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.”