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Missy Layfield - Editor
06/28/2012 at 4:57pm Delete

Independence Day – the day that we celebrate our nation’s liberty.

We celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence each year on July 4th with fireworks, picnics, parades and parties. Communities gather to celebrate together, as ours will on Wednesday with a parade, fireworks and many community gatherings.

I’m reminded of a 4th of July I experienced while in my teens. I was on a study abroad trip, staying in an old German castle. Very scenic. Very disorienting to be abroad for the 4th of July. Once the group realized that no one else was going to put on a 4th of July celebration for a bunch of American teenagers, the process of crafting our own celebration began.

Patriotism in the early 70’s was not as popular as it is now and teenagers can be a cynical lot. So, the fact that this group felt something would be amiss if they didn’t celebrate the 4th of July was note-worthy. The celebration that resulted is not nearly as important as the fact that a couple dozen teens hailing from Minnesota, Texas and Illinois, felt the need to mark Independence Day and probably, for the first time in their lives, take ownership of their status as Americans. It was likely the first time they had contemplated what freedom in America meant.

Which made for a somber group a few weeks later as we rode a train through then East Germany toward West Berlin. The usual wisecracks died as we watched somber faced East German guards with dogs search the train, asking for our papers at the borders. And later when we stood before a tall gray wall topped with razor wire in Berlin and saw the photos of those who died trying to reach the freedom of the West, the concept of American freedom became clearer.

A reminder of how Americans often take their freedom for granted.
06/21/2012 at 3:44pm Delete

Summer is officially here. We’re enjoying the longest days of the year.

I don’t know about you, but I love the long days. Having spent most of my life in higher latitudes, I miss having summer daylight until about 9:30 this time of year. On the flip side, sunrise at 5:30 is a bit too early in my book; so overall, I’m thrilled with summer wherever I am.

Here on the beach, we have other signs of summer. Some of our favorite restaurants close for a few months during summer. Some government meetings take a month off in July. Of course traffic eases dramatically. Most people have the luxury of moving at a slower pace, which allows us all to reconnect after a busy winter season.

Summer is a perfect time to support Beach businesses also. Is there a place you haven’t been to in awhile? Grab some friends and go! Our businesses need our support year round. Summer is a great time to spread the wealth, so to speak. Got a place or three that you love and that you’d like to see succeed? Patronize them. Encourage your on and off island friends to patronize them. How about the places you haven’t been to in awhile? Drop by and check them out now! You’ll get a warm Beach welcome and a new experience.

Do you have business associates or friends off island? If so, you know that often the response when you invite them to the island during season is "no thanks, too much traffic."

Well, now is an excellent time to invite them to the Beach. Meet on the Beach!

Have a club or group that meets regularly? Ask them to meet on the Beach for a meeting or two this summer.

Be a Beach ambassador! The road is clear - some great places are open – Islanders are friendly - the beach is beautiful - our sunsets are spectacular!

The Beach is open! C’mon over the bridge for a Beachy Summer!
06/14/2012 at 3:29pm Delete

Here at the Sand Paper, we are fortunate enough to have not one, but two college interns working with us this summer. Kayla Earle comes to us from Florida Gulf Coast University. Mallory Schindler is a junior at University of Florida. Next week, they will introduce themselves in the paper, but their presence has led us to think about the role of a weekly community newspaper writer. There’s nothing like having to explain your job to someone else to help you clarify what that job really is.

Some aspects of weekly community reporting are easily explained and taught in journalism courses. Story construction, interviews, proofreading, fact checking, grammar and punctuation are all skills needed in any kind of journalism.

Harder to teach is the importance of knowing the community you are writing about, knowing what’s important to the community as a whole, or certain factions within the community. Learning how to report fairly on hot button topics. Dealing with the accusation of bias no matter how you handle the story. Knowing who to ask the right questions of. How to phrase those questions and how much credence to give the answers. The battle for balance and fair reporting is not unique to weekly newspapers, but it can be a delicate balancing act in a small community.

These are tougher concepts to define and share, yet just as critical to understanding community newspaper reporting. I suspect that in a small community, a reporter has to know more people than they would covering a large city. For in a small community, your stories are not usually coming from a news release or a police press conference, but from the man or woman on the street. If those people don’t know you and you don’t know them, you’re not going to get the story. You’re not even going to know that there’s a story to be had.
06/07/2012 at 3:44pm Delete

At noon today the qualifying period ends for local elections. This separates the talkers from the doers. Those willing to run for office are to be commended for their efforts.

Next up -- the August 14th primary election.

After the battle over the redistricting process, the rejection of the Senate maps, the court challenges…the Florida Supreme Court approved the Florida Senate and Congressional maps in late April, after approving the House maps in early March.

The U.S. Department of Justice approved Florida’s congressional, state senate and state house maps on April 30th. The DOJ is required to review the maps to determine that they do not violate the federal Voting Rights Act in five Florida counties with a history of discrimination: Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe. As a result anything having to do with elections in Florida goes to the DOJ before it becomes effective.

So, a mere 5 weeks before the qualifying period began for candidates, the districts were set for the next 10 years. Not that everyone is happy about them. There remain charges that they were not drawn to requirements of the Fair District amendments approved by Florida voters that say districts must be compact, respect city and county boundaries when possible and not favor any candidate or party. Some say that the wording of the amendments was vague enough that conflict was guaranteed in the interpretation of them. From the volume of court challenges, I’d say we haven’t heard the last of this issue, though with the Florida Supreme Court and U.S. DOJ approval, it’s a go as far as 2012 elections.