Friday, October 29, 2010

What a sweet treat for our fans

We've had fun picking among our Facebook fans for Hunsader tickets these past few weeks. But none has been sweeter than our grand prize winner, Lucille Skidmore.

And in today's story, columnist Vin Mannix talks to Skidmore, who knows how much her autistic grandson Jacob Shahinian will enjoy himself at the Hunsader Farm Family Pumpkin Festival.

“Walking through the maze, playing in the bounce house, sitting in the pumpkin patch with his sisters, he loved all of it,” Skidmore said. “I can’t wait to see the look on his face when we go back.”

That will be this weekend — a fourth birthday present for Jacob and his 14-year-old sisters, twins Samantha and Savannah.

Sweet treat. Congratulations to all of our winners.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Early voting proves to be plenty patriotic

I voted today, joining the ranks of early voters for the first time. And it was, surprisingly, just as rewarding as voting on Election Day.For some reason, I hadn't expected that feeling of good ol' patriotic pride that comes with walking into the polling place on the first Tuesday of November each year.

But the line was actually longer today at the Supervisors of Elections office than it typically is at my neighborhood church/polling place.

The glut of campaign signs, the banter of the latest opinions surrounding various races and the earnestness of the elections workers provided quite a lift. It felt a lot more significant than the state Legislature's dry definition of early voting: "casting a ballot prior to election day at a location designated by the supervisor of elections and depositing the voted ballot in the tabulation system."

Manatee Supervisor of Elections Bob Sweat says the line has been steady all week. As of day's end Tuesday, 5,690 of the county's 202,710 registered voters had cast their ballots. Early voting continues 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Thursday & Friday; 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday and noon-4 p.m. Sunday. More details can be found on the supervisor of elections site.

We all left today emblazoned with "I Voted" stickers. We just have to wait a bit longer to see if our choices prevail.

-- Joan

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Going pink: Manatee makes time to care

Throughout October, Manatee County residents have been raising awareness of the toll that breast cancer takes on women -- and men. In the Herald's coverage today , you'll see the statistic: More than 240,000 women and men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year in the United States. And 12,000 of those live in Florida.

At least that many men, women and children walked somewhere in Manatee County over the weekend to raise funds for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization.
I think we all know someone who has been stricken with cancer. Many of us have had at least a scare. What better reason to take that sticky note on the front of today's paper and get a free cancer screening if you haven't already? And read through the stories we recently published in "Pink," a special section dedicated to breast cancer awareness.

Take time to care.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Journalism Next: working with our future

We're constantly being asked about the future of journalism -- newspapers in particular. One of the best ways to help define that answer is to work with the next generation of journalists.

The Bradenton Herald has renewed that effort this school year, working with students at every high school in Manatee County. The project, Journalism Next, is being led by Presentation Editor Jennifer Conklin. Leading the way among our high schools is Manatee High, which has published the student newspaper The Macohi for almost a century.

The Macohi and the students are lucky to have Erica Weiffenbach as their Macohi adviser. She met with me last year to brainstorm on applying for the Student/Newspaper Partnership Grant from the Newspaper Association of America Foundation -- a prestigious nod to only four high schools each year across the nation.

Well, she won the grant. With that brings $5,000 in funding and a yearlong commitment to working with the Herald as the area's local daily newspaper, as Jennifer wrote in her story here Sunday. Newsroom staffers meet at least once a month with Macohi students, helping them edit stories and produce the student newspaper.

On Monday, we launched the Journalism Next series in print -- weekly stories written by local high school students about something relevant in their world. Our first entry was reported and written by Manatee High student Jaina Patel, who showcased a new program by the University of South Florida that encourages high school freshmen to build a path to college.

We'll be building a section on soon. Please send your ideas -- and students, if you want to get involved, let us know!

-- Joan

Thursday, October 14, 2010

For Ringling: returning byline & our own dancer

A byline from years past has rejoined the Bradenton Herald, and he couldn't have picked a better week.

Wade Tatangelo is our new features writer/columnist, joining us just in time to cover the Ringling International Arts Festival. In his opening 1A story today, Wade took us to opening night of "Southwest Florida’s most highly anticipated arts event."

Wade almost begged to review the world premiere of Florida's own Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz's “Hurricane,” staged Wednesday night at the Historic Asolo Theatre. He interviewed Cruz as well, who describes the play as an examination of the displacement of the soul.

Another noteworthy insight into a Herald staffer: Photojournalist Tiffany Tompkins-Condie was a classic ballet dancer in her life before newspapers. And while she is a truly gifted photographer, she also has a wonderful way with words. So she combined all those diverse skills to provide us with an authoritative review of the festival's main attraction, dance legend Mikhail Baryshnikov performing with contemporary artist David Neumann.

Coming Friday: the inside scoop on Bonnie and Clyde. You also can follow Wade on his blog, Buzz Worthy.

-- Joan

Sunday, October 10, 2010

True, half true or on fire? Check out PolitiFact

"Did you just hear that political commercial? Are his pants on fire, or what?"

Welcome to PolitiFact. With elections just three weeks away, PolitiFact Florida, the fact-checking website that’s a joint project of the St. Petersburg Times and the Miami Herald, has made all of their copy available to the Bradenton Herald's print editions as a public service.

PolitiFact Editor John "J.Bart" Bartosek has been sending us these self-described "thoroughly reported, well-sourced and smartly written Truth-O-Meter items" each day. The claims are then rated by the Truth-O-Meter – True, Mostly True, Half True, Barely True and False. The most ridiculous falsehoods get the lowest rating, Pants on Fire.

On, we also have posted a widget linking to the ratings and updated items each day.

Here's the explainer on PolitiFact Florida, courtesy of St. Pete and Miami:

PolitiFact Florida is a partnership of the St. Petersburg Times and the Miami Herald to help you find the truth in politics.

Every day, reporters and researchers from the Times and the Herald examine statements by Florida elected officials and candidates and anyone else who speaks up on matters of public importance. We research their statements and then rate the accuracy on our Truth-O-Meter.

In Sunday's editions, the Herald published PolitiFact's examination of the GOP's latest ad against Alex Sink, which states “Newspapers say Florida made bad investments, lost hundreds of millions of dollars, billions in pension funds lost. Who was in charge of Florida’s investments? Alex Sink.”

The Truth-O-Meter ranks it "Half True." See Page 13A of the Herald, or check it out at the PolitiFact site.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

'Like' us -- you might win free movie tickets

Our 1,000th fan has arrived on Bradenton Herald's Facebook. That's a minuscule milestone when you consider that Facebook's homepage has 20,696,049 fans as of this writing.

But we've had some fun getting the most recent fans to sign on, offering a chance to win free movie tickets.

To coincide with the release of "The Social Network" -- the Facebook movie -- the Bradenton Herald/ each day through Oct. 15 is giving away two pairs of Carmike Cinema tickets to two of our Facebook users who "like" the Bradenton Herald. Metro Editor Marc Masferrer and Community Relations Manager Jill McGarry are doing the contest's heavy lifting, coordinating the daily picks and contacting the winners.

Current and new "fans" are eligible. You can find us on Facebook at

No purchase is necessary. Winners will be contacted via Facebook daily. You can pick up the tickets at the Bradenton Herald, 102 Manatee Ave. W., or we'll mail them to you.

So if you haven't signed on, like us and get a chance to a free visit to the silver screens. And you'll then be linked into our top-of-the-news picks every day.

-- Joan