Sunday, December 25, 2011

The best Christmas is filled with love

We receive so many heartfelt letters, requests, thank-yous and well wishes this time of year. Yes, we've had countless stories about how so many families are so much needier and struggling this Christmas season. But we thankfully have had just as many selfless stories about people giving to others.

Here is one of the more beautiful letters, passed along by Editorial Page Editor Chris Wille. A mom's "thank you" is one of the most cherished gifts in the world:

My husband I have a son with Down Syndrome who is quite self-sufficient for his condition. Last week he rode his bike to Taco Bell on Cortez Rd to purchase some lunch. Counting his money is not easy for him, so he generally shows the cashier what he has and they help him decide.

On this particular day he had a couple of singles and change in his pocket. According to his report, a young girl walked up and handed him several dollars and change. He was shocked and didn’t understand why. When I asked him what he did, he said he thanked her and wished her a Merry Christmas! Then, of course he ordered whatever he wanted and enjoyed his favorite food.

The irony of this story is that Matt can never pass a Salvation Army Kettle without putting money in and wishing the Bell Ringer a Merry Christmas. He says he loves to give to the less fortunate.

Thank you to the young girl for her generosity and the act of reminding us what the Christmas Season is all about, love and sharing what we have with others.

Merry Christmas to all.

Julie Warrender

Merry Christmas, everyone. And here's a hearty wish for a Happy New Year! May 2012 be a grand, prosperous year filled with love, peace and hope.

-- Joan

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

'Canes are state champs -- let's keep celebrating!

The thrill of a state championship won't wear off soon! That definitive 40-0 romp by the Manatee Canes is one for the ages.

Columnist Vin Mannix joined the latest round of celebrations last night at Lee Roy Selmon's, as you can read in his feature story today. I made sure he had $20 from me for the championship T-shirts above -- they're keepers. (To order at $10 each, call Gene Brown at 941-720-9153.)

There are rumors of a citywide parade in January. Stay tuned to the Herald and for details.

Friday, December 16, 2011

I can say this: Go CANES!!

"On way to work with game face on. State title game tonight for Manatee High. Excuse my cheering in the press box. #BHCanes"

That was just tweeted by Night Metro Editor Brent Conklin ( @brentconklin ), heading in to cover the Metro Desk -- and back up the Sports Desk on a huge night: the Manatee Hurricanes are in Orlando for the Class 7A state title game, vying for their fifth state championship ever.

Just a few minutes later, I tweeted Go CANES! But as Sports Editor Tim Wolfrum and writer John Lembo reminded me: They're psyched, but not cheering for the team. They're covering the game. And that, dear readers, is not an easy distinction. Lembo, Alan Dell and Vin Mannix will all write columns from Orlando tonight and tomorrow, and those will have plenty of opinion. But the dozens of advance stories and tonight's game story should be void of that -- and of cheerleading.

We're glad we're on the sidelines as fans tonight! These students, captured by photographer Grant Jefferies as the team left Manatee High today, say it all:

Monday, December 12, 2011

Becky Canesse: Girls' leader extraordinaire

"You can't be what you can't see."

That quote by Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, was the message that Becky Canesse quietly pounded home Monday.

As long-standing executive director of Just for Girls, Becky Canesse knows the prophetic truth in those words. So she has spent years making sure that the girls who go through her alternative school in Manatee County get to meet strong role models. And Becky keeps those community leaders in clear sight for those girls.

During Just for Girls' annual luncheon meeting Monday, Becky spent almost two hours singling out volunteers, board members, community leaders and her award-winning staff. She proudly brought Marimar Urieta-Morales, an eighth-grader at Just for Girls, to the podium. As Marimar spoke of the confidence the all-girls’ school has given her, the knowing nods could be seen throughout the room.

Becky reminded us that the power of woman starts in the power of "Mom." Marimer's mom, Maria Lina Urieta, was there, and Becky thanked her in Spanish for entrusting her daughter to Just for Girls. (Marimer proudly poses with her mother, at right.)

Becky also recognized her own mother, honoring her with a donation to the new West Bradenton Center and asking others to do the same for their moms, loved ones and future generations of troubled girls.

But Becky Canesse forgot to pay tribute to the key reason this school is working: Becky Canesse. Others made sure they did:

"I just love this lady!" board member Murrie Bumpers declared as she thanked Becky for all she does.

And Just for Girls President summed it up: "You get good leaders, you hang onto them."

Here's hoping Becky Canesse leads the way for a long, long time.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Staff photo shows hit-run suspect with officer

The top local story this week has been the Herald's coverage of the tragic hit-and-run death of 5-year-old Kimora Samuel. We broke the news this morning that Kieron James, 38, has turned himself in and told investigators he was the driver they were looking for.

When we posted his booking mug, Herald photographer Tiffany Tompkins-Condie immediately realized she had already photographed him -- on Tuesday, while he was talking with a patrol officer next to the car that apparently struck and killed Kimora.

In this photograph, James, at right,is seen talking with Florida Highway Patrol's Master Cpl. Darrell Carrol and another resident. The vehicle has been impounded as the car that killed Kimora on U.S. 41 Monday night.

Why did it take investigators until James turned himself in 1 1/2 days later to charge him in the case? Keep watching for updates.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Live coverage from Delmer Smith trial

Laura Morel, the Herald's new crime/immigration reporter, is covering her first trial for us. Although the trial is in Sarasota, the defendant is of extremely high interest in Manatee County as well: Delmer Smith, suspected in a string of brutal home invasions -- including the murder of Kathleen Briles on Aug. 3, 2009, in Terra Ceia.

Laura and her editor, Marc Masferrer, have been tweeting and posting updates from the trial on Both @lauracmorel and @MRMasferrer are using this hashtag for the trial: #Smithtrial

Laura is doing a great job at taking us inside the courthouse. Check 'em out.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Reporter helps nudge film scoop onto 1A

Sometimes a little lobbying will help land a reporter's story on Page 1A.

That was certainly the case with the Herald's strip story today about Armand Assante. Features reporter Wade Tatangelo got a tip late Wednesday that Assante might be coming to Tampa Bay for his next film, playing a wealthy patriarch with a horse farm in the thriller “Blind Pass.”

Wade's pitch: Before Assante and filmmaker Steve Tatone head to Italy and Ireland next month for shooting, they're coming here. For at least two weeks, Manatee and Sarasota will serve as backdrops for the principal photography.


Wade also added some great detail about the movie in his blog Buzz Worthy today, if the story piqued your interest.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Go Palmetto! Go Manatee!

Friday night football still reigns on two local high school fields tonight, as both Palmetto and Manatee hope to advance in the playoffs. Sports writer John Lembo captured the spirit in his column today.

We're rooting for both -- which means equal play in the Herald tomorrow if they both win. Two strong hometown teams in the playoffs! A fan's dream, a layout editor's challenge.

Here's what we did last Saturday. And Lakewood Ranch threatened to win with a huge upset -- all bets would have been off then!

Let's hope this Saturday's Herald Sports cover look just about the same.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Shuffleboard is part of Bradenton's heritage

Who would have predicted the Herald's "Living Here" special section would propel me to the Bradenton Shuffleboard Club?

I certainly had no premonition, but as soon as I got Sue Daidone's call, my destination was made clear.

We had failed to even mention shuffleboard in Living Here, much less include that "the finest courts in Florida are in Manatee County," as Sue pointed out. And she wanted to give me a tour of her "home away from home" in the heart of downtown Bradenton, where 37 courts sit gleaming along Ballard Park Drive.

I hadn't visited since the courts were saved from the city's wrecking ball in 2006. The city still owns the courts, but they have been renovated and reborn with a lot of TLC and a lot of donations from its members. The scoreboards were donated; the tables and chairs inside the mess hall were donated; the gleaming glass beads on its 37 courts are from their dues...

On Monday, 57 teams from all over Florida began competing in the state regionals. As Sue and her husband Chuck noted, shuffleboard is an economic boost here. And it caters to both boomers and our older demographics -- members range from their early 50s into their 90s.

"This is the sport when you get older -- and anybody can play, regardless of medical challenges," Sue said as she proudly took me through the ranks.

Chuck noted that he's legally blind -- and he still can play a mean game. He uses a golf scope to navigate the court.

They want to get the word out that, for only a $15-a-year membership fee, your mornings can be filled with shuffleboard strategy and fabulous camaraderie. Just call 941-747-6184 for details.

The Herald has published John Brown's shuffleboard column every other week for years -- a welcome addition during season, which runs October through March. After meeting with so many of our Bradenton shufflers, I hope to add their photos, maybe a blog, certainly their insights. Here's to John's classic closing signature:

Happy shuffling!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tracking Bradenton Herald Twitter accounts

Just as the Project for Excellence in Journalism and The George Washington University release their national study on how news organizations use -- or don't use -- Twitter, everyone in the Bradenton Herald's newsroom is joining the effort.

Web Developer William Winter has created a smart page on that offers one-stop shopping to anyone looking for our tweets:

And I tweeted the page out before I blogged. Oh, my...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Scam artists: Beware of letter writers

We get a lot of letters and news tips from readers who want to warn the public about scams -- mail scams, phone scams, online scams, bogus home service scams...

Resources often lead us to suggest they write a letter to the editor, allowing us to get their warning out there. And that often seems to do the trick -- it at least gets folks talking.

That was the case today, after Sunday's publication of Ardyth Heemskerk's Letter to the Editor. She wrote about workers who tried to scam them during an air-conditioning duct work service.

I have been scammed. I am writing this in the hope that this can be stopped. I will not mention any names, but people who have also fallen for this will know who I am talking about...

Editorial Page Editor Chris Wille forwarded me an encouraging note this morning, noting how the letter had connected two readers with a problem in common.

This reminds me of how small things mean so much to readers. (A reader) called this morning, hoping to connect with the letter writer who cited a scam over the weekend. I sent her contact information to that writer.

What Chris heard back:
Dear Chris,
Thank you for telling us about (the reader's) experience. We called her. She told us the same thing happened to her and thought they were victimizing older people who were brought up to believe what other people tell them.
She also reads the letters to the editor and appreciates the fairness in your selection of letters.
We appreciate your help.
Thanks so much,
Ardith and Bill Heemskerk

Now that's community outreach.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Teacher revives FSPA in Manatee

I saved Jillian Bieber for this separate blog post about high school journalism efforts in Manatee County. This woman is one of the most tenacious high school journalism teachers I've met in recent years.

Jillian, social studies/journalism teacher at Braden River High School, is championing a great cause: reviving this area's participation in the Florida Scholastic Press Association. The FSPA is a non-profit organization that, since it was founded in 1946, has aimed to educate, train and support scholastic journalists and their advisers throughout the state. But our multi-county District 5 has been dormant for years.

Enter Ms. Jillian. She took over this school year as District 5 director for FSPA, and while the district encompasses several counties, she has placed the primary focus this year on Manatee. Last Saturday, she and her students held a fantastic workshop for FSPA and drew more than 100 students and teachers from all counties. East Manatee Editor Jim Jones and I had the privilege of joining the occasion.(Actually, Jillian got us on a short leash and had me as keynote and Jim as a workshop leader!)

She brought in FSPA Executive Director Wayne Garcia and President Joe Humphries, and built workshops for print, photojournalism, education, weeklies, yearbooks, TV production, sports broadcasting, multimedia, design and editing. It was quite an impressive agenda.

It was held in Braden River High School's Media Center, where she had copies of their outstanding newspaper, the Spyglass.

As Editorial Page Editor Chris Wille writes in Friday's editorial:
Any professional would admire this work, performed by a staff of more than 50 — an incredible number for a high school newspaper. At 16 pages, the October edition offers something for every student, from news columns to humor pieces, sports and features coverage, even advertising.
Look for their work in an upcoming “Journalism Next.”

Monday, October 31, 2011

Herald's 2011-12 'Journalism Next' launched

The Herald launched our 'Journalism Next' project for 2011-12 today. For several years, we have published weekly articles written by Manatee County high school students. Most of the student writers are working on their school newspaper and/or taking a journalism class at school.

The survival of both of those endeavors is vital, we believe, to keep journalism alive. And from the representation in our schools this year, we believe the effort is alive and thriving.

East Manatee Editor Jim Jones and I met with several high school journalism teachers last week to prepare for Journalism Next. They talked about the budget cuts they had endured, the tough year ahead, and of their diligence to their students. And then we were told this testimonial: Nelson Lopez, Palmetto High's teacher, said one of the key reasons his journalism class had survived the cuts was "Journalism Next." Supervisors and budget-makers could see the results.

And there are some mighty promising high school journalists in our community. Today's lead-off writer is a shining example.

Aiste Zalepuga, a senior at Saint Stephens Episcopal School, contacted me a few weeks ago for a "favor." She was chosen to represent all of Florida this summer at the Al Neuharth Free Spirit Journalism Conference. Upon her return, she was asked to try getting her essay about the conference published locally.

Aiste's essay is phenomenal, and fits right in with Journalism Next. (Saint Stephens has always been a great contributor, as well.) She came to the Herald last week, and her unbridled joy at being in our newsroom for the first time was contagious. Wow. (Oh, she also is a pianist, a swimmer, president of the National Honor Society and wants to teach yoga.)

Aiste is a first-born American; her parents are Lithuanian. Her passion for journalism stems from their passion for freedom. Will she pursue this as her career? We hope 'Journalism Next' has helped hook her for a while.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I'm only a tweet away -- finally

Never say never. I'm tweeting. Baby steps, admittedly, and with a bit of trepidation. My love of words just doesn't fit in 140 characters. But we've asked everyone in the newsroom to launch a Twitter account, so here goes: Follow me at @JEKrauter

Friday, October 21, 2011

How we chose Gadhafi photographs

McClatchy editors have an "editor-to-editor" email that we use for instant "roundtable" discussions without the pains of coordinating times, phone numbers and meeting places. We use it for alerts, but more often reach out for ideas, problem-solvers and strategies.

As photographs and videos began flooding our news services yesterday after Gadhafi was killed, one editor quickly jumped in to ask about using images of a bloodied body, or of the photo showing Gadhafi's head -- a screen grab without any blood.

For most of us, the photos were already populating galleries online. Should they stay there? Anders Gyllenhaal, McClatchy's vice president of news, stressed "the difference between the expectations in print and online, where you're never more than a few clicks away from the most graphic versions of photos like these. But many of our print readers have different expectations, which flows from the fact that we are invited into their homes, onto the breakfast table. Also, some communities are different than others, which is why this is a decision each of us makes and reflects our own sensibilities."

On, we posted galleries with all the photos available, but we added this warning screen shot indicating that they contained graphic material. And we also decided that there was no compelling reason to display that on 1A in the Bradenton Herald's print editions.

Our editors chose the print photos from AP wisely, focusing on the jubilant Libyan people and revolutionary fighters who spent the past four decades under a dictator's tyranny. Inside, we published a black-and-white photograph that captured the image of Gadhafi's head being shown on TVs around the world.

The element of “is he really dead” was strong enough to warrant documenting the dictator's death. But we let you choose whether you wanted to see it, with a 1A editor's note: GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING: This story contains vivid language and a photo of Moammar Gadhafi's body appears on 7A.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

We're capturing high school bands in photos

It's October, the month for baseball playoffs, high school football and...

Marching bands! Manatee County's high school bands are in full swing, with demanding practices in the days before Game Time interspersed with kids' good-hearted shenanigans.

Bradenton Herald photojournalists kicked off a new photo gallery series this weekend -- Strike Up the Band! -- to showcase these local band wonders. Tiffany Tompkins-Condie compiled 50 fun-filled photographs for our first gallery featuring the Southeast High Marching Band.

You can almost hear that tuba umpah-pah-ing.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Investigative team launches anthrax series

McClatchy, the Bradenton Herald/'s parent company, has partnered with ProPublica and PBS's Frontline on a sweeping project that examines newly available documents and testimony in the case against Bruce Ivins, the accused "anthrax killer" who committed suicide.

We launched the series today, both in print and online. Almost a decade to the date of the anthrax mailings that terrorized the nation in 2001,some scientists wonder whether the real killer is still at large even as prosecutors continue to vehemently defend their case. In this wide-reaching investigative partnership, the McClatchy-ProPublica-Frontline series also examines the scientific aspects of the most expensive federal investigation in history.

One story in the series explores one of their findings: New, more powerful technologies already had overtaken the methods used to pinpoint the flask as the murder weapon when prosecutors revealed their case in August 2008.

The Herald will continue this series in print Tuesday and Wednesday, and will post updates online. The series coincides with Frontline's documentary on PBS tonight.

All of this was coordinated through McClatchy's Washington bureau with powerful results.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

It's a dog's world on

We pitted dogs against cats for the past week -- and the dogs won, paws down.

Each week, the Bradenton Herald posts a photo gallery with images of the new cats and dogs held at Manatee County Animal Services that must find a new home. And those galleries draw a lot of traffic.

So which is more popular? We separated the dogs from the cats in these two galleries for a week to see.
Cats available for adoption
Dogs available for adoption viewers weighed in by the thousands on both galleries. But the competition wasn't even close: Our barking friends garnered 71 percent of the page views, leaving their meowing pals with only 29 percent of your cherished clicks.

In the name of all dog lovers, is donating $50 to help Manatee County Animal Services. (And we won't complain if that goes toward a bit of catnip, too.)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

This baseball lover's kind of night

This had to be one of my favorite breaking news headlines of all times:

A wild night: Rays head to 12th; Cards win NL wild card

Last night was a baseball lover's dream come true -- I cared crazily about the outcome of four games. And with the Rays, Sox and Braves on TV and my No. 1 Cards on, we had plenty of remote control action!

Night Metro Editor Brent Conklin sent out the above posting at 11:49 p.m. last night. I have the e-mail headline saved for posterity -- if you've clicked through, you already found that in the world of instant updates, Brent updated that posting with the Rays' clinching less than a half-hour later.

Fabulous reason, BTW, to hold the presses for a half-hour. And the Bradenton Herald's front page and sports cover are great today. My only quibble is the headline. This long-time Cardinals fan knows: You gotta believe.

Go Cards!!! Go Rays!!!

AP Photos/
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Chris Carpenter and catcher Yadier Molina celebrate.
Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria hits a 12th-inning home run off New York Yankees relief pitcher Scott Proctor

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tip alerts us to local storm damage

We love story tips -- keep them coming!

It's impossible to be everywhere, and we need you -- our community viewers -- to help out. And we're not talking just about misdeeds that warrant watchdog journalism. We're talking about what's going on in your world that warrants attention.

Here's a great example. I got an email at 4:55 a.m. this morning, photo attached, that a "mini-tornado" may have ripped through Christian Retreat. East Manatee Editor Jim Jones zipped out there as soon as I forwarded him the message. By noon, we had his story, with photos, posted that high winds had leveled trees, damaged structures and left a mess.

Keep those tips coming. Here's a link that provides contact information for the Bradenton Herald newsroom.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Seeking suspects in Palmetto slayings

Violent crime smacked this community exactly one week ago, and it's fighting back -- that's the only option.

That's the dire consensus of everyone we ask, but people in the know still aren't talking enough. That's the only way to stop such gangstyle violence that ripped through Palmetto last weekend. And yet there are still no arrests (best case scenario: This blog is trumped soon by the arrest of a suspect in the killing of two people and 22 wounded).

We fervently hope this weekend is peaceful. It still will be painful, as both victims from the shooting are buried today. Herald reporter Paradise Afshar and photographer Grant Jefferies will be monitoring and covering this throughout the day, with the families' permission.

The community's response to date:

A violent crime task force as reported in today's story.

Vigils throughout the weekend, including this one Friday night.

Ministers gathering Monday.

Videos asking for community cooperation (see below).

Funds topping $20,000 to encourage tipsters.

We will continue to cover and report every turn in this story, with the overarching goal to help keep our staff and this community safe.

Paul Videla/ Vigil Friday night as no one is arrested yet in mass shooting one week ago.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Palmetto shootings bring intense coverage

Bradenton Herald reporters Lee Williams, Richard Dymond, Vin Mannix and Paradise Afshar have been digging for answers since we learned of the horrific mass shooting Saturday morning in Palmetto. Williams has taken the lead in the coverage, and was the first to report Club Elite had canceled police coverage just months earlier.

Two dead, 22 injured. And no arrests made yet, despite a crowd of 300 at the club when at least two gunmen opened fire. Witnesses apparently are terrified of retribution.

As the Herald's editorial states tomorrow, this was an act of urban warfare. And it erupted even more disturbingly in the midst of commemorations on the 10th anniversary of 9-11.

I can't describe how jarring it was Sunday morning to be searching for an image of an AK-47 to post online with Williams' breaking news on the weapons used in the shooting. I had never seen one. As I searched, I heard the names of the 9-11 victims being read at Ground Zero echoing from my TV. I stopped working the shooting story to observe the fourth moment of silence.

And then I found the image of an AK-47. Two dead, 22 injured. Life seemed a whole lot safer before I learned that.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Emotions still run high with 9/11 tribute

As we headed Friday to the 10th Tribute to Heroes in downtown Bradenton,it was with a foreboding sense of ending.

So starts our editorial tomorrow in the Herald, which I finished just a little while ago -- hours after the Tribute to Heroes 10th annual luncheon concluded. (Editorial Page Editor Chris Wille is on vacation, so the honor falls to me...)

I found myself struggling mightily to opine, caught by surprise at the emotions that still overwhelmed me. I haven't missed any of the tributes, and watching the excellent video (see below) by METV and Charles Clapsaddle's crew brought back strong memories of each year.

I could barely hold back my tears as East Manatee Editor Jim Jones introduced me at the tribute to Stefenie Hernandez, Patrick Lay's mother. Her handshake was firm, her gaze clear, her voice strong as she thanked us for being there. Everyone in the room seemed to gravitate to her, as photographer Grant Jefferies captured here.

So much has changed; so much has stayed the same. The curse of war; the blessing of love. How do you put that into words?

Then I read Herald reporter Paradise Afshar's blog tonight, full of young hope, dreams, fears and convictions. She found the words. And I did cry.

I think we're going to be all right. And I hope we can help sustain the tributes to our heroes, as we encourage in the rest of Saturday's editorial:

Ticket sales have dwindled in the past few years. Indeed, the auditorium floor had plenty of room for more tables this year. At least one 10-top sat empty.

But next to that table, front and center, sat the family of Army Spc. 4 Patrick Lay II. Their heads were held high, their backs straight with pride, their faces wet with painful occasional tears. One of our own gave his life for our freedom.

Ten years ago, almost 3,000 Americans lost their lives in one of the biggest attacks in history on our country’s freedom. The victims at Ground Zero included 343 New York firefighters, 23 New York police officers, 37 Port Authority officers and 15 emergency medical technicians.

They are the men and women we honor each year at Bradenton’s Tribute to Heroes. Our community’s first responders gather, in full uniforms heavy with badges of honor, to remember their own who gave the ultimate.

So it was with great pride and relief to hear Mayor Wayne Poston preface his remarks at the Tribute with a declaration that, as long as he is mayor, Bradenton will continue to have some sort of 9-11 annual tribute.

We do need to look forward. We do need to move on, learning from that horrific day and the 10 years since. But we also need to remember the day we pulled together as a nation under attack. We need to remember the lives lost in the ensuing decade of war, praying that Spc. 4 Lay is our last loss, but knowing that more may follow.

Fly your flag this weekend. Join hands in prayers and hope.

We will never forget.

Never forget.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Help us build 'Bradenton Remembers 9-11'

I can't use overseas travel as an excuse not to blog anymore -- but it was a grand reason for almost two weeks! It also took the past few days to get my land legs back, and to work through more than 3,000 accumulated emails (dang, the blackberry refused to work in the Mediterranean!)...

So we labor a bit on Labor Day -- and admit we're extremely happy to be working.

As we close in on the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorism attacks, Bradenton Herald staff writers are looking back to their own memories -- among the first, Wade Tatangelo was a full-time student and journalist hurled into a new appreciation of the real world; Vin Mannix feels anew the loss of his best friend at the Pentagon. And they are capturing the contributions of so many in our community. What they're finding: The loss will always be heart-gripping. Still, the miracles of survival and selfless dedication in the days and years since help us look forward with hope.

I hope you take a moment to click here and share with us your memories of Sept. 11, 2001. They will be part of a commemorative online section, "Bradenton Remembers 9-11," that we'll publish next weekend.

Maybe your thoughts and hopes will help all of us resolve to make the next decade peaceful and prosperous.

The 9/11 World Trade Center Steel Memorial outside Southern Manatee Fire and Rescue District headquarters

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Loss of a soldier touches all of us

News that a Bradenton native had just been killed in Afghanistan came via email early Friday. Publisher Bob Turner forwarded me the email, received from someone he didn't even know. It read, chillingly direct:

My nephew, Patrick Lay, was killed in action today in Afghanistan. Born and raised in Bradenton. Thank you for your time.

With little else to work from, reporter Lee Williams started some furious digging. He quickly tracked down -- via Facebook -- that it was painfully true.

As Williams and photographer Grant Jefferies began reaching out to the family, we were humbled by their response. Spc. 4 Lay's mom, Stefenie Hernandez, his fiancee Joann Steiff, his sister Nikki and countless other relatives and friends opened their door and their hearts to us -- out of deep respect, pain, loss and love of their lost soldier.

Grant's photo of Patrick's mom, above, lost in thought outside her home, speaks that proverbial thousands of words. We have been "lucky" in Manatee County for the past several years, as the war hasn't taken a direct hit in claiming the life of one of our own. This was a painful reminder of how much so many have given.

And it stirred fears and prayers in all who were touched by the news. We found an article and photos by Stars and Stripes, and wanted to share this one with our readers. The photo by Laura Rauch/Stars and Stripes shows Spc. Lay sitting on a vehicle as the sun sets over Combat Outpost Nalgham, Afghanistan on May 21. Editors there gave us permission to publish, in exchange for two copies of the Herald with the photograph. In sending Herald photographer Tiffany Tompkins-Condie the OK, administrator Jen Stepp wrote:
You’re so very welcome. As I was processing your request I just became so very sad that here we have a soldier doing his duty and his photo appearing in the paper just a couple months ago to him having been killed today. My most sincere condolences go out to his family and those he served with.

And when I sent Williams' story and Jefferies' photographs to McClatchy-Tribune News Services for national publication, the Washington editor replied:
He reminds me of my best friend’s nephew who's going to Afghanistan in January. I hope I don’t read anything like this about him.

Say a prayer for all our troops to return home, safe and alive.

Friday, August 12, 2011

In memory of Dr. Brian Murphy

Dr. Brian Murphy will be missed by our community. His death this week shocked almost everyone and, like me, left us wishing we could have one more conversation with him.

He always had a rye joke or a "hot tip" for me when we ran into each other, usually at the Eye Center where I'm a patient of Dr. Mike Mackie. One of the more memorable times was right after the 2002 elections, in which Dr. Murphy was defeated by Bill Galvano.

"I thought for sure I had the race sewn up when you guys didn't endorse me," Dr. Murphy cracked with a grin. (He was right, the Herald didn't -- but what a race it was, with these four candidates: Dr. Murphy, Galvano, Benjamin Milks and David Miner.)

Dr. Murphy went on to represent Manatee County in so many other ways. If you have memories to share, please sign the Legacy Guest Book created here.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Murphy's family.

Friday, August 5, 2011

'Manatee Featured Fugitives' leads to news

Each Sunday, we publish "Manatee's Featured Fugitives" in the Local section and online, sourced by Manatee County Crime Stoppers. The feature includes 11 mugs of the most-wanted fugitives from Manatee County, with their personal data and the charges against them.

It also includes a strike through any fugitive caught the week before, and new mugs to replace those. Det. Dan Hutto, special investigator with Manatee County Sheriffs and a Crime Stoppers coordinator, sends me an email with all this information every Friday.

This afternoon, Detective Dan's email came with word that three fugitives had been nailed this week. Thinking that's the most we've had in one week, I forwarded the email to our news desk, suggesting a story. I didn't even look at the names.

1A News Editor Kelly Lipp let out a holler: "That's the guy suspected of beating Sister Nora!"

Police reporter Paradise Afshar quickly confirmed it: Eliseo Ortiz, 51, was arrested Thursday by the Tarpon Springs Police Department.

The plight of Sister Nora touched us all, and we wrote a dozen stories or columns, including this blog.

When columnist Vin Mannix contacted Sister Nora this evening, she took the news in stride.
“I forgave him long ago. Forgiveness is the Christian thing to do. It’s the more healing thing than keeping a grudge,” she said. “I hope they won’t be too hard on him. ”

Watch for the full story in Saturday's editions.

Now this footnote:

Detective Dan also indicates each week whether any of the arrests were the result of a tip to their hotline (none of this week's were). But one of our favorites was just a couple weeks ago, when Trevor Christeson, wanted on charges of grand theft, came off the list.

Christeson turned himself in, Detective Dan informed us, after he saw his photo in the Herald.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

SCF watchdog reporting gets results

This just in:

Daily watchdog journalism gets results. Sometimes almost immediately, as was the case today with State College of Florida.

We published a story today by Herald reporter David Gulliver, outlining SCF's until-now unreported plans to buy a new $71,000 Cadillac sport-utility vehicle for its top officials to use on college business. And Gulliver found the perfect perspective: The news comes two months after the college raised students’ tuition and fees by 8 percent.

Less than an hour ago, Gulliver received a brief email from SCF, saying they were yanking their request seeking sealed bids for the price of a new “executive vehicle.” Gulliver quickly posted the news to

Almost immediately, one reader emailed me:
In reference to the SCF cadillac story!!!!!! Thanks for bringing it to light and I have a feeling that there were a lot of complaints. I, for one, was furious when I read that story. My son is one of the students who had to pay that 8% increase!!!!

Huge story? Not in the scope of the trillions of missing dollars swirling in Washington. But it got people's attention -- everywhere I went today, it was the proverbial water-cooler talker. And we think that made a difference.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Herald has new Washington correspondent

You may have noticed a new Washington byline on our front page: Erika Bolstad.

Erika now covers Washington for the Miami Herald and Bradenton Herald. She replaces Lesley Clark, who has been promoted to cover the White House for all McClatchy newspapers. Since 2006, Lesley has done a great job tracking down our local politicians and covering stories extremely pertinent to Florida.

Erika has quickly stepped into those shoes in the past week. On the same day Erika was named our new correspondent, I shot her an email around 4 p.m. -- and asked her to chase down a story about Vern Buchanan. She had this story turned within two hours.

Erika has been in McClatchy's Washington bureau since 2007 as the correspondent for the Anchorage Daily News and the Idaho Statesman. I wagered she'll find hotter stories coming out of Florida -- and while she agreed, Erika reminded me that her clips include plenty of stories about Sarah Palin. And her work on the Larry Craig scandal for the Statesman was a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in the breaking news category.

Follow Erika on Twitter: @erikabolstad

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Harry Potter contest has sweet ending

Features Editor Jana Morreale summoned us into her office yesterday to pick the winners for our Harry Potter contest. An impressive pile of entries awaited on her couch -- hundreds of our readers had rummaged through the pages of the Herald and/or to find the coveted "snitches," cut them out, paste them to the game card and then deliver them to the Herald.

I got the first pick for a runner-up, and randomly was drawn to the envelope emblazoned with a screaming "PICK ME!!" Turns out Kevin Belanger of Bradenton was the magnet.

Web developer William Winter made the next pick, and we had geographic diversity with Sandra Engel of Parrish winning another $25 gift certificate to the movies.

Then Jana, the diva of our “Harry Potter -- Find the Golden Snitch” contest, stepped forward to pick the grand winner of tickets to Universal Studios.

And what a grand pick she made, as announced within minutes on and featured today on 1A in the Herald:

Becky Raburn, a longtime Holmes Beach resident who credited her team of family and friends for her entry when Jana called her with the news. Mrs. Raburn also shared that she is a cancer survivor who once again is battling the disease -- and her joy at winning the contest brought Jana and me to tears.

As Jana wrote in her kicker, here’s hoping they have a magical time with their winnings!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Manatee businesses help starving food bank

The economy took a vicious swipe at Manatee County's food bank, depleting most of its stock of food and supplies for our community's hungry.

The call for help came Monday morning, and our story published soon after on and in the Herald this morning. Photographer Grant Jefferies added visual proof of the empty shelves, as the above image shows.

Well, this community is answering the call for help. Kristen Theisen, vice president of development for Meals on Wheels and the food bank, says the response has been fantastic today.

"We've had more than a dozen businesses request barrels today," she told me. "We're thrilled with that because we need all the help we can get. Thank you, thank you for the coverage."

The Herald has its barrel by the front door. Let's fill 'er up!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Harry Potter contest is all the rage

Blogging on something you don't quite get is dangerous, but here goes: We're challenging you to find the Golden Snitches.

Harry Potter fans know all about it, and we hope they're combing through the pages of and the Bradenton Herald to find a numbered Snitch each day. The contest started Friday, so we're on No. 3 today.

I don't want to make it too easy, but in case you snoozed on Saturday, I'm anchoring a shortcut below. Sure, it counts -- click here for all the rules. And here's a link for you to download the game card. The grand prize: four tickets to Universal Studio’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Happy hunting!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Getting the crossword puzzle r-i-g-h-t

Don't cross the crossword puzzlers -- for this I can vouch today.

The company that paginates the Herald's puzzles/comic pages placed the wrong crossword grid on Saturday's page. Oh, did we hear about it! And having to wait until Monday morning to figure out a solution added fuel to the fire.

Here's one soundbite from a -- rightfully so -- irritated puzzler:

The last thing that irked me was the totally screwed up crossword that appeared in Saturdays, July 9th 2011, edition. Not only were some of the clues kind of weird but the blank puzzle form was not correct for the answers required i.e., some squares were blocked out that should have been clear and some squares that were clear should have been blocked. Consequently some numbers were in the wrong squares.

In spite of this, I was able to(with great difficulty) solve almost all of the puzzle except six words...

Thanks to Features Editor Jana Morreale's diligence in tracking down the problem, we have two puzzles publishing in Tuesday's editions: the corrected Saturday puzzle on Page 6C (answers are on 2A with the correction), and Tuesday's regular puzzle appears on Page 5C.

Me? I'm sticking with Jumble and Sudoku.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Herald photographer for 25 years!

This was definitely cause for celebration: photojournalist Grant Jefferies’ 25th anniversary with the Bradenton Herald.

We commemorated the occasion July 1 with a cake -- and vowed to reserve our cake-giving for joyful celebrations in the future rather than departures as has been the tradition. We sent Grant off with a bottle of bubbly and good vibes for his vacation to the Keys.

Now, as he returns to the grind Monday, Grant will probably lose that vacation glow in a day or so. But we welcome him home -- and thanks, Grant, for the countless amazing images you’ve captured over the years to document Manatee County’s history.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hometown Fourth of July: quite a blast

We're still hearing the oohs and aahs of a glorious fireworks display, witnessed last night just off the banks of the Manatee River from our perch near the Warner's Bayou Boat Ramp in Bradenton. Herald photographer Paul Videla, positioned right along the RiverWalk and downtown bridge, caught the grandeur in this beautiful gallery of fireworks photos.

Nothing makes you feel more young at heart than sharing sparklers and the Fourth of July with your loved ones. Mix in some baseball, brats and beach, and you have a perfect home-run weekend in Manatee County.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Breaking out our "Summer Scrapbook"

Summertime, and the livin' is easy... well, we can daydream, right?

Our photographers are hard at work to find the summer hotspots in our newest photo gallery collection, "Summer Scrapbook" in Bradenton & Manatee County. We think you'll want to bookmark this link:

Here's the intro Web Developer William Winter posted today:

School is out, the Gulf is calm and warm and the roads are a bit less crowded… it must be summertime in Bradenton!

Each week this summer the Bradenton Herald’s photographers will showcase a new view into the unique people and places that is summer in Manatee County.

So grab a tall glass of freshly brewed iced tea and enjoy the summer through images from around Bradenton and Manatee County!

For our first entry, Herald photographer Grant Jefferies chose ArtCenter Manatee: KidsArt Summer Camp 2011. These kiddos are priceless -- and definitely enjoying summer.

In coming weeks, photographers Tiffany Tompkins-Condie and Paul Videla will join the rotation with their summer best. And we'll be looking for your scrapbook offerings soon, too.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

See if these 'ledes' grab you

In our "best-of" recognition each week in the newsroom, we often single out good story leads: that first impression meant to grab the reader with cleverness or intrigue and not let go. (I typically label them "ledes" for my rather phonetic brain...)

We had three favorites in the kudos posted today. If you haven't read these stories, maybe the ledes will grab you, too:

Vin Mannix’s lede on this story about a vet from the invasion of Normandy:
Calvin Post is in the winter of his years.
He needs a walker to get around and he doesn’t hear so well anymore, eit
Yet his memory works fine.
Especially on June 6.

And Vin again on his report about an honor bestowed John Vita (and if you know John...)
For a change John Vita’s got nothing going on after work this week. No coaching, No mentoring, No digging post holes. Nothing.

And sports writer John Lembo's lede on “Marauder soaks in near no-no”, his follow-up interview with the Bradenton Marauders pitcher who nearly threw a no-hitter.

His phone started to squawk at around 7 a.m.
“Real early,” Kyle McPherson said. “I told them, ‘Thank you very much.’ I kept it real short and sweet, and that was about it.”
Such are the spoils of nearly making history.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Words inspire at Just for Girls graduation

Talk about empowering.

When you have a roomful of middle-schoolers about to walk across the stage in front of family and friends, it's tough to grab their attention. But that's just what keynote speaker Digna Alvarez managed to accomplish at this year's Just for Girls graduation ceremony.

Alvarez, regional director for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, talked directly to "all these beautiful girls" as she reminded all of us that our friends make us whole. She recalled her mom's Cuban saying, then gave us the rough translation:

"Tell me who you hang out with, and I'll tell you who you are."

The girls looked at each other, and knew exactly what Alvarez meant. And when she wrapped up her challenges for them to stay on a better path, the girls applauded -- and shouted out in unison,

"Thank you!"

The Just for Girls' graduating class of 2011 will be friends for life, if the tears and hugs shared yesterday are any indication. As Herald columnist Vin Mannix wrote in his story today, they have already been through so much -- gangs, scarring fights, juvenile detention.

But the graduation was all about the good stuff, and hopes for a brighter future. Share a few of those moments captured in Grant Jefferies' photo gallery .

Friday, June 3, 2011

Herald reporter uncovered Piney Point gusher

Kudos to Herald urban affairs reporter Toni Whitt for breaking the Piney Point story early this week. As she first reported in this story, the protective lining in a phosphogypsum stack at the old Piney Point facility has torn, allowing potentially contaminated seawater to gush from the site at up to 2,700 gallons a minute -- creating an “imminent threat,” state environmental officials acknowledge.

What they didn't acknowledge until Toni uncovered the news was that anything was even wrong. Officials apparently knew for weeks that there was a leak while dredge from Port Manatee was continually dumped there. As the Herald's editorial noted Thursday, had Toni not discovered the problem, we still might not know -- even though the state agency fears for human health and safety. (Although, as you can see from Tiffany Tompkins-Condie's photo above, it now is hard to miss.)

And that’s wrong.

The state DEP is testing the discharge for nitrogen, phosphorus, conductivity and chloride, and investigating how the tear happened and how to repair it. We will continue to dig for independent answers as well.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Macohi students grill Herald journalists

Throughout the year, the Bradenton Herald's newsroom has worked with the Manatee High students who produce The Macohi and their adviser, Erica Weiffenbach. Erica was awarded the Student/Newspaper Partnership Grant from the Newspaper Association of America Foundation, as mentioned earlier in this blog, and one stipulation was our dedicated support for her high school newspaper staff.

Editors, reporters and photographers visited her class each month, and we helped critique their stories. They recently had their last assignment: Pick a Herald staffer, shadow them, interview them and write up a report.

Kara Inglis, a junior and The Macohi's managing editor, tagged me. Her goal: to become an editor. Somehow, I didn't manage to talk her out of it. In fact, it proved quite a thrill to talk with a young person determined to make journalism her career. As she grilled me that afternoon, I recalled my first tour of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, the smell of ink, the tough-looking reporters -- and not realizing that I'd just gotten hooked.

Kara sent me a copy of her report -- she got an A! -- and I felt a flash of pride for our career choice. (OK, and I admit -- I also felt a bit old after digesting Kara's lede:)
Joan Krauter is the Executive Editor of The Bradenton Herald. She has been passionate about journalism since before college and to this day, many years into her career, she is as passionate as she was when she started.

In her email, Kara announced the next step in her promising career: She's been name Editor-in-Chief for next year's Macohi:
"I thought you might like to know that I am officially the new EIC of the Macohi! I am very excited to work with my existing staff members as well as meet Ms. Weiffenbach's incoming Journalism 1 kids to make the paper even better and more school involved than it is now."

Grant or no grant, my staff is looking forward to working with more journalism students next year.