I feel like I’m returning to the spirit of that glorious event.

"Peace on Earth."

I think I'll challenge Nancy Hartman that there's still plenty of time. And I'll also bank on Universal Desk Editor Jason Bartolone's front-page layout today, which incorporated that timeless peace sign that was a Woodstock logo:

Manatee remembers a time of peace, love and change
Peace rules.

-- Joan

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Check out's sports podcast

Our sports reporters square off every week in "Leading Off," a podcast that takes on just about every sport. As I write this, I'm listening to Roger Mooney and John Lembo debate high school football in Manatee County -- and I have to smile.

This podcast lets all of you eavesdrop on the lively banter that goes on every day in newsrooms' sports departments across the country. These guys certainly don't hesitate to challenge each other's prowess over knowing the local stats. Mooney has been here longer, but Lembo doesn't back down.

Tune in and get prepped for the upcoming season. From Mooney's and Lembo's vantage point, Manatee's in for a great season -- competitive, all the way into the playoffs.

Let the Friday night fun begin.

-- Joan

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Changing newspaper's sections, not the content

"More changes... we know you're looking for savings. Thanks for telling us where to find our favorites.

"And don't kill my Faith!"

Now that's a tall order from a loyal Herald reader! Actually, it was the only direct response I received to some reconfigurations in the Bradenton Herald's Saturday print edition. We began anchoring the popular local "Faith & Values" feature on the Local cover, with Billy Graham, the church directory and the "Faith Matters" column by local clergy leaders inside. And those addictive comics & puzzles pages moved back into Sports on Saturdays.

The changes save several pages of newsprint without losing any features. Similar changes will be introduced on Monday, when we package the Herald into two sections:

The A section will still feature Nation/World coverage, and will now include all the Local and Investing in Business pages.

The B section will offer Sports, Classified, Comics and puzzles. Mix in the advice column, movie times and the TV schedule, and we think that's still a bargain for a couple quarters.

-- Joan

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

New small-biz blog on

We launched another blog yesterday: Taking Care of Business, focusing on local small businesses in particular.

Here's Business Reporter Grace Gagliano's intro:

Welcome to the Bradenton Herald’s new blog for Manatee County’s small business community.

These are tough times, and we need to take care of small businesses and entrepreneurs to get the local economy back on track. After all, small businesses are job creators and make up 85 percent of all businesses in the United States.

The goal of this blog is to post topics impacting small businesses and entrepreneurs, and allow those of you from the business community to discuss such issues. We want this blog to be a forum where you can share your knowledge, experience or advice. We also hope this blog will be a forum for conversation and networking.

We want business owners, local organizations and the county’s workforce to share their thoughts, advice and ideas with one another. Through this blog, we hope those in the business community will find the support or ideas they need to tackle issues or improve their company.

Grace, a USF grad, joined the Herald in 2005. She and Business Editor Jennifer Rich welcome your ideas.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Take a break from budget consternations

My column this morning praises the work of Charles Clapsaddle, METV station manager, and gives him credit for the non-profit's success. Education reporter Natalie Alund wrote a short feature in Saturday's editions on the station's move last week into its new facilities in school district property.

There are some commenters on her story (and probably soon on my column) chastising us for not examining the station's costs. As the county examines its budget, Clapsaddle fears cuts just like the rest of us in this tough economic climate. The Herald's reporters will examine METV's allocations along with the rest of county expenditures.

As to whether documenting community affairs, covering local government meetings, making documentaries for Bradenton and Manatee County and so on is wise use of our taxpayers' dollars -- we believe so, and work alongside METV. That doesn't mean we won't ask questions.

-- Joan