Community newspaper design: Southwest Florida Gems

Rule number 1: If it takes your breath away, it is yours.

Rule number 2: Accept gifts gracefully.

Rule number 3: Value is in the eye of the beholder.

Rule number 4: If you really like it, others may, too.

Rule number 5: Liars lose.

Rule number 6: A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

As an editor for 23 years at the Sun Coast Media Group in Southwest Florida I have witnessed my highest ideals collide with my basest emotions. Job One has always been to get the story right, to the people, every day.

I have learned from other editors around the country through their products, opinions, seminars … questioning, listening and watching.

After a few years of using my Mizzou journalism degree at the Sun I was amazed to recognize I had my own opinion. Objectivity … well that is a different post. Derek Dunn-Rankin, chairman and CEO of the Sun Newspapers has truly been my best teacher, mentor and leader by example. I call him the wizard. He is a rock.

So, back to my rules above, with all my training and eye for details it still boils down to my top six rules. And this is the fun part of my job. Currently I am designing a weekly community-rich long tab called the Punta Gorda Herald. It is name-and-photo centric and sorting through hundreds of photos each week, looking for the jewels … the ones that take my breath away, is my treat.

So for my first column as a community newspaper designer I thought I would share a little of the joy that comes my way. Let me know what you think of our stringers’ work.

A child waits with his mother to see a doctor in Port au Prince Feb. 10, 2010. A medical team from Port Charlotte, Florida traveled to Haiti to treat victims of the January 12 quake that killed an estimated 210,000 people and left more than 1 million homeless. Photo by Tom O'Neill


Tom O’Neill worked full time for the Sun, went on to be photo editor at the Bradenton Herald and has come back to the Sun as a stringer. He also has a nonprofit, “Give a Kid a Camera,” described on his Web site

Wilson Gedeon, left, assists Steven Christesen M.D., treat a patient in a tent city in Port au Prince, Haiti on Wednesday February 10, 2010. They traveled as part of a team from the Charlotte County Medical Society to offer aid to the earthquake victims. Photo by Tom O’Neill
Carlos Pena at Spring Training at the Charlotte Sports Park Feb. 24, 2010. The Tampa Bay Rays returned for their second Spring Training in Port Charlotte. Photo by Tom O’Neill

Tom sent me several photos he took in Haiti and one of Carlos Pena at Spring Training at the Charlotte Sports Park Feb. 24, 2010. The Tampa Bay Rays returned for their second Spring Training in Port Charlotte.

Tom can always be counted on to get the “shot.” When he photographed Pope John Paul during the Pope’s visit to Cuba he managed to bring home the finest portrait I have ever seen of the Pope.

[email protected]

“I started as a photographer in 1956 at 10 years old working in my Dad’s darkroom. He was a legal and police photographer. I’ve been a professional photographer myself since 1978 and besides 15 years of it in legal photography I’m experienced in aerial, free fall, travel, underwater and sports photography. I’ve also been a studio photographer and have 10 years in photojournalism working at the Charlotte Sun. I am now semi-retired and shoot baseball tournaments in and work for several magazines.”

Cowboy Glen Campbell digs in his heels during the steer wrestling event at the 81st Arcadia All-Florida Championship Rodeo March 15, 2009. Photo by Lester Kuhn
Photo by Sharie Derrickson


[email protected]

“When I think of hometown journalism, I think in terms of those things that impact us at a local scale, so I submit to you this, my favorite football photo of all time. It happened in Nov., 2008 and appeared in the
DeSoto Sun. In the longest and most fierce high school football rivalry in the state of Florida, a Hardee Wildcat sinks to celebrate when they take the game.” — Sharie Derrickson

Swinging Holiday Celebration. Photo by Joan Keeney

(yahoo search only)
[email protected]

“It’s amazing how white papers filled with black lines and notes can come alive when played by 49 instruments at the same time. The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra did just that during their holiday concert ‘Swinging Holiday Celebration’ mid December 2009.

“I love taking photos and I see them in everything around me. I guess that’s the artist in me coming out. I love to shoot anything that involves action as well as macro, wildlife, flowers, you name it I’ll shoot it. I have been taking photographs for the last 25 years but just recently got serious with it.”

FCW Jacked Halloween Wrestling Event held Oct. 30, 2009. Photo by Jennifer Bruno


[email protected]

“I grew up in New York and moved to Florida in 1997. I am self taught in photography, and have always had a love for it. Florida certainly provides an amazing backdrop for any picture I take, but I would love to travel and photograph all around the world. I am thankful for having been given the opportunity to freelance for the newspaper and to take snapshots in a variety of moments and events in peoples lives. I consider myself to be one of the lucky people who loves what they do.

“Each day in freelance photojournalism is a new opportunity for an adventure you might not have otherwise had.”

North Port Herald photographer, Tami Garcia, went to the San Diego Zoo, and shot several photos of the inhabitants including Mei Shing,a male, giant panda, who was born at the zoo in 2003.


“Photographer of local community events, various school activities, sporting events and concerts. Main ‘stringer’or ‘freelance’ photographer for the North Port Sun, currently. I have also written articles, which have been published in the North Port Sun daily newspaper, and Wednesday Herald section, been an advertising photographer for Venice Gondolier, as well as a photojournalist, which include the above duties.”

Christmas in Florida looked more like Christmas in 2009! Photo by Betsy Williams


[email protected]

Photography and Memory Books

No matter the weather, if something is happening in Charlotte County Betsy Williams can be seen snapping away, catching moments of celebrations.


Cell: 941-468-1430

Work: 941- 697-8008

[email protected]

“The Sun has published about 75 of my columns and real estate features. This is in addition to more than 500 photos. When I introduce myself I frequently hear, ‘So you’re Brett Slattery! I like your photos in the Sun.’”
I’ve been to lots of beautiful places across the USA where adventurous hikers can view a rich variety of wildlife wonders. But here on the Cape Haze Peninsula, the incredibly tame, diverse, and bountiful wildlife comes to us. As these photos show, even a casual trip to the grocery store can unfold into a thrilling wildlife show. On one such trip, I became mesmerized by the Osprey family putting on a show from their nest high atop a light pole in the parking lot of the bustling Cape Haze Publix. The adults were busy delivering fresh fish to 3 hungry chicks. I love living here because I see things daily that most of the world sees only on The Discovery Channel. Photo by Brett Slattery

Donna Davidson is features editor at the Charlotte Sun and writes periodically about community newspaper design at a small newspaper. Follow her on Twitter: @path_ology

Leave a Reply