Monday, July 23, 2012

Sticking by your words -- and ours

A recent front-page article in The New York Times stirred up a hornet's nest among journalists. The story by Jeremy W. Peters takes a look at the surprisingly common practice of "quote approval."

I'll admit -- it took me totally by surprise. Apparently it has become quite common for journalists to send quotes back to campaign members and government officials after interviews for approval. According to Peters, "It was difficult to find a news outlet that had not agreed to quote approval, albeit reluctantly. Organizations like Bloomberg, The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Reuters and The New York Times have all consented to interviews under such terms."

That practice is blatantly wrong. Period. And you'll notice that McClatchy -- the Herald's parent company -- wasn't mentioned. It didn't take long for James Asher, our Washington Bureau chief, to issue a memo on our standing policy:

Don't do it. We share this policy here with pride.

Sure, as Jim notes, this can put our reporters at a disadvantage. But our mission statement declares that "we will passionately uphold the First Amendment."

It's extremely rare that the Bradenton Herald will use unnamed sources, and then only with the approval of the executive editor and assigning editor. We may go off-the-record for background material, or if someone's information might endanger them. But in demanding that government be open for its citizens, we also must be transparent and "in the Sunshine" for our readers.

Here is another link to the policy posted on McClatchy's site. The Herald is adding this to our policies section online, too.

This is the Sunshine State. And that's how we do journalism.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My favorite Herald blog posts today

These two blog posts are so refreshing and fun -- they more than trump anything I could come up with today. So a huge "like" from the Editor's Blog to posts by Tiffany Tompkins-Condie on Through the Lens, and Wade Tatangelo on Buzz Worthy.

Tiffany writes with unabashed hope for the next generation in an unlikely match: children and politics.

And Wade has the Top 10 Songs for Snooty (my favorite? "Fat Man in a Bathtub"!)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Reporter investigating HRK, Piney Point

In the midst of bankruptcy hearings and litigation involving HRK Holdings LLC, the firm that purchased Piney Point before last year's disastrous toxic spill, Herald reporter Josh Salman has uncovered documents that point to potential negligence by the company long before the leak last summer gushed 170 million gallons of toxic water into Bishop Harbor.

Salman's first investigative report published July 6 revealed that HRK notified environmental officials of a storage liner tear at Piney Point three months before the 2011 spill.

And in today's published story, Salman reports that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection waived a stipulation for HRK to install a commonly used protective dirt coer -- after HRK agreed to assume full financial responsibility if something went awry. That dirt, experts say, might have prevented the liner cracks that caused the spill.

One note for the Herald's print readers: An error in production led to several lines dropped from the story between 1A and the jump on Page 5A. Those two paragraphs should have read:

An 11-page administrative agreement signed between HRK and the DEP waived that requirement in August 2006, according to emails and documents obtained by the Herald.

A study later commissioned by HRK found that heat-induced stress cracks had penetrated the gypsum stack liner months before it ever was filled with water, contributing to the cause of the liner tears.

That mistake certainly ruined my morning coffee. But the online version is intact, and we'll republish the missing lines Thursday.

Stay tuned for more of Salman's reports on HRK and Piney Point.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sign up for new Opinions newsletter -- and maybe a free lunch

We're making it easier for you to tap into Bradenton Herald's community discourse through its editorials, letters to the editors, and opinion columnists. has launched a daily Opinions newsletter, which will deliver the headlines and website links found on directly into your email about 9 a.m. every day.

Just click here and follow the instructions to sign up. It takes about 30 seconds (and you'll see the other newsletters we offer as well). I've included the step-by-step below, just in case.

What a great way to sharpen your debate topics for the day! The Bradenton Herald's editorials are meant to spark community discussions. They explore current events, almost always with a heavy emphasis on the local impact. They aren't news coverage -- the editorials stem from news coverage, often with additional research to form a reasoned opinion. That voice speaks independently of the newsroom, setting out the institutional beliefs of the Herald as a leader in the community.

Editorial Page Editor Chris Wille authors most of our local editorials, usually after a lot of his own research and a healthy debate with the Herald Editorial Board. Members include Publisher Bob Turner, community representative Rosalie Shaffer, and the executive editor (that's me!). This mix helps us maintain credibility and balance -- the most valuable attributes that can be offered on an editorial page.

We want to broaden our reach, and we hope this newsletter helps accomplish that. Open up the latest Leonard Pitts column on your iPad, and comment away! Or send us a letter to the editor via your iPhone.

Just sign up for the newsletter by July 9, and you'll be entered to win a lunch with Chris Wille. That's right, there is such a thing as a free lunch -- well, almost.


First, sign up as a member of If you don't have an account, click the "Join" link in the upper right section of any Herald web page.

After you have successfully logged in, click on your user name. This will take you to the Member Center. Once there, click on the blue "Newsletters" icon in the right column.

This will take you to a list of your newsletter subscriptions. Add a check mark to the box by "Opinion Newsletter" and click the "Save Edits" button at the bottom of the page.

That's it. You'll start receiving the Opinion Newsletter the next day it's sent.