Bradenton Herald moves to new downtown headquarters

Newspaper celebrates a move back to heart of downtown

September 15, 2013 

The Herald's new headquarters at 1111 Third Ave. W. will look like this once the sign is installed. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION PROVIDED

Good morning, it's Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013. Some wonderful columns have started this way in the Bradenton Herald over the years. So this seems appropriate today, as it's such a significant date in the Herald's timeline:

We've moved.

After almost 30 years at 102 Manatee Ave. W., the Herald has relocated its headquarters. We actually have moved closer to our roots, back to the heart of downtown Bradenton, just a block from the riverfront at 1111 Third Ave. W.

This move wasn't supposed to happen for a few weeks, but somehow we pulled it off. The sign's not up yet, and everything's in boxes, but we're in our new digs. And what great karma: On Sept. 15, 1922, the very first edition of The Evening Herald hit the streets.

We've known for a year that this move was coming, but reality didn't hit until the green Graebel packing bins showed up last week. As our IT director Ken Larrabee said in his OMG email to staff about how to prepare: "WELL!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is the week we have all been waiting for, talked about it for months, through all the rumors and now reality."

And what a week of re-discoveries. I think Webster's might have studied newsroom junkies to pen the definitions of "packrat" and "hoarder." Oh, and add "procrastinator" to that list.

I joined the Herald staff almost 15 years ago, a huge change from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in Texas. Still, more than any place I've been, the Bradenton Herald and Manatee County quickly became home.

I didn't start going through all those years of Bradenton Herald "stuff" I've accumulated until a few days ago. In some ways, that procrastination proved genius -- I didn't have much time to decide whether to save or pitch.

But what I did pull from my bookshelves, drawers and corner cubbyholes were some amazing stacks of blockbuster-quality journalism that this newsroom has produced. We have chronicled the area's history, investigated and documented the evolution of Manatee County, and looked hard at its future.

Every one of those 15 years has been packed with mind-boggling revelations, celebrations, investigations and tragedies. As I sorted newspapers to save and copies to recycle, I had countless flashbacks -- including some amazing anniversary ties to today, our moving day. Remember these front-page headlines?

Sept. 15, 2001: 'Gabrielle smacks Manatee'

Just four days after the worst terrorist attack on the U.S., Manatee County was hit by a storm that was later upgraded to a hurricane -- and caused some of the worst damage we've seen from a storm. But the front page was still dominated by this headline:

'Our nation unites / President calls 50,000 to active duty'

Then, three years later:

Sept. 15, 2004: 'Gulf states scramble as Ivan chugs closer'

Ivan was a deadly hurricane that haunted us for almost a month, making landfall along the U.S. coast three times and reaching Cat 5 three times. Our newsroom felt like Hurricane Central in 2004 and 2005, as we covered storms all season long.

Today, our coverage of such events has changed significantly, with intense focus on our digital media report leading the way. We have news apps for just about every mobile device, allowing our readers to keep up with the news wherever they are. We seem to add a new facet to our 24/7 reporting every day.

But let's have time stand still for a minute, and take a poignant look back at what the Herald building at 102 Manatee Ave. W. has meant to its family. I asked the staff for their memories, and these touched me the most:

From Kelly Lipp, our 1A News Editor:

I'm not sure when I first entered the Herald at 102 Manatee Ave. W., but it has been a significant part of my life. My mom worked here, starting when I was in sixth grade, and I was immediately part of the family, too. I hung out in the newsroom and messed around with the toys in features. I went to picnics and even "worked" a shift with mom, checking in the kids of employees as she checked in their parents.

I spent one Spring Break filling in for the advertising secretary and wrote for the Herald's monthly teen section. I even wrote a freelance piece for the Herald and made my first money as a journalist.

I remember hanging out in the lobby (and sneaking into the newsroom for a bit) on the night Desert Storm (the first Gulf War) started as my mom came in to answer the phones. And I still have the paper. All that time here must have sunk into my blood because I was here in this building, in charge of the copy desk for one of my first times, as the second Gulf War started. I still have that paper, too, and many others.

I've had good times here and bad times here and good times in the bad. This building wasn't just a building, it was another home that contained another part of my family. I hope the new building is up to the job of nurturing another generation of journalists, as the "old" building nurtured me. But I know it is because the family isn't going away, we're just shifting locations.

From Grant Jefferies, our senior photojournalist:

Going through all the stuff accumulated since 1986 was like opening a time capsule of my life over the last 27 years. I came across pictures of my kids being born, a former marriage, a new marriage, photos of assignments that changed my life and shaped who I am today.

Pictures buried in cabinets and drawers, images of events that even still haunt me today. Letters from long-forgotten people who loved my photographs, and some from people who had the courage to say they disliked what they saw. Walking through the building, I can almost see the faces of past photographers and dear friends who gave life and energy to this fortress of truth, but they have long since departed this life. The building is just a building, and I am looking forward to the new chapter that is being written, and knowing the authors, it will be an interesting one.

So, as we move forward, what's changing? Our address and some of our phone numbers. A new lease and new furniture. But our commitment to Manatee County and our readers has never been stronger. One of my most fervent beliefs is that you can do great journalism anywhere. The Bradenton Herald staff is going to do just that at 1111 Third Ave. W.

Joan Krauter, Herald executive editor, has a new phone number: 941-745-7070. Follow her@JEKrauter on Twitter.

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