By Diane Kortus
In the year that I have been publisher of The Laker and Lutz News, my staff and I have worked to create a new voice for the papers. Our goal has been to publish more stories about the successes and challenges of people and organizations in our communities and to report on news that makes life a bit easier and more fun for our readers.
We began this quest without an editor to lead the way, working together to assemble a mix of stories each week that would appeal to our different groups of readers — families, seniors, singles, commuters, empty nesters, students, etc.
I was pleased with our progress and by June was ready to hire an editor to get us to the next level. We wanted an editor to help us develop more compelling stories about people and happenings in our communities. We wanted our papers packed with stories and photos that residents looked forward to reading every week.
Waiting until June to hire an editor meant that my first choice for the job, Joe Humphrey, was available. Joe is a journalism teacher at Hillsborough High School in Tampa and June was the beginning of his summer break.
Before Joe was a teacher, he was a daily newspaper reporter and, while in college, editor of The Oracle, USF’s student newspaper. He moved into teaching seven years ago and was recently recognized as one of the top five journalism teachers in the country by the Dow Jones News Fund, a national group founded by The Wall Street Journal.
This is a pretty prestigious award, one that makes us doubly proud to have Joe heading up our newsroom. His passion and gift for journalism obviously translates as well into the classroom as if does as editor of our weekly suburban newspaper group.
His colleagues at The Laker and Lutz News share Joe’s passion for journalism. Community Editor B.C. Manion, who worked 23 years as a writer for The Tampa Tribune, began her career at a community newspaper in her home state of Nebraska. She brings her well-crafted story telling to our papers with stories that capture the zest and zeal of her subjects. If you read B.C.’s story last week about Joe Sentelik, the Zephyrhills man who risked his life to rescue an elderly couple from certain drowning, you understand when I say that B.C. is a masterful storyteller.
I’ve never met a reporter as versatile as staff writer Kyle LoJacono. He writes everything from sports (shuffleboard to prep football) to stories about road construction and medical trends. A 2009 graduate of Florida State University, Kyle is a Lutz native and alumnus of Gaither High School. He brings a passion for hometown news as only a native can.
Our news assistant and copy editor is Mary Rathman. Her command of spelling and grammar is remarkable. She is one of those people who gets a thrill out of finding a misspelled word or misplaced comma. She is the person behind the weekly “What’s Happening” section and is editor of Park News, our seasonal publication for our winter residents of Zephyrhills.
Joe, B.C., Kyle and Mary are always on the lookout for story ideas and photo opportunities. They want our papers to be your guide to the good life in Lutz, Land O’ Lakes, Wesley Chapel, Zephyrhills and Dade City.
To do that, they need to hear from you with ideas on stories you’d like to see in your hometown paper. You can find their e-mail addresses above their stories or in the staff box, or you call any of them at (813) 909-2800.
My news staff has taught me that journalists must be insistent, yet patient; tolerant, yet persistent and always fair. Their sole mission is to tell the story so well that you read it to the very last paragraph.
I’ve learned that to write for a community newspaper you must write from the heart because you are writing about and for the people in the community where they live. You write because of a genuine commitment to share the good, and at times the bad, with your neighbors.
I can assure you that Joe, B.C., Kyle ad Mary all have very big hearts who come to work every day because they believe that community journalism makes a difference in the lives of their readers.