Sunday, May 30, 2010

Reminders packed in Hurricane Guide

What's in a name? For the 21 (plus Alpha) listed in our Hurricane Guide in Sunday's Herald and here online, we hope very little.

But as the 2010 hurricane season officially starts Tuesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted "an active to extremely active" season.

Since NOAA began predicting in 1998, this is the toughest forecast yet: 14 to 23 storms major enough to be named, eight to 14 hurricanes (74 mph winds or greater) and three to seven major hurricanes with winds exceeding 111 mph.

Enter a new manmade threat to this list -- the worst oil spill in U.S. history -- and the fear for our paradise's safety multiplies. Images of oil-soaked birds, clogged Louisiana marshes and ever-growing plumes choking the Gulf have crowded our online galleries and 1A centerpieces for more than a month now.

The combination has me packing a bag -- a beach bag, that is. It's a grand holiday weekend to enjoy Anna Maria Island beaches, among the best in the world. (We don't mind that they never make the national list. That's our secret.)

Then sometime this week, I promise, I'll pack up the emergency supply bag. 'Tis the season.

-- Joan

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Babies 'r us, every Tuesday afternoon

As I was returning from lunch a few minutes ago, at least three moms were leaving the Bradenton Herald with little ones in tow. I didn't need to look at my Cardinals watch to know what time it was:

The 1-year-old birthday babies are getting their portraits taken in our photo lab.

Every week, from 1 to 2 on Tuesday afternoons, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters line up with their favorite just-turned 1-year-olds for their place in Neighbors history. And it's a time-honored tradition, begun long before I arrived in 1998. Every Friday, we publish their extremely cute photos in our Neighbors section. We've seen many a scrapbook with that clipping proudly entered over the years.

Even so, it still catches me offguard when the occasional camera-shy baby makes it known on a Tuesday afternoon that he considers this punishment. A baby's sobs are pretty much a show-stopper in the newsroom, where honestly the buzz is usually a lot less dramatic.

But it also helps us remember that we truly are our community's newspaper. And, we hope, just maybe it'll help hook some of those 1-year-olds on the newspaper in the years to come.

-- Joan

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Herald veterans launch historic blog

Two Herald staff veterans have teamed up to launch a new blog:
As Time Goes By.

Chief photographer Grant Jefferies was born and raised in Palmetto; staff reporter Carl Mario Nudi has worked just about every job in the newsroom since he moved to Manatee County in 1981. Their idea: preserve historic moments in Manatee County through their words and images.

Here's how they've branded their blog:
"As Time Goes By" looks at people, places and events inspired by pictures in the Bradenton Herald archives or in the Manatee County Library online historical photo archives. Each week the reader will take a step back in time to remember what made this area such a great place to live.

Send Carl an email at if you have specific scenes for them to explore.

-- Joan

Friday, May 14, 2010

Golden Herald winners = awesome, again

One of the most important events we do came around again last night -- the 33rd annual Golden Herald Awards Banquet. Wow. Every year, I'm reminded that our community is filled with truly amazing, gifted, bright and dedicated teenagers.

This year was no exception. It might have been a record crowd, too, as the audience filled every seat on the Bradenton City Auditorium's floor and throughout the balconies. And they stayed until the last award was announced, almost three hours later.

We've listed the top winners and the runners-up here and in today's Herald. The Herald's Michele Slaughter took tons of photos, including these posted in this gallery. And on Sunday, we'll publish special tribute pages in the Herald with all nominees.

Congratulations to each of you, your families and your friends. And thank you for sharing your accomplishments with all of us. You have touched so many lives already.

-- Joan

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Afternoon newsletter captures hectic day

This afternoon's e-newsletter from reflects a whopper of a news day -- and the Herald's staff was on top of it.

Take a glance at the top of the local headlines -- only a fraction of what all was posted:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

GOP picks Tampa for 2012 convention
The Republicans have picked Tampa for their 2012 presidential convention.

Trooper: Passenger said Hunter was driving at time of fatal wreck
SARASOTA -- A Florida Highway Patrol trooper testified this morning that a passenger in a pickup truck that crashed on Interstate 75 in March 2009 told him shortly after the accident that the vehicle was being driven by Josh Hunter at the time of the wreck.

Villages of Lakewood Ranch South gets green light
SARASOTA -- In an historic vote, Sarasota County commissioners gave their consent today to the massive Villages of Lakewood Ranch South project.

Judge declares mistrial in Manatee tobacco trial
BRADENTON - A judge this morning declared a mistrial in a lawsuit against major tobacco companies after a juror complained she could not go on with deliberations because her fellow jurors "are mean."

Crist asks BP to pay for oil-spill tourism ads
Gov. Charlie Crist asked BP PLC on Wednesday to pay nearly $35 million for an emergency ad campaign to assure the world that Florida's beaches and coastal waters are untainted by the company's Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Haven't signed up yet? You're overdue -- here's your ticket.

-- Joan

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sunday's updates on oil spill coverage

Here's an update on the Herald's and McClatchy's oil spill coverage, as outlined in my column:

Herald reporter Robert Napper explores how officials throughout our region are using the St. Petersburg Area Contingency Plan as a template to prepare for the worst should the Deep Horizon oil spill come to Florida’s west coast.

Reporters Rich Mauer in Anchorage and Anna Tinsley in Fort Worth dig into BP’s past, exposing a years-long history of legal and ethical violations.

Biloxi reporters Donna Melton and Patricia Mazzei wrote from the frontlines in Mississippi, covering how efforts to cap the well suffered a major setback Saturday after ice-like crystals clogged the inside of the containment dome.

And Miami's Curtis Morgan and Scott Hiaasen report on how "industry safeguards to prevent or minimize spills have failed to keep pace with the increased dangers of exploration, despite a series of warnings, malfunctions and near-misses over the years, federal studies and interviews show."

Throughout the day, reporters will be following developments on the installation of the cofferdam atop the biggest of the two oil leaks. Officials still hope the device will become functional by Monday.
-- Joan

Friday, May 7, 2010

McClatchy newsrooms team up on oil spill

The Gulf Coast has been gripped with fear since the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20, killing 11 workers and blowing open the well 50 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico. It has been spewing an estimated 210,000 gallons of oil a day that now cover almost 4,000 square miles.

As the oil is already lapping Louisiana shorelines, and images of oil-soaked wildlife multiply, the Tampa Bay area is obviously taking precautions in the event the oil slick heads toward our shores. But even if we avoid a direct hit, the economic and environmental impact is likely to be felt for years. Even Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has described the spill as a “unique and still-evolving and potentially an unprecedented disaster.”

Recognizing the enormity of this story, McClatchy editors are coordinating all of our newsrooms' coverage, which you'll find daily in the Herald and on our home page. The Bradenton Herald has created a special report here at, with an interactive map of the Gulf where you can click on icons for incident reports.

Led by Miami Herald Executive Editor Anders Gyllenhaal and Washington Bureau Chief John Walcott, this effort is allowing a far deeper report for all of us.
Journalists at the Biloxi Sun-Herald are on the front line in Mississippi and Louisiana. At the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, expertise is being gleaned on the oil industry. Staff at the Anchorage Daily News have enormous institutional knowledge from the Valdez oil spill, the largest in U.S. history until this disaster. The Miami Herald has sent reporters to the Panhandle, and along with the Bradenton Herald are examining every possible angle of potential impact to Florida. The Washington bureau is digging into political ramifications, environmental enterprise and more. The Kansas City Star, Merced Sun-Star and most all of the other McClatchy properties are contributing.

All in all, we plan to bring you the most thorough coverage possible as this catastrophic event unfolds.

-- Joan
Here's one of the most recent images off the coast of Louisiana:

Oil from the Deepwater Horizon well swirls in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. (Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times/MCT)