Wednesday, July 28, 2010

More Herald staffers shooting video

For at least two years, Herald staffer Paul Videla has split his journalistic duties here between photography and videography. Several other staffers, particularly East Manatee Editor Jim Jones, have also dabbled in video.

But photojournalists Grant Jefferies and Tiffany Tompkins-Condie held fast to their love of still photography, dedicating all of their time to print and online images and galleries. Well, that love isn't changing, but they also are foraging into the video world today.

Tiffany turned her first official video (see below) for today's package on the Innocence Project's motion to have rape convict Derrick Williams' sentence overturned, based on a new DNA test.

We plan to have more daily videos at for those viewers who prefer that medium. Send us your ideas on what you'd like to see. (And I wish I could share Grant and Tiff's hilarious farce in testing out the video equipment last week, but you'll have to find that on Facebook...)

-- Joan

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Best grouper in town? That's easy

Welcome to Week Two of "Our Manatee Beaches" -- the Bradenton Herald/'s lens on the beaches along Anna Maria Island.

This week's focus: the Rod & Reel Pier.

The pier, according to island history sites, dates back to at least 1947. The Rod and Reel Restaurant is the most northern eatery on the island, with its unimpeded view of Tampa Bay and the Skyway Bridge. And it has the best grouper sammies in town (in fact, it's the first restaurant I was taken to during my job interview 12 years ago!).

Here's a link to the gallery by Grant Jefferies. Enjoy.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The best line of the day

Herald reporter Tim Wolfrum captured today's best line -- and most inspiring -- in his story about Amputees Across America. The cross-country bicyclists were visiting HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Sarasota Friday on their way to Vero Beach, marking the end of a 3,500-mile journey from California.

In his article, Tim portrayed the cyclists' mission: to show other amputee patients that they can have a meaningful, active life after the dark days of rehabilitation.

A sense of humor, it seems, goes a long way. Tim saved that best line almost for last, offering us insight into cyclist Doc Milligan, who lost his leg to bone disease. The 63-year-old from Spring Hill, Fla., was on his second cross-country ride. And it seems he would have been on his third ride, but he had collided with a stray dog and broke his hip during training.

Doc later reconciled with the dog and adopted him.

“I didn’t get mad at him for breaking my hip,” Milligan said, “but I did get even. I had him neutered.”

Now, how can you not go out and do something wonderful today? Thanks, Tim, for capturing that moment.

-- Joan
Doc Milligan visits 39-year-old Robert Kent of Sarasota/photo by Herald photographer Paul Videla

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Life's a beach -- let's celebrate

On Day 89 of the oil disaster in our Gulf, reports show that the well's new cap continues to hold. Not to jinx ourselves, but that brings increasingly strong indications that Tampa Bay's shoreline will be spared.

So while we decry the untold damages to the Gulf's ecosystem, we celebrate our good fortune while it lasts. And we hope that's for years to come.

We may have gone a little over the top today in the Herald and on, but the focus on sunshine, white beaches and clear water feels wonderful. In my column today, we point you to, where each day we will bring you snapshots, videos and factoids about our beaches.

That news is worth bookmarking.
-- Joan

P.S. Here's a view from our favorite bench at sunset

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Two 1A stories cut short in some print editions; we'll reprint


In today's Lakewood Ranch Herald, our earliest print edition, the "jumps" for two 1A stories did not appear. The news desk decided late that they needed space on Page 5A for both continuations of the stories, but that remake didn't get on the press until the Bradenton Herald -- our second edition -- started printing.

Both were strong local stories, and we will reprint or update them in Thursday's editions. We received dozens of calls from upset readers. (Glass half-full take? There are still a lot of avid readers out there!)

Both were law enforcement stories:

One was reported and written by Robert Napper, examining the county's and state's lax oversight of home day cares after a 13-year-old boy was charged with beating and possibly raping a 22-month-old child in such care. You can read the full report here, as well as find a checklist of questions to ask if you're looking for a day care.

The other story is Beth Burger's on-the-scene report about the shooting death of 22-year-old Kyle Schweitzer, gunned down at his brother's home along Manatee Avenue. Here is today's story, and we will update with any developments Thursday.

-- Joan

Sunday, July 11, 2010

To Kill A Mockingbird turns 50

If you've read any books at all, you likely have been mesmerized by Harper Lee's only novel, "To Kill A Mockingbird." The classic turned 50 today, and Katie Couric took us through the pages of her favorite book -- and one of mine -- just now on CBS' Sunday Morning.

She returned us to Maycomb, Ala., Lee's Southern town steeped in segregation and disrupted by a white woman's charge of rape against a black man. Enter Atticus Finch, a fictitious lawyer made larger than life by both Lee's words and by Gregory Peck.

Still, the story is told through Scout, Finch's 6-year-old daughter. The images and words are those of my youth, even though we grew up in the Midwest instead of the deep South. "To Kill A Mockingbird" cut to the core of racism in every American town.

How far has America progressed? That's the question our guest columnist, Ericka Dow from the Manatee County Library, poses in her column today.

She writes:

How far from the atrocities of lynching, separate water fountains, and denying citizens the ability to vote or attend a good school? There are too many stories to tell that will answer these questions from either side of the spectrum.

The youngest generation has grown up in a culture more inclusive than ever before; many young people perceive the world as a place where a person’s identity is determined from what is within, not what society decides they are from without.

That seems far too idyllic for a world that seems to become more superficial by every online moment. Take a few minutes today and find a copy of Lee's novel. Revel in its wisdoms that decry prejudice and celebrate tolerance.

Even if you have to Google it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

32 pelicans saved, but how many lost?

Please take 49 seconds to watch today's video at this link on, shot by our summer intern, J. Hunter Sizemore. He went along with reporter Sara Kennedy and photographer Grant Jefferies to film the release Wednesday of 32 pelicans -- all rescued from the BP oil spill -- at Fort DeSoto Park. You can see moments of the release in this photo gallery as well.

As Sara quoted one tourist in her story, "Every animal matters." The unfathomable thought: the ratio of how many are perishing to those being saved.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Next worldly stop: Cartagena, Colombia

This just in from Tom O'Neill, former Herald photo editor who's about to launch a new career with the University of South Florida (kudos, Tom!!).

He's visiting loved ones in Cartagena, Colombia, where he has ventured several times before on mission trips. He nurtures children there who might not have any other chance at a link with educators, and helps keep alive the knowledge that helping others heals the soul.

Anyway, he happened to trip upon home sweet home while there:

Checking my e-mail today on yahoo from Cartagena, Colombia and what do I notice on the home page? Man reunites with daughter from Bradenton, Florida. Nice work, small world.



A salute to all things noble and true as we start this Fourth of July weekend.

-- Joan