Wednesday, September 29, 2010 changes commenting service

Dear commenters,

We're introducing a new article-commenting service today called Disqus. That's pronounced “discuss,” and it offers new ways to watch, follow and share comments — and, according to the provider, promotes greater accountability among contributors to boost the quality of comments. You'll find the new commenting style on all stories created after 10 a.m. today.

Like any change, it will take some getting used to. But the basics remain the same. If you're already registered, your existing login should still work. But you can also use Facebook and Twitter logins to access the comments. You'll have to reintroduce your avatar. For more details, here's a full Q&A we published today.

The old comments were posted through a service called Pluck. For the next week, you'll be able to view those comments. Starting next Thursday, those comments will be retired and no longer on our site.

Problems with the new system, or want to share feedback? Please e-mail the web team (and I'll see those e-mails) at

Let's keep talking!

-- Joan

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Palmetto fight video ignites community debate

Do we or don't we post the video?

That was the debate in the newsroom last week as a quick scan of the web -- and YouTube in particular -- surfaced videos of two 16-year-old girls fist-fighting in that vacant Palmetto lot and one of their mothers urging her daughter on.

We decided to provide the link, as long as it was available on YouTube. We did not put a download of the video on, because we didn't film it ourselves. But that video is very much a part of the news story.

As reporters Beth Burger and Paradise Afshar outlined in their story today, the videos shot by some of the almost 100 teens watching that fight have catapulted the incident into an international news story.

Neither girl was apparently seriously injured, which the Herald editors also discussed before posting the video.

One of the girls' mother, April Newcomb, has been charged with child abuse. Her attorney acknowledges that the video catapulted this case into high drama.

From today's story:

“The actions of a high school student getting into a fight is not necessarily news. That’s been happening for years,” said Newcomb’s defense attorney, Kevin Hayslett, of Clearwater.

“Part of the snowball effect of this story is that it was beamed around the world within 24 hours,” he said. “Had it not been for the power of the Internet, this would have been a fight the kids talked about at school, but would not have had any lasting consequence for the participants or spectators.”

The Herald will continue to push for community conversation on this case. As columnist Vin Mannix notes in his column today, we're lucky no one was killed in this fiasco.

-- Joan

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Calling us for the rest of the story

The top call this morning: Our readers were rightfully irritated by a story in the Bradenton Herald that abruptly ended mid-sentence.

The story: Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Richard L. "Dick" Etchberger's courage, posthumously recognized 42 years later. President Barack Obama on Tuesday posthumously recognized Etchberger for service "beyond the call of duty" by giving him the nation's highest military award, the Medal of Honor. Obama said those three words can now be etched into a granite monument to Etchberger's memory at Barksdale Air Force base in Louisiana.

You can read the complete story here. For those who wanted a hard copy, I've promised to mail them a printout.

AP Photo - President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor posthumously to the sons of Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Richard L. Etchberger, right to left, Richard Etchberger Corey Etchberger, and Steve Wilson during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Our Manatee Beaches -- a lasting tribute

This e-mailer sent words to live by this morning:

Dear Mr. or Ms Jefferies,

I have never written before but felt compelled to write you regarding the photos in today's website. I moved to Bradenton 11 years ago. I always thought that if I moved close to a beach that I would visit that beach as often as possible. Alas, due to work, family, etc., I find myself lacking in "me" time. After viewing your beautiful photos of Holmes Beach, I will be visiting the beach more often!

Thank you for the excellent photography!! I wish you much success in your career!


Hazel F. Griggs

This week marks the final gallery entry to "Our Manatee Beaches",'s special summer project that was spurred by the fear of oil on our beaches. The pages and galleries have been extremely popular with our viewers -- we set new daily records for online visitors with each one.

As Ms. Griggs recognized, photojournalist Grant Jefferies took ownership of this project, producing stunning galleries for the past three months. As a result, "Our Manatee Beaches" provides beautiful insight into Manatee County's natural resources. We plan to keep these live for plenty of viewing in the future. Thanks to all of you who added photos, viewed Grant's work, and sent them to friends via e-mail and Facebook.

-- Joan

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Never forget: 9/11 is our history

"... can you believe nine years since 9/11?"

In that simple e-mail, my friend captured the moment. "9/11" is a noun, an event, a day that shook us and changed us. How can we forget? Because we're human. And time heals. Or helps pain fade. Or just makes us numb.

The words "Never Forget" still reverberated through the memorials and observances that laced yesterday and today. But the crowds have thinned; the tears brush away more quickly; the shock of seeing a plane smash into a building has eased into history.

In our coverage of the "Tribute to Heroes" events, columnist/reporter Vin Mannix found many voices determined to honor the memories of those lost on 9/11, and their faces of resolve were captured in these photographs by Grant Jefferies and Paul Videla.

They need our help. Each of us needs to take a long moment today and remember -- and then resolve to hold our neighbor's hand, help someone in need, make a plan for tomorow. Nine years ago, we clung to that ability as we tried to make sense of the senseless. Time heals. Let's just not forget.

-- Joan

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Speaking of tweets...

Odds are that tweeting will eventually morph into some other social media fad. But Twitter has continued to grow since it was introduced in 2006, and those 140-character texts are often the first tease to breaking news.

The Bradenton Herald is using several Twitter feeds, including Sports' new Twitter feed, @bradenton designed to bring followers the latest breaking sports headlines and links to other coverage.

Taking feeds from sports writers and sports fans alike, News Editor Jason Bartolone ( and other editors are posting interesting local sports tidbits –- from prep sports, Marauders, IMG, local golf, and more. Jason's key focus for tweets: live events, especially Friday Night Football.

You also can follow news headlines @bradentonherald and entertainment headlines @accentbradenton .

All tweets and our Facebook at eventually lead you to And that, dear readers, takes you full circle, 24-7, from our beloved print edition every day.

-- Joan

Thursday, September 2, 2010

'Canes cheer card, Twitter and podcast

We're all things 'Canes.

As the Manatee Hurricanes head to Turtle Creek, Pa., to play Woodland Hills at Wolvarena on Saturday, the Herald is cheering them on.

Get this cheer card in Friday’s Bradenton Herald, or stop by the office at 102 Manatee Ave. W. (The ad in today's paper jumped the gun -- sorry about that.) Put your cheer card in the window -- or, better yet, take it to the game with you.

Herald sports reporter John Lembo is heading to Turtle Creek to bring you live coverage. He'll be tweeting -- sign up at @bradentonsports and we'll be posting score updates on

Jason Dill and Jason Bartolone preview Manatee High’s trip to Pennsylvania for another football showcase in their podcast this week.