Sunday, September 27, 2009

Departing editor closes with –30– style

Saturday was night metro editor Gary Taylor's last day at the Herald, and he closed it out in true style.

One of the duties for the night editor is to leave a "nitenote" for the incoming crew each morning. At 12:06 a.m. today, Gary left some good thoughts for following up on several stories, left tips to check that he and the police reporter couldn't confirm, then signed out:


–30– has long been the standard used by journalists to indicate the end of a story. According to Wikipedia, there are many theories about how the usage came into being,[1]e.g. It was telegraphic shorthand to signify the end of a story in the Civil War era.[2] Other theories include that the "-30-" originated when stories were written in longhand; X marked the end of a sentence, XX the end of a paragraph, and XXX meant the end of a story. The Roman numerals XXX translate to 30.

All I know is, Gary was a UPI guy years ago in Texas, and his career is full of rich journalistic traditions. A five-gallon tip of the hat to you, Gary. This –30– opens a whole new chapter for you.

-- Joan

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Leading Off -- hey, what about baseball?

Who can resist the following tease?

"Roger Mooney and John Lembo revisit the Manatee-Southeast football game, look ahead to the USF-FSU game, chat about the Bucs struggles and wonder about some of the dumb things coaches say these days on Leadingoff, their widely popular weekly podcast."

Yep, that's in their own words. Bragging rights, I guess. But check it out, if you're not a baseball fan (Go, Cards -- the magic number is 2!!).
Click on this link, click on the arrow, and enjoy.

-- Joan

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Teen's last words are a rallying cry

“Not every battle you are in is made to be won, but it can make you stronger.”

Those were the last thoughts written by Jasmine Thompson, buried Saturday amid the prayers, tributes and soul-searching of friends, family and community members. Such wise words for a teenager, and words to live by.

Reporter Beth Burger gave us a quiet, thoughtful account of the funeral, closing a long week of mourning for this family. A friend called me after the tribute, still in the grips of all that emotion. She was unexpectedly impressed with ESPN sports broadcaster Dick Vitale's inspirational words to the throng of teenagers gathered there. "He was really getting through to them," she said. "They needed to try making sense of all this, and he threw some tough love at them."

And, she said, it may have struck a chord. At least 30 of Jasmine's friends and classmates came forward at the end of the almost three-hour service, wanting to express their faith and to find guidance.

We hope to follow these youth. We hope to find that Jasmine's death helped bring them to choose a path without violence.

Some readers have questioned why we would keep this story on our front pages. I'm taken aback by that. The kids in the congregation of Happy Gospel Church are why. One death is too many. Two in a month -- ridiculous. A record homicide rate? Your community's newspaper owes it to you to ask why and rally for solutions.

Reporter Robert Napper spent some long hours last week after writing his daily coverage, looking in this report at the growing trend of how stolen guns are ending up on the street, and in the hands of violent criminals. The report isn't an argument against gun ownership. It raises questions about lax gun ownership laws, and highlights a vicious cycle that appears to be gripping Manatee County.

It's a wakeup call for everyone to take responsibility in making our community safe.

-- Joan

Friday, September 11, 2009

9-11 tributes take on broader meanings

Manatee County was awash today with 9-11 tributes, with the same strong theme of "Never Forget." But eight years later, the wounds of grieving aren't as raw, and the images and recognitions have broadened to include far more about the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.

The Herald's reporters, editors and photographers covered events throughout the day, from the morning's remembrance service at Rossi Park, with its symbolic release of 40 white doves, patriotic song, and firefighters, police officers and soldiers standing shoulder-to-shoulder, through this evening's motorcycle parade.

At lunch, we were honored to again gather in Bradenton City Centre for the Tribute to Heroes. Henry Sheffield, from Florida State Fire College, framed the day well: It's all about "keeping the honor of sacrifice alive." And keynote speaker Brigadier General Xavier Lobeto, in an examination of sacrifice throughout U.S. history, saluted "selfless service" and "dedication to duty." Look for Vin Mannix's full story in Saturday's editions.

We also should never forget how many civilians, how many citizens of the world, were killed that day. I know I will never get used to seeing the stark image of the second plane hitting the second tower in New York at 9:03 a.m. But there's a stronger sense of moving forward, of a multitude of ways to make the world safer. Laurie Feagans, chief of Manatee Emergency Management, used the occasion to urge family and business preparedness in the face of crises -- including disaster plans for hurricanes.

"We are bound together by integrity and trust," Lobeto said. We should remember this far beyond today's ceremonies.

-- Joan

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Murder claims colleague's granddaughter

Today, we grieve for a colleague's loss. We grieve again at a teen's slaying, again at the hands of another teen with a gun. The record number of murders in Manatee County climbed one more this weekend, and a grandmother who shares her stories with us at the Bradenton Herald every day mourns.

Aretha James has worked at the Herald for years. Though she's not technically in the newsroom, I have worked with her almost every day since I arrived. She builds the framework for our print pages, dummying the ads on every page before they're sent to the newsroom.

And she has always shared her commitment to this community, calling the Metro Desk with news tips, people stories and providing institutional knowledge. So, without hesitation, she called the desk Friday night -- and shared her worst fears.

Her dear grandbaby had been slain.

Investigators had called Aretha, on the road to vacation, with the nightmare that Jasmine Thompson, 17, a Bayshore cheerleader and senior, was dead. Reporter Beth Burger was already on the scene, but Aretha wanted us to get it right.

She poured her heart out Saturday afternoon to Beth, who shared those innermost thoughts in this story today.

I hope I can always love my family and friends as deeply as Aretha does hers. I wish we had the words to make the pain stop for her family, and all the other families who have lost loved ones to violence here this year.

-- Joan

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Online traffic finally veers from sordid

The top six stories online yesterday included three stories off the police beat. It was almost a relief to us that our online audience cares about more than crime, corruption and sordid tales. The stories weren"t exactly upbeat, but they offered a glimpse into our community's concerns.

The three headlines:
Foreclosed homes provide business to local firms

Business reporter Grace Gagliano's story focused on a father-son business, N.A.R. Property Management, that has sprung up because of foreclosures. Their focus? Cleaning up foreclosed homes.

Deadline passes as hundreds jam Manatee tax offices

Correspondent Lee Logan's story captured how hundreds of people crammed Manatee County’s four tax collector offices Monday, the last day to renew driver licenses and vehicle registrations before much higher increased fees took effect Tuesday.

Parents: School denied LWR students due process with reassignment

East Manatee Editor Jim Jones wrote about four teens from Lakewood Ranch High School who tossed small explosive devices into several River Club yards early this summer and found themselves banned from LRHS when school started.

Online, the commenters started immediately on the school story -– 12:48 a.m. Tuesday marked first one, minutes after the story appeared online. Comments ranged from "This is a prank that should be forgiven. I would have been kicked out of school many times over if todays rules existed 40 years ago." to "The School Board has the authority to protect the other kids and when the police comes to them with names, they must take action. Case closed."

And everything in-between. The debate sometimes went off-mark, with a rude comment typical on too many stories. But you did a decent job policing those, marking them as “abuse” and notifying us to delete them.

The story that bumped one of those headlines late last night was one with what we hope is a happy ending: Missing Sarasota boy found OK. Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight thanked local media for quick response when they announced a 3-year-old boy was missing, prompting an Amber Alert.

Alexander Lakhno, the boyfriend of the boy's mother, became aware of the missing status due to extensive news coverage and called the sheriff’s office.

Let's pray the story has a healthy ending.

-- Joan