Saturday, December 26, 2015

Associate introduction, Part VI

Now that you have finished unwrapping all your gifts and are ready to tackle the coming new year, let me present two more of the top-notch journalists who are participating in creating our regional Business Quarterly. One is a photographer who has done more than her share to make this magazine a reality, and the other is a former co-worker that I've known longer than most anybody else on our team.

Michelle R. Thomas worked at the Mobile Press-Register for 17 years, culminating in a position as photography manager. Later she became an insurance broker and also opened her own business, MRT Images.

She has won multiple awards for her photography, including a national award for work that appeared in Alabama Living magazine. She graduated from the University of Mobile with a bachelors in business administration, management and leadership. She teaches Sunday school and sings in the choir. Mother of three and wife of a local sports writer, she lives in Daphne, Ala.

I met Michelle when we both worked at the Mobile Press-Register, and she ended up being one of the most critical players in producing the paper's business magazine. She was responsible for doing all the research for the middle-of-the-magazine two-page spread that featured a map and detailed information on whatever subject we were working, such as ports, military installations, airports and more.

"I decided to participate because I love journalism andphotojournalism. There is very little local economic news coverage with any depth. People need to know how our region is growing and changing," she said.

In the January issue, one of her photos is on the cover, and she also supplied many of the photos inside the publication. I can't begin to tell you how much more work she has done getting this magazine off the ground, but it was considerable.

Cindy West, who has a bachelors degree in communications arts, worked 14 years as a reporter for the Pensacola News Journal, and then another five years freelancing for Reuters, the Mobile Press-Register, Newsday, and other publications before being hired by the Pensacola Police Department. She has been the media relations coordinator for the department since 1995. During her career in journalism she won local, state and national awards. She lives in Pensacola, Fla.

I first met her in the late 80s when I was UPI's bureau chief in Pensacola, and we would occasionally cover the same stories. Then later, when UPI pulled out of Pensacola, I got a job at the Pensacola News Journal and sat next to Cindy. I got to know her as not only a solid journalist, but she also became a dear friend.

"Why do we need a quarterly business publication? That’s a no-brainer. We don't have one. We don't have a publication committed to bringing in-depth business news to the public, while this one is. In this 'get it out there first' mentality in the media, they are very quick to just use press releases and not explore the possibilities behind them. This quarterly will allow that.

"Second, I wanted to participate in this magazine venture because not only will it be educational to the public, but also it will give writers and photographers an opportunity to share their skills and knowledge instead of them being limited to a six-inch fluff piece in a periodical."

Cindy has written for some of my other projects, and for the first issue of the magazine she's helping me with editing chores. But she'll also be showing you her writing capabilities in future issues.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Associate introduction, Part V

If you've been following these posts, it's pretty clear we've got a lot of talent involved in creating the Business Quarterly. Today I'll introduce some more of the crew.

Melissa Scallan is a former reporter and editor with 25 years of newspaper experience. She previously worked for the Alexandria Daily Town Talk in Alexandria, La., the Monroe News Star in Monroe, La., and the Sun Herald in Biloxi, Miss. Currently she manages the public affairs office of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources in Biloxi. She lives in Gulfport, Miss.

I worked with Melissa at the Sun Herald and one of the first things she did when I got to the paper – she knew I was commuting from Gulf Breeze, Fla., – was to invite me and a couple of other reporters for dinner, to make us feel welcome to our new jobs.

"The stories of the Gulf Coast states need to be told, and the group of reporters telling these stories are experienced, knowledgeable people, and together we can put out the information that residents of all these states need," she said.

"The Gulf Coast states each has its own unique culture and customs, but they also are linked by some of the same industries. Aerospace, transportation and seafood are just a few of the businesses they have in common. This type of magazine will show business leaders, as well as residents and tourists, what these states have to offer and why they should work together."

Even before she did anything for the business magazine, I had Melissa write for another one of our publications,the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor annual book. For our upcoming business magazine, Melissa contributed to the downtown renaissance stories, and I'm also tapping her to do some editing chores.

Martha Simmons has worked as a writer, photographer and editor for the Mobile Press-Register, Pensacola News Journal and The News Herald of Panama City, Fla. She served as chief communications officer for the Alabama two-year college system and two district attorney offices, and most recently worked as a congressional staffer. Simmons has freelanced for national and international publications, and worked in corporate communications for the Coca-Cola Co. She lives in Stockton, Ala.

Martha was one of the folks I hired as a business reporter when I was at the Mobile Press-Register. I liked her moxie, might be the best way to put it. And she didn't prove me wrong. I lost her to another department at the paper later, but always valued her work.

As with Melissa, I starting using Martha as one of my writers even before we started the Business Quarterly. She's handled work for one of my other projects, and I consistently went back to her for more work. That says a lot. When it came time to do this publication, Martha was an obvious must-have.

She's been instrumental in creating this magazine, going well beyond her writing chores.

So why is she taking part in this venture?

"Despite the proliferation of online media sources, it has become more and more difficult to obtain information one can trust. Local business coverage has been all but abandoned by traditional media outlets. That's why I am proud to be a part of this new publication. I am confident that our coverage will adhere to the highest journalistic standards, and that Business Quarterly will quickly become the most trusted source of local business news on the Gulf Coast."

Ron Stallcup has worked more than 27 years in newsrooms, most at the Pensacola News Journal. An infographics specialist, he won first, second and third place from the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors in 2014. He currently works at Studer Community Institute, producing stories, graphics, videos and photos and oversees design of Studer Institute reports. He lives in Pensacola, Fla.

Back in the early 1990s when I worked at the News Journal as a military reporter, I often had reason to work with Ron. He always delivered a graphic that represented the story perfectly. He just seems to have a penchant for bringing the right elements together.

"Business does not stop at a county line or city limits. Interstate 10 and the intercostal waterway is the backbone of commerce in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. This area needs a news outlet that can focus, analysis and tell the stories of this area," Ron said.

Ron is handling some of the opening pages for the first issue of the magazine.

In my next posting, I'll introduce you to more of the associate members of our magazine, including a go-to photographer who has done far more than her share of work making this magazine a reality, a writer who sat next to me at the PNJ years ago and became a dear friend. I'll also introduce a writer who just recently agreed to participate in this project, the newest member of our team. - David Tortorano, editor

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Associate introduction, Part IV

I'm continuing to introduce to you the experienced, talented journalists who are participating in creating our regional Business Quarterly, which publishes its first issue Jan. 5. Today I'll introduce you to one of the original members of the Gulf Coast Reporters League, and I'll also introduce a former boss of mine. The other talented journalist in this post has won a truck-load of awards, while the fourth one is a talented graphics designer.

Tom McLaughlin is a co-founder of the Gulf Coast Reporters' League, and helped put together our first aerospace annual book in 2011. He's been a regular contributor every year, and has also written stories for our bimonthly aerospace newsletter.

He covers courts and politics and is an investigative reporter for the Northwest Florida Daily News. He's an award-winning reporter with 30 years of newspaper experience in the Southeast. He won the national Best of Freedom Award and Florida's Gold Medal for Public Service award, along with three investigative reporting awards and awards for court reporting, beat reporting, explanatory writing, deadline reporting and column writing.

Not surprisingly, Tom is taking on multiple assignments for our first edition of the magazine. He wrote about the Triumph Fund, which will benefit Florida counties hardest-hit by the BP oil spill of 2010. He also contributed to a story about the downtown renaissance, and is contributing to the quarterly review for Northwest Florida.

"So much of the commerce in this region is interconnected, it makes perfect sense to highlight the businesses that make the Gulf Coast tick. I hope this is going to be an enlightening and educational experience for all of us,” he said.

I think it will, Tom.

Lisa Monti was once my boss. She's the former business editor of the Sun Herald in Biloxi-Gulfport, Miss. She's a writer, editor and photographer with 40 years experience in publishing, private industry and government.

She has worked as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers, lifestyle magazines, business journals and other publication. She lives in Bay St. Louis, Miss.

I would have been shocked had Lisa not opted to sign up for this project, Business is her cup of tea, and she didn't take any time at all to say yes.

"Getting the opportunity to contribute to the magazine, working along with former colleagues and others with familiar bylines, made perfect sense. Just consider how diverse the Gulf Coast business landscape is and how daily business coverage, once robust, has gone limp," she said.

In our first issue of the magazine Lisa wrote about the Katrina Cottages that were developed during a huge brainstorming forum in Biloxi just a few weeks after South Mississippi was pounded by the 2005 hurricane. I added my own two cents by getting in touch with Andres Duany, the internationally known architect who headed up the forum.

Jane Nicholes is a freelance writer and editor with more than 30 years of experience in daily newspapers, alternative newspapers and specialty publications in Alabama, Louisiana, Kentucky, Arkansas and South Carolina. She is a former editorial writer for the Mobile Press-Register and former managing editor of The Times of Acadiana in Lafayette, La.

She has won more than 70 state and national awards for editorial writing, investigative reporting, freedom of information, beat reporting, breaking news, editing, columns, news writing and feature writing. A graduate of Northwestern University, she lives in Daphne, Ala.

"This region deserves authoritative, thorough business news. The medium doesn't matter, so long as the story is told well," she wrote.

Jane will be handling the quarterly review for South Alabama in the January issue of the magazine. Those reviews, which we'll have in every issue, will form the backbone of our coverage.

Rudy Nowak has worked 23 years in newsrooms, most recently at the Sun Herald in Biloxi, Miss., where I had the good fortune to work with him. An infographics specialist, he was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Gold Medal for Public Service in 2006.

Throughout his career, he's received numerous awards for infographics and page design from the Mississippi and Missouri Press Associations. He currently works in health care marketing in Gulfport, Miss.

"I decided to participate in this Gulf Coast magazine because I don't see a lot of in-depth regional coverage of business topics in our local news outlets. Newspaper business sections seem to be a filled with a lot of AP stories and a few local briefs. Television only seems to produce business profiles, but not a lot of stories on trends, results, challenges and outcomes," he said.

"I like the idea of contributing to a magazine that has a mission to report on subjects in a thoughtful, more in-depth manner. I know many of the people who are putting this magazine together. I have had the good fortune of working with some of them. I know these are fine journalists - real professionals. That is the kind of opportunity you don't say 'no' to when asked to join."

Rudy came up with a map for the region that we'll use on a regular basis for many of our stories. But he'll be taking on other assignments in this first issue as well.

In my next posting, I'll introduce you to more of the associate members of our magazine. - David Tortorano, editor

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Associate introduction, Part III

Welcome to the third installment of my introduction to the experienced journalists who are participating in the creation of the Gulf Coast Reporters' League Business Quarterly, which is scheduled to publish Jan. 5.

Today I'll introduce three more team members, including a co-founder of the League who seems to have worked in as many places as I have. I'll also introduce a talented photographer who just retired from his newspaper job in October. I'll also introduce you to a newspaper veteran who can handle writing, editing or page design chores without breaking a sweat.

Duwayne Escobedo is a co-founder of the Gulf Coast Reporters' League. We were having lunch at a barbecue eatery in Gulf Breeze, and we began talking about the aerospace activities in the region. He knew I had created an aerospace website and was producing a daily news feed. We began talking about the need for an aerospace book.

So we decided to each find one other experienced journalist who could join us to work on an aerospace book. That was the start of the League. We published our first aerospace book in June 2011, and published our fifth edition in June 2015.

Duwayne, a freelance journalist, has worked nearly two dozen years as an editor, investigative reporter and columnist. His experience includes covering Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and a range of news, business and feature stories in Northwest Florida. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Associated Press, Bloomberg and Time magazine. He won the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors award for investigative reporting in 1997. He lives in Pensacola, Fla.

He's continued to write for the annual book, and he's also taken on writing chores for our aerospace bimonthly, as well as some additional writing assignments for other projects that I handle. He's of course key to this magazine.

"The collapse of mainstream media is allowing true journalists to thrive, especially here on the Gulf Coast, where all kinds of news is going unreported. We've succeeded in other topics and I'm confident putting experienced reporters to work on this new business-focused publication will make it quickly become a must read, as well," he said.

Duwayne is writing about a well-known research institute that some years ago became independent from the university where it got its start. He'll fill us in on what has been good and bad about that decision. He's also participating in one of the quarterly reviews.

Bruce Graner has more than 40 years of experience as a newspaper photographer. He earned a bachelor of science degree from the University of Florida in 1974 and began his newspaper career with the Times Enterprise in Thomasville, Ga.

Bruce has contributed photographs to local, state and national publications such as Newsweek and People magazines and has received numerous awards in photography. He retired from the Pensacola News Journal on Oct. 31, 2015, and is now a freelance photographer. He lives in Pensacola, Fla.

When I knew he was no longer at his long-time home at the PNJ, I jumped at the opportunity to bring him in our fold.

"The business climate of the world is changing faster today than it has in the last two generations. A magazine devoted to understanding the business forecast for the Gulf Coast doesn't seem like just a good idea, but a necessity for success."

Bruce will be contributing multiple photos to our January inaugural issue. I've already seen his first two assignments, and they are top-notch. In fact, our photography team has turned in photos of such high quality that we're giving a lot more space to photos that initially planned.

Matt Irvin, former assistant metro editor at the Mobile Press-Register, is a freelance writer, researcher and editor, and I've known him as a co-worker and friend for many years. Through a newspaper career that spanned more than 30 years, he worked as a reporter, page designer, copy editor and news editor. He's a native of the Gulf Coast region and lives in Mobile, Ala.

Matt is one of those folks who does his job quietly and efficiently, and he never seems to get bent out of shape or succumb to the pressures of the job. That's a valuable quality. I knew I had to get him involved in the magazine. Every high-pressure project needs someone like Matt.

"Now more than ever, the Gulf Coast is poised for enormous progress. Because commerce is the primary driver of that progress, it's vital to tell the story our region's economy. As a lifelong resident of the Gulf Coast, I'm excited about the chance to help tell that story."

In the January issue of our magazine, Matt will be one of the contributors to our story about the downtown renaissance that's occurring across the region. He'll also handle editing chores.

In my next post, I'll introduce you to one of the other founding members of the Gulf Coast Reporters' League, along with a few more talented journalists. - David Tortorano, editor

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Associate introduction, Part II

As promised in my previous post, I'm continuing my introductions of the experienced journalists who are participating in creating our Gulf Coast Reporters' League Business Quarterly, which will be published for the first time next month.

Today I'll introduce three more of our team. Two were instrumental in creating a business quarterly magazine at the Mobile Press-Register back in the late 90s, so I'm certainly happy to have them involved in this venture. The other talented journalist is well-known in the Pensacola area for being the long-time business editor of the Pensacola newspaper.

Robert Buchanan was a page designer when I was the business editor of the Mobile paper, and I most associate him with putting all the elements together that made up the pages of the newspaper's business magazine.

Buck has more than 30 years in newspaper experience, mostly with the Mobile Press-Register. He held multiple positions at the newspaper including sports writer, copy editor, news editor, special sections editor, public editor, columnist and page designer.

He won first place for Newswriting Without a Deadline from the Alabama Associated Press Association in 1991 and served as the group's president in 1993. He earned degrees from Spring Hill College and the University of Alabama. He lives in Mobile, Ala.

"Our region needs a magazine to keep up with the changing business trends because of technological advancement,” he said. “And, of course, monitor our rich shipping heritage."

Buck will be helping with the editing chores for the first issue of the magazine.

Charlotte Crane for 26 years was business editor for the Pensacola News Journal and later served another 10 years as a correspondent for Florida Trend magazine, covering 20 counties in Northwest Florida. Those counties are all in our coverage area.

Charlotte's awards in recognition of her news reporting have come from organizations including Florida Farm Bureau and U.S. Small Business Administration.

She has written poetry and prose which has been published in magazines including West Florida Literary Federation's Emerald Coast Review; she also has written a history of Pensacola Habitat for Humanity and one for United Way of Escambia County. She lives in Pensacola, Fla.

"Why did I decide to become a reporter for the Business Quarterly? Partly because writing a news story is a bit like hopscotch, jump rope and hide-n-seek used to be when we were kids – loads of fun. What makes the grownups' task even more compelling however: You learn a lot about what’s going on in the world, and you get to share."

Charlotte was busy doing stories for two of my other projects, so none of her stories will appear in our first issue. But she's going to help with some of the editing chores for this first issue. But I promise she'll be writing in future issues.

Thom Dudgeon has worked more than 31 years in newsrooms, including the AP and APA award-winning Mobile Register as graphics editor and for various advertising agencies, winning Addy and Communication Arts awards.

Thom did the covers for the Mobile newspaper's Business Register magazine when we were both at that paper. And I know how he works. I would tell him what the cover story would be and he always came up with a great cover.

He currently works as a self-employed infographic, layout and copy writing specialist. He received his bachelor of fine arts degree from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla.. He lives in Bay Minette, Ala.

"I've worked with Dave on similar projects in the past and realized that information like this was needed in our area - not just for business, but for the individual, presented in a way that was both thoughtful and understandable," he said.

Thom is putting together our cover for the January inaugural issue.

In the next posting, I'll introduce you to more members of our team, including the writer who is the co-founder of the Gulf Coast Reporters' League. - David Tortorano, editor

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Associate introduction, Part I

With the inaugural issue of the Gulf Coast Reporters' League Business Quarterly scheduled to publish in a month, I figured now is a good time to begin introducing you to the journalists who are participating in this publishing venture. There are a lot of associates, so I'll split this up into multiple posts over the next few weeks.

Why the introductions? On the Internet we're inundated with information, and often we're not really sure where it's coming from or what standards are used. But with our magazine you'll have no doubt who is behind it, nor will you have to wonder if there's a hidden agenda.

We're all locals, all experienced journalists who want to bring you the business coverage you deserve. We base what we write on what we think is interesting or important. We don't take our marching orders from outside the region, and we don't measure the value of our stories on “clicks.” We want to engage our readers to think about this region, what it is and what it can be. The most valuable asset of this magazine is our team and the more than 500 years of combined experience they have covering news.

So let me start the introductions.

Connie Baggett, of Brewton, Ala., was one of my reporters when I was the regional editor of the Mobile Press-Register about 15 years ago. Like other reporters from the regional team, she worked outside the main office. She's a self-starter who didn't need constant supervision to do her job, and to do it well. In no time I came to rely on her as one of my go-to reporters.

She has more than 20 years experience as a reporter for the Mobile paper, and nearly a decade as a political strategist and public relations coordinator. She's a 1989 graduate of the University of South Alabama in Mobile, a former workforce training coach and currently serves as director of program management for the city of Brewton.

She's the mother of three, and a singer/songwriter.

"I have always been a person who wanted to know the truth, get the answers first-hand," she wrote when I asked her why she wanted to get involved in the magazine. "Communicating a story in straightforward terms and painting word pictures has always come easily for me, making journalism part of who I am. I never decided to be a journalist – I just am."

You might say you can take Connie out of journalism, but you can't take journalism out of Connie.

"Wherever I happen to be working, I am always a journalist at the end of the day. Writing is how my mind works, and I trust in the other reporters in the League to bring a wealth of experience and professionalism to this effort. They earned my respect a long time ago," she wrote.

In our January issue, Connie will be one of the contributors to our story about the renaissance of downtown areas in the Gulf Coast region, and she'll also have a story about the do-it-yourself trend and the Makers movement.

Over to the west in Baton Rouge, La., Timothy Boone will handle our magazine's coverage in the Southeast Louisiana area. I worked with Tim at the Sun Herald, the largest paper in South Mississippi, for about five years. He was a young reporter at that time, but it was clear to me that he was very talented.

In fact, when I started my own business nearly 10 years ago, Tim was one of the first folks I had do some freelance work for me. But I must tell you, one of his big contributions to our team at the Sun Herald was his sense of humor. For anyone who has worked in the high-pressure environment of a newsroom, that's a quality that is very important and refreshing.

Tim has more than 20 years of experience working for newspapers and business magazines in Louisiana and Mississippi. He has covered beats ranging from casinos to real estate. In addition to the Sun Herald, he has worked for the Alexandria Daily Town Talk, the Daily Iberian, Mississippi Press, the Advocate and Baton Rouge Business Report.

"I'm proud to be a part of the Business Quarterly and joining a team of hard-working, skilled veteran journalists," he said. "There's a need for a publication that goes deeper to look at broader trends and issues, because there's so much interconnectivity in the region and businesses operating across state lines."

In the January issue, Tim has a story about how the Gulf of Mexico has become a major hot spot for research in the wake of the BP oil spill. The numbers he's come up with will give you an indication of just how important it's become. He'll also be doing our quarterly review of Southeast Louisiana business news.

In the next posting, I'll introduce you to more members of our team. -- David Tortorano, editor

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

New magazine debuts in January

Changes in newsrooms nationwide have forced thousands of highly experienced journalists out of the news business. And the Gulf Coast region is no exception. With all those professionals available, it made sense to pull them together in a cooperative venture to create a product this region has needed for a very long time.

In January 2016 we will publish the inaugural issue of the Gulf Coast Reporters' League Business Quarterly.

This is like no other publication you'll see, either print or digital. We cover a region nobody else is covering in a single publication: the metropolitan areas along the Interstate 10 corridor between Southeast Louisiana and Northwest Florida.

The area has deep ties socially and economically. People care about what happens in their neighbor's back yard. With a population of nearly 4.4 million people, native and transplant alike, and gross product of $223 billion, it's a sizeable region with a diverse economy that deserves a publication focused on its commercial activities.

Every quarter we'll bring you stories with a region-wide perspective. If it's about marine science research, we tell you about the entire region, not just one slice. If it's about Airbus in Mobile, we'll make sure we paint a picture that will place it in the context of the region's historic aviation activities.

Our nearly two dozen contributing reporters, editors, photographers, graphics artists, cartoonists, page designers, proof readers and researchers each has a minimum of 20 years experience, ranging up to nearly a half century. They count among their honors a Pulitzer for public service as well as hundreds of other national, regional, state and local honors.

Many of the team members have been business reporters, and all of them have covered topics that run the gamut. They have chased hurricanes, sat through trials, stepped on oil-spill tar balls, watched sports events and covered politics ranging from national to local. Now all that experience is going into this brand new business publication.

What we're most proud of is that in an age where anyone with a computer and Internet access can be a publisher, this team is old school and abides by the principals of traditional journalism. We look for the stories nobody else is doing. We make sure our facts are right. But we also embrace new means of reaching our readers, and will make our product available no matter what your particular preference.

I've had the pleasure of working with every one of the members of this team. I understand their passion for the job and pride in their work. That's why they are part of this venture. The professionals who have come aboard jumped at the chance to participate in an untried venture because of their can-do attitude and belief that these stories need to be told. For those of us who have already had full, rewarding newspaper careers, you can consider this our Third Act.

We hope you'll take the time to look at our first issue when it's published Jan. 5, 2016. It will be available in electronic format for free at this site, or you can sign up to have it delivered via email. You can even get a printed version at cost if that's your preference.

We hope you will make the Gulf Coast Reporters' League Business Quarterly part of your regular reading routine. - David Tortorano, editor