Street Talk - April 2002

By staff April 1, 2002

Cannibalism, Newspaper Style

Our "great morning daily" newspaper may be in danger of being gobbled up-or at least, that's the worry of some reporters and editors at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. But it's not a story you're likely to read there.

It all goes back to the SHT recently divorcing its former partner to the north, the St. Petersburg Times, in favor of linking up with the Tampa Tribune and agreeing to supply it with Sarasota news. You see, the Tampa paper has a real television station (WFLA-TV, Channel 8) attached to it, while the St. Pete Times has none.

And the Herald-Tribune is desperate-so the story goes-for its SNN (Channel 6) to have some presence in Manatee County, which it could get through WFLA-TV broadcasting some news clips from SNN.

That would get the dastardly Bradenton Herald right where it lives-in Bradenton, where it has no TV partner to fight back with. Or so, I'm told, goes the thinking of SHT management.

Meanwhile, some SHT staffers confide that they're afraid the Herald-Tribune will end up being sold to Media General (owner of the Tampa Tribune). They recall that SHT publisher Diane McFarlin was recently a finalist when the Tampa Trib hired a new publisher. That "getting-to-know-you" process may have laid the groundwork for this new partnership, which could ultimately end up with the SHT becoming "Tampa Tribune South."

Truth is, probably no group of folks is more skittish about their jobs than most newspaper reporters-especially those working for the Herald-Tribune's owner, The New York Times. But industry gossip says the SHT is the most profitable cash cow in the Times' chain of smaller papers, so the guess is that chances of such a sale are about nil.


"What Sarasota has is a bull market on bad taste."

Sarasotan Bill Korp, explaining to the Sarasota City Commission why he thinks the city needs an ordinance to control megahouses.


Bouillabaisse is a new addition to the menu of the recently re-opened Bijou Cafe downtown-and Chef J.P. Knaggs' version is a real winner. Clams, shrimp, scallops, mussels and fish combine in a wonderfully hearty thousand-year-old recipe that's as contemporary as a good bottle of shiraz.

Almost completely re-built and very tastefully expanded since a fire last spring, the Bijou is back, and again earning its crown as downtown's premier restaurant.


Jack Graham took over a failing marina in downtown Sarasota 33 years ago and turned it into what he calls "Sarasota's front porch"-a popular gathering place for both tourists and locals. The rest of us call it Marina Jack. A businessman with ventures ("I've been involved in about 100 of them") scattered around the country, Graham still commutes by private plane ("This is my 36th"), although the bright-eyed 82-year-old admits that these days he leaves the flying to his full-time private pilot.

Q: How has Sarasota changed in the past 30 years?

A: Today is a better Sarasota. To me, the most notable change has been in the size and quality of government. I believe government has grown disproportionately faster than the community. But maybe more importantly, we don't have the experience in elected officials we used to have. This is true nationally, by the way.

Q: Why?

A: The constant criticizing. The under-the-fingernails scrutiny is absurd. And another thing-let's face it, I doubt a city commissioner actually doing his or her job is even making minimum wage these days. Remember when people the quality of David Cohen and Jack Betz would serve because of a sense of duty and gratitude? I don't see that existing today.

Q: With your many years here, how do you see Sarasota faring in this latest U.S. recession?

A: When you're sitting here in the sunshine, it's hard to assess the national economy. But we've a real degree of insulation in Sarasota because of the per capita wealth and the stability that brings with it. There aren't many phones ringing in this town when the margin calls go out.

On the other hand, my idea of conservative investment right now is my mattress. I think that's a prevalent thought among the old-which we have a lot of here.

Q: And the future?

A: Well, don't forget John Ruskin said, "Any time is a good time if you know what you're doing." The truth is, timing is everything. For example, would I be wanting to open a new Ritz-Carlton right now? No. But two years ago-when they began building it there across the street-things couldn't have looked better.

Q: Regrets?

A: All the runway behind you isn't going to help you land the airplane. I learned that during flight training at Arcadia in 1941. No regrets.

Want more friends? Get a dog

In Washington, D.C., a dog may be your only friend, as Harry Truman used to say. But in Sarasota, dogs will make you lots of new friends. After all, why else would Bob Plunket, this magazine's "Mr. Chatterbox," harbor a pug?

From early morning until late evening-and especially at those times-Island Park downtown is crowded with dogs and their walkers, most of whom are busy introducing themselves and their dogs to one another. It's a great way to meet people, especially if you're new in town. While dog-sitting recently-and therefore dog walking in Island Park recently--I even bumped into a friend I hadn't seen in a decade or more.

Just don't show up with a pit bull if new friends are your objective.

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