Thursday, November 26, 2009

Finding the 'thanks' in Thanksgiving

Whether you checked today's news here on, or from the huge treat of a newspaper bundle holding all of Black Friday's countless sales, Tiffany Tompkins-Condie helped define the true meaning of Thanksgiving with her story about Danielle.

Tiffany spent several weeks with Danielle Zanyk, a girl who has amazing survival skills and resolve for her young years. I felt quite lucky to spend some time working on the story with Tiffany, who managed to squeeze in the research, photography and writing along with her full load of photography assignments.

Set aside a little bit of time today to read this story. If getting to know Danielle through Tiffany's words and images has the same effect as it did on me, you'll resolve to do something with a bit more passion, a bit more care, a bit more humility. And I bet you can make a difference today for someone you love.

Happy Thanksgiving -- and Go, Pack, Go!

-- Joan

Friday, November 20, 2009

We moved local blogs to our home page

Regular visitors to may have noticed most of our staff blogs are now on the bottom right of the home page. And all of the columnists now are posted at

You still can find the blogs grouped at, but we're hoping to turn up their profiles. And, frankly, we're blogging more often than columnizing.

We plan to add a law enforcement blog and rev up our business blog again. Have a blog you'd like to see? Let us know. Have a favorite? We'd like to hear from you.

-- Joan

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Typo led to balloon boy's grandmother

The most popular story online in the past 24 hours, by far, has been the report about the balloon boy's grandmother who lives -- where else! -- in Bradenton.

And we have the story thanks to our TV partner, Bay News 9. The station had been airing the news on Friday that Richard Heene had pleaded guilty to staging the now-infamous balloon chase, leading authorities to believe that his son Falcon was inside. People worldwide had followed the chase, only to learn that the boy was found safe at the Heenes’ home.

One glitch in the report: Bay News 9 had misspelled Heene's name. His mother -- Falcon's grandmother -- happened to be watching and called to tell them. And an alert program manager quickly called Jim Jones on our metro desk to let us know.

Jim soon had Rae Sprow on the phone, and the conversation was neighborly. Sprow even sent us photos from the family's visit to Bradenton early last year.

She's standing by her son. He's lucky -- imagine her terror when she thought her grandson was trapped, then fallen from a likely death trap.

Here's hoping Mrs. Sprow gets to hug her grandkids soon.

-- Joan

Rae Sprow with Falcon and another grandson, fishing on Anna Maria Island pier.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A salute to all our veterans

Veterans Day -- such a somber recognition that so many of our country's men and women have given their lives to serving their country. Our community always has a tremendous outpouring of recognition for veterans, young and old. In fact, the Herald's list of events continues to be one of the most-viewed stories online this morning.

The parade this morning rapped around the Herald, a solemn tribute despite the marching band, motorcycle blasts and honking horns. As in Tiffany Tompkins-Condie's Military Moms blog this morning, and Vin Mannix's story from Sarasota National Cemetery, we will continue to pay heed in print and online.

Joseph Galloway, military columnist for McClatchy Newspapers, gave us a good snapshot of the changing face of today's veterans in his column today. The last living British veteran of World War I died this year. The last American combat veteran of The Great War died in 2007 at age 108. The last of the Greatest Generation veterans of World War II, who once numbered some 15 million and changed the face of this nation, are slipping away fast now. The veterans of Korea and the ranks of more than 3 million who served in the Vietnam War are thinning.

Still, he wrote, the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are contributing a steady stream of new veterans joining the ranks. But military service is filled with volunteers, not draftees.

Today in this nation of 300 million, fewer than 1 percent wear the uniform, and, with their families, bear all the burdens and sacrifice of protecting and defending the rest of us who give little thought to those who pay the price for our freedom.

I so wish we were in a time of worldwide peace and could salute our veterans with relief.

-- Joan

The American Flag flies at half mast over Monument Park in Bradenton today during Veterans Day services. Staff photo by Paul Videla

President Barack Obama places a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. AP

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Head downtown for 'Taste of Manatee'

Consider this a shameless tout for downtown Bradenton's festive weekend -- today's the second day of the annual Taste of Manatee.

And, as Beth Burger reported in today's Herald, the free event brings plenty of offerings. For the 23rd year, 23 food vendors -- and almost as many craft vendors.

On the musical stage today:
11 to 11:45 a.m. Tom and Dave Band
Noon to 2 p.m. The Gumbo Boogie Band
2 to 4 p.m. Jennifer & The New Digs
4 to 6 p.m. KoKo Ray & the Soul Providers.

You have plenty of time to sample, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. And the weather couldn't be more cooperative. See you there.

-- Joan

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Local elections go smoothly

The Nov. 3 local elections came and went without a hitch, with incumbents winning easily in Bradenton. And with less than 15 percent of voters turning out at the polls, they certainly must be complacent -- or disconnected.

Not so on Anna Maria Island, where two incumbents were ousted, as Carl Nudi reported in his companion election story. And the turnout was impressive: 60 percent of the registered voters turned out in the city of Anna Maria.

In all the races, candidates took the high road and campaigned on the issues, rather than slinging the proverbial mud. That was a welcome change.

For results around the nation, we've provided linked coverage out of our local election stories. One-stop shopping!

-- Joan

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Once a baseball fan, always a fan

Rain in Philadelphia beat out our print deadlines this morning, with Game 3 of the World Series lasting well past midnight -- and the dang clocks didn't technically fall back until 2 a.m.

But that didn't stop the Yankees from claiming another win, and our sports desk made sure it was posted to immediately at 12:42 a.m.

And it didn't keep baseball out of the Bradenton Herald, either, as columnist Vin Mannix heralded the news that the Pittsburgh Pirates plan to buy Sarasota’s Florida State League affiliate. That will mean glorious nights all summer long under the lights at Bradenton's own McKechnie Field. Vin summed it up in his column: Outstanding.

The FSL makes the final decision Nov. 10, and you'll find the news first on

Meanwhile, Vin is rooting for his Phillies -- a lonely stance, it turns out, in the Herald's newsroom. There are far more Yankees fans (three??), but they can't be missed -- except when one of them takes a whirlwind trip to Yankees Stadium for a game. Page One Editor Jason Bartolone talked a Red Sox fan, Jennifer Rich, and a Mets fan, Brent Conklin, into covering for him so he could catch Game 2. After a lot of pronounced anguish, they relinquished -- and Jason flew into La Guardia Thursday morning and was back in the newsroom Friday night, a win under his belt.

Ya gotta love this game.

-- Joan