Sunday, February 28, 2010

Foreclosure crisis knows no borders

When law enforcement reporter Robert Napper stopped by a recent sheriff's luncheon, he was just making the rounds. But he couldn't shake one discussion. A Manatee homeowner, Harry Traylor, was pleading for help from law enforcement and county officials. He didn't feel safe in his Northwest Bradenton home anymore, because of the abandoned home in foreclosure nearby.

The house is trashed, inside and out. Drug paraphernalia, beer cans and scattered bedding are evidence that intruders and homeless come through here.

Sheriff Brad Steube was bluntly honest in his assessment to Napper: "Basically we can come in and tell them they need to get out of there, and most often they do. But really, we are just calling their bluff.”

Foreclosures have thrown a suffocating noose around Manatee County, and it's going to take a rally like none we have ever seen to find a cure. As Napper reports in
today's 1A takeout, there are no borders for the crisis.

“They are everywhere,” Manatee County Housing Director John Barnott said. “It is a problem in the best neighborhoods, and the worst. I have people walking away from million-dollar homes because they have lost everything.”

This community is up for the challenge, as long as we're compassionate and united. Please, send your ideas on how to help.

-- Joan

Herald videographer Paul Videla's look through video:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

We're beefing up our sports staff

Alan Dell, longtime sports correspondent in Manatee and Sarasota, has joined our staff as a sports writer/columnist. He weighed in today with coverage of Bradenton Christian's overtime victory that takes the boys' basketball team into region finals, and his "Sounding Off" column, which will be a regular feature on our Sports cover.

He started his career teaching journalism in Miami, and worked in Fort Myers and Minneapolis before coming to Manatee County in 1992. He brings a wealth of local sports knowledge to the Herald, teaming up with sports writer John Lembo.

And more help is on the way. Next week, Jason Dill joins the Herald full time as a community/preps sports writer. You've already seen his byline in the Herald occasionally over the past couple years as a correspondent. Jason earned a degree in broadcast journalism at Syracuse University, and graduated before that with honors from Manatee Community College.

So our bases are loaded, just in time for spring training.

-- Joan

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Blind student's story should inspire, motivate all of us

Our 1A centerpiece story today in the Bradenton Herald is one of inspiration and perspective.

Education reporter Natalie Alund spent time last week with Gabrielle Lozano, a stellar culinary arts student at Manatee Technical Institute.

What makes this story so compelling is that Gabrielle is blind. With the help of photographer Grant Jefferies and videographer Paul Vidella, Natalie gives you a glimpse inside the world of a remarkable young woman and her aspirations.

Much as Gabrielle and her mom, Pam Lozano, approach life "eyes wide open," the Herald team reports the story as that unadorned daily miracle. Natalie's story, Grant's photos and Paul's video are a testament to Gabrielle's matter-of-fact determination.

-- Joan

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pitchers and catchers report -- on Facebook and Twitter

That's the battle cry for the return of spring in these parts, and we're more than ready. Those chilly temperatures will soon be a distant ill memory as the boys of summer break in the 2010 season at McKechnie Field and other spring training camps throughout Florida and Arizona.

We've launched a few new interactive features this year as the Pittsburgh Pirates take the field here, and we hope you'll join us. On our Facebook page, we're pulling together what the Herald and the rest of the world has to say about the Pirates. On our Twitter site, we'll be sharing the latest hype, breaking news, story teases, scores and more.

As columnist Vin Mannix notes in his feature today, the Pirates' staff is already hard at work getting equipment and facilities ready for Thursday's official return. And it won't be long until we hear that beautiful demand:

"Play ball!"

-- Joan

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A hometown view of the Olympics

As Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett prepare to skate tonight in the pairs short program at the Vancouver Games, Herald reporter Tim Wolfrum and photographer Grant Jefferies will be bringing you the hometown view -- right from the Ellenton ice rink, the surprise epicenter of pairs figure skating in the country.

As you can read in our coverage today, Denney and Barrett are the first Olympic figure skaters born and developed in Florida. They had only been skating together for two years before their victory at nationals last month.

We're also paying close attention to Mark Ladwig and Amanda Evora, who also train at Ellenton with the Southwest Florida Figure Skating Club. Win or lose, there will be much celebrating at Ellenton today. And we'll be there.

-- Joan

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What's up with's home page

One of my loyal watchdog critics emailed yesterday about the home page’s new look. He wrote,
Now compact and abbreviated, it's more like a few teases rather than a healthy glimpse inside the entire edition, complete with links.
Manpower issues?

Au contraire. All the content is still there. In fact, we’ve added some features. Here’s the skinny:

The home page was redesigned to load faster, because you were having to wait far too long –- eight to 10 seconds. With the redesign, the page loads twice as fast -- and is 30 percent shorter. Why? Because research shows users don’t like to scroll down very far for overall page observation.

The top part of the page is the same: Top Stories, popular stories and breaking news. Links to the Herald's blogs have been moved into the breaking news space, but still are a work in progress for more visibility.

As you move down the page, you’ll see Local content, with tabs for sports, business, Lakewood Ranch, entertainment -– and Stumble.

OK, I admit it. Brand new one on me. Stumble is a cool feature that allows you to “stumble” across features throughout our site. With this tab, pages typically buried deep in are now a click away from your discovery and addiction.

The advertising elements on the home page also have new highlights, including a new “bizlist” widget in the side rail that gives you a fantastic search engine to find businesses offering what you want. I tested with “Bealls” and got listings for all outlets, Google maps and more.

The CareerBuilder search widget has also been updated and moved higher on the page. We hope this adds good karma to the hopes that 2010 is going to be a turnaround year. In today’s business story by Business Editor Jennifer Rich, it seems we might have far more jobs on CareerBuilder this year. Let’s hope so.

One more widget for you to check out: The video widget now includes more content, and we’ll be adding plenty there in upcoming weeks.

Whew. All that for a 4-second upload. Stay tuned. And let us know what you like and dislike.

-- Joan

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Joseph Pulitzer Krauter

Today was Joey's last day.

My heart breaks all over again as I write this, and I thought I needed to wait and write just the right words when the tears stopped. But I owe the little guy -- my Joseph Pulitzer Krauter -- so much. Amazing companion, always there for me. And he loved camping out in the newsroom, both here in Bradenton and in my Star-Telegram haunt in Bedford, Texas.

My little miracle. He beat the odds and celebrated his 15th birthday, another Christmas, another New Year's... and tonight he's romping with Scout and Max McGee.

Here's to our Joey.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Stay tuned -- it's National Signing Day

10:30 a.m. update: As the sports world turns... Brion Carnes had a change of heart. Ace Sanders did not. But what both Manatee seniors did do this morning was sign national letters. Check it out in John Lembo's breaking news story.

Here's a signing video by Herald videographer Paul Videla:

7:30 a.m.:

It's National Signing Day, and our preps writers are ready. As John Lembo writes in his story today, seven local athletes are expected to sign Division I scholarships, including Manatee wide receiver Ace Sanders and quarterback Brion Carnes.

Lembo's stories in the past week on Carnes have attracted tons of traffic to, as the high school athlete got caught up in the saga of USF's head coach Jim Leavitt. Carnes had originally committed verbally to USF, but opened his options when the school fired Leavitt. Then the Bulls’ new coach, Skip Holtz, reportedly withdrew the offer -- and the fury has all the makings of a soap opera. And when Lembo reported that Carnes chose Western Kentucky over the weekend, well, the web traffic went wild.

Will that hold up? We'll keep you posted throughout the day as the players make their choices official.

-- Joan