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Pelican Press Sign-Off from Stan Zimmerman (guest commentary)

M.C.,

I want to thank you and your readers for your outpouring of concern about the fate of the Pelican Press and its stable of writers. An entire chorus of voices was silenced with one swoop of the axe. Only time will tell if this storied community newspaper will retain the affection of its readership of 40 years. Or maintain its journalistic excellence – its awards from the Florida Press Association literally cover the walls. If there was a huge award for excellence in every conceivable category (even agricultural writing!) the Pelican would qualify several times over.

Rachel Hackney is the only survivor, she’s staying on as the Managing Editor, and I know she carries a heavy weight of local expectations on her shoulders. But her scope of action now is limited, and she should not carry the brunt of reader disappointment. So many times she’s said to me, “That’s a great story. We’ll make room for it.” Or “We need that in the paper. We’ll extend the deadline to get it in.” Those decisions are no longer hers. She’s a pro with all that implies.

As editors at the Pelican, Anne Johnson, and then Rachel Hackney, maintained a tradition of “bound volumes” – keeping every Pelican from Volume One, Number One, intact in huge books. Row upon row upon row of them, the first drafts of Siesta Key’s history, from 1971 to now. My very first newspaper story is in there, datelined Dec.16, 1982, a financial story: “County debts could quadruple by 1984 if bond issues okayed.” (They were, and they did and then some over the next quarter-century). And it’s all there between the covers.

It is passé in this electronic age to keep “bound volumes,” and I’m sure Matt Walsh will eschew this tradition. But it was this same tradition that kept the paper going through ups and downs, through pay cuts and staff reductions, because we were standing in a long line of distinguished and talented people who believed our readers had a right to know. And to know in detail.

I wish Matt and his Observer Group good luck and good fortune is a struggling industry. Dead-tree journalism could soon be an anachronism, and I’ve said so in front of both Walsh and the SHT”s executive editor Mike Connelly at a chamber round-table. All we can offer is trust, and I hope the new Pelican will maintain the paper’s 40-year pact with its readers for fairness, accuracy and honesty.

This “pelican” was lucky enough to find a new “nest” at SarasotaPatch.com, a “hyper-local” news site similarly dedicated. Its editor and I won an award from the Florida Press Association earlier this month for our investigative journalism at the Pelican. To my other friends and colleagues at the Pelican, I send my support and appreciation for their accomplishments as fellow “ink-stained wretches.” It is no sin to reach for the stars.

I send a special bouquet to Anne Johnson, who isn’t exactly the founding editor of the Pelican but certainly is the woman who crafted, molded and created the paper we knew and loved. She too was lopped off, after 38 years, without even a good-bye to the two generations of readers she slaved for.

That’s my only real regret – and it would have been such a touch of class, such a handoff – Matt’s refusal to allow the old Pelican hands to say goodbye and welcome the new hands. It was, for staff, the ultimate hostile takeover. “Mine now, you’re gone.” The old Pelican gave you the opportunity to say goodbye when the previous corporate owners canned you for writing truth-to-power. You know well, M.C., how that catharsis eased the pain for you and readers alike.

I guess this is really my “goodbye.” I wish it could reach all my readers, but M.C.’s circle will have to do.

We tried very hard – every one of us pelicans – to do the best we knew how to do. Because we knew the standards were high, the expectations higher. And we did our best on deadline every week to capture the importance, the essence, the heart of what we thought Siesta Key wanted to know.

Goodbye, Pelican Press. Hello, Pelican Press.

Stan Zimmerman

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Posted on July 20th, 2011Comments RSS Feed
15 Responses to Pelican Press Sign-Off from Stan Zimmerman (guest commentary)
  1. Stan, (and Mary; I promise to keep this post short), I just wanted to tell you, that you’ve touched our minds, our hearts and our souls with each and every word in your columns.

    Stan, you truly have more class in the tips of your fingers, than Matt Walsh will ever have….even if he lived to be 100.

    I never did have any respect for Matt Walsh and with how he dismissed all of you, well, lets just say there isn’t a rock low enough for him to hide under.

    Ok, Stan, let’s not give Matt Walsh another word… he’s not deserving of one in as far as I’m concerned.

    Stan, you left with your head up high, with character and with class. I have no doubt in my mind, that you will not accomplish all you set out to do.

    I’ll always have the highest regard, respect and admiration of you Stan.

    All the best, Dan

    Reply
  2. Charmaine Engelsman-Robins
    July 20, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    For Stan and Anne and any other Pelicans blown off course by that ill wind: THANK YOU for all the years of excellence and enjoyment. I pray that someone who respects and values those carefully kept copies will put them where we can get at them from time to time, the Historical Society or the library maybe? I lived on Siesta Key most of my life and began my writing career there. I walked through the yards of John D. MacDonald (who gave me a cat) and McKinley Kantor and others, and walked down Beach Road from the cottage to the Laundromat and Siesta Market without a single car passing me on the way, it was that long ago. Davidson Drugs was where it all began for the Pelican, and continued for many years that I SO enjoyed as both a reader and a writer. It didn’t pay much, but any local writer was always HONORED to see their byline in the Pelican pages. When I heard of the Pelican’s demise I immediately called the office and for the first time ever in all the years I’ve submitted freelance for them was told the editor didn’t have time to talk to me. Right them I knew the rumors were true and the good days were gone. RIP little paper that could (and did). You and all who made you what you were will be much missed. Charmaine PS – If Anne wants to proofread and/or edit this last one, it’s fine by me. She always did me proud.

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  3. Thanks Charmaine, for visiting the blog by Stan and for sharing your thoughts. Intriguing glimpse into the mystique of Siesta. M.C.

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  4. Stan,

    From our days at The Times, through the Weekly and then The Pelican you’ve given readers a perspective they lacked elsewhere. That’s the greatest loss here.

    I have it from a reliable source that one of the area’s most respected organizers of estate sales and auctions has heard from many of her customers who are quite upset with how things went down. She too is quite upset, so much so that she is reviewing her advertising relationship with The Observer.”

    All that’s best,

    bob

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  5. I had thought I’d only be using the new Republicanized Pelican Press as a kitty litter box liner. But no, I will be making note of every advertizer who advertizes in it, and sending them a letter explaining why I will not be patronizing his/her establishment again.

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  6. Tom my friend, you took the words right out of my mouth….

    While I’m not neither; Republican, nor Democrat, it’s just the idea of purchasing the paper in order to provide his slanted, right-wing views… he’s never, ever said a positive word about Democrats and for a publisher to think Rick Scott is the best Governor this state has seen….well, say’s it all.

    Tom, I will never, ever support a single business advertised in the Pelican Press – (Observer in disguise), again…

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  7. I just returned home after two weeks and found the first two new “Pelican Press” issues. While I’ve been reading both the Pelican Press and the Sarasota Observor (plus the Herald Tribune) since moving here nine years ago I read each one for different reasons. Here on Siesta Key, the Pelican Press introduced me to my new home, where after work on a Thursday night I could read about local news, activities, special events – and our rich offering of community arts. The “Pelican” reviews gave me consistent information on plays, music, movies, art, nature,etc. “Diversions” is just not as consistent: many of us are HERE all summer. We do want to read about what is happening in a consistent format each week. I became a “movie buff” and a “theatre afficionado” by reading the reviews weekly. It seems that the Observor Group is more interested in the large colorful photo approach instead of the consistent weekly columns. Where will I find all that information now?

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  8. I blame Ad inc., the company who owned the Pelican for giving up on the paper and the community and selling us out.

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  9. One of our staff members brought this blog to my attention. Please allow me to set the record straight.

    On July 20, Stan Zimmerman wrote, among many things:

    • “But (Rachel Hackney’s) scope of action now is limited” … “Those decisions are no longer hers.”
    To Stan: Rachel’s scope of action is no more limited and the decision making no less than it was under Journal Community Publishing Group.

    • “I’m sure Matt Walsh will eschew this tradition (of bound copies of the papers).”
    To Stan: Come to our Sarasota, Siesta Key and Longboat Key offices and see for yourself.

    • “(Ann Johnson) was lopped off, after 38years, without even a good-bye to the two generations of readers she slaved for.”
    To Stan: Had Ann asked, she would have had all the room she wanted. “Slaved for”? Her work was her choice.

    • “Matt’s refusal to allow the old Pelican hands to say goodbye and welcome the new hands. It was, for staff, the ultimate hostile takeover. ‘Mine now, you’re gone.’
    To Stan: “Refusal”? I don’t recall you or anyone asking. I refused no one.

    Charmaine wrote: “… and for the first time ever in all the years I’ve submitted freelance for them was told the editor didn’t have time to talk to me…”
    To Charmaine: I’m curious to know who told you that. I don’t recall anyone telling me you wanted to speak to me. “Pelican’s demise”? Last I saw we were still publishing it.

    Bob wrote: “She too is quite upset, so much so that she is reviewing her advertising relationship with The Observer.”
    To Bob: Your reliable source isn’t very reliable. Call this advertiser for yourself. You’ll hear something entirely different — the truth.

    Daniel wrote: “… it’s just the idea of purchasing the paper in order to provide his slanted, right-wing views …”
    To Daniel: 1) Trust me, we would not have remained in business for 16 years under that business model; 2) If believing in the Declaration of Independence (“life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” i.e. individual freedom) and the U.S. Constitution qualifies as ‘slanted, right-wing views,’ guilty as charged and proud of it.

    Tom wrote: “I will be making note of every advertizer (sic) who advertizes (sic) in it, and sending them a letter explaining why I will not be patronizing his/her establishment again.”
    To Tom: Your loss. Our advertisers offer great products and services.

    Daniel wrote: “I will never, ever support a single business advertised in the Pelican Press”
    To Daniel: See above answer to Tom.

    Roberta wrote: “… many of us are HERE all summer. We do want to read about what is happening in a consistent format each week. … the Observer Group is more interested in the large colorful photo approach instead of the consistent weekly columns. Where will I find all that information now?
    To Roberta: We’re here all summer, too. You’ll find all that information consistently (and consistently formatted) in Diversions.

    To all of you: Come visit me anytime, 1970 Main St. I’m more than happy to listen and let you see and hear for yourselves we have the desire, will and determination to continue building on the Pelican Press’ original roots and respected past. I will gladly give you the truth first hand.

    Matt Walsh

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  10. Mr. Walsh,
    Thank you for visiting my blog and for sharing your thoughts. I know my readers will be very interested in your words.
    M.C.

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  11. Matt’s response

    Daniel wrote: “… it’s just the idea of purchasing the paper in order to provide his slanted, right-wing views …”
    To Daniel: 1) Trust me, we would not have remained in business for 16 years under that business model; 2) If believing in the Declaration of Independence (“life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” i.e. individual freedom) and the U.S. Constitution qualifies as ‘slanted, right-wing views,’ guilty as charged and proud of it.

    Matt, I was under the impression that as an editor/publisher, it’s your responsibility to provide factual reporting, un-biased columns to your readers… (sort of Matt, how the professional ex-writers of the Pelican Press such as Stan Zimmerman used to write). Each and every writer for the Pelican Press, from the late Bob Aldren, to the; just-ousted Stan Zimmerman, ex-Reality Chick columnist; Mary (M.C.) Coolidge uesed to write. Matt, they were professions. They wrote fresh columns each and every week.

    And Matt, you stated in your response, that you would not have lasted 16 years if you wrote in this model. Matt, the “ONLY” reason your paper has survived for 16 years, is because each and every Opinion section is always; Pro-Republican. Matt, 99% of the residents on Long Boat Key are registered Republicans Matt…don’t try to blind-side the readers here Matt… you have one agenda and one agenda only..and your response to my previous post proves me to be correct.. when you responded: ‘slanted, right-wing views,’ guilty as charged and proud of it.

    Last but not least Matt, in your response to Charmaine, you stated: “Pelican’s demise”? Last I saw we were still publishing it.
    Matt, it’s no longer the Pelican Press…it’s the Observer, wrapped in the Pelican Press’s title…. ask any reader Matt if I’m not right.

    The Pelican Press will be no more, without the professional writers you ousted Matt. I’ll take any former Pelican Press writer.

    Also Matt, as you stated to Stan Zimmerman when he commented on not being able to have the opportunity to say goodbye to the other former writers you wrote: To Stan: “Refusal”? I don’t recall you or anyone asking. I refused no one

    Matt, since when does one need to ask permission to have the opportunity to say goodbye… Matt, if you have an ounce of class – (which you do not), you would have set aside some time, either at the Pelican Press location, or any other venue, in order for the team to say goodbye. Matt, the way you handled this..we.. oout of respect for Ms. Coolidge, I won’t even attempt to post.. but Matt, you were wrong.

    Mary, “Thank You” for giving me the opportunity to let my voice be heard.

    Respectfully, Daniel

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  12. The Pelican and the tradition it stood for are dead. Anyone who doesn’t beleive that is deluding themselves. I urge everone who cared about the Pelican to join me in boycotting this bogus, slanted, neo-Pelican right now. To Matt, if you had any decency sir you would be truthful enough to change the name of a paper that once meant something and is now just another chain in your link to manipulate and filter the facts.

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  13. Frank, I’m sure glad I’m not alone in believeing Matt Walsh’s rhetoric comments he posted earlier today.

    Frank, you have my full support.

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  14. A correction to what i wrote above: i meant , of course Journal Comm. not Ad inc.,(the company that bought the pelican before Journal did) sorry. By the way it is interesting to note that both of these distant national entities, who both controled the Pelican for years respectively, had LESS impact on the content, staff and general disposition of the Pelican then mr. Walsh has had.

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  15. Frank, take a look at Matt’s response, when I called him out on what I knew his agenda was, when he purchased the Pelican Press…and Frank, you just watch, today, the Pelican Press, tomorrow, the Venice Gondolier, then, the North Port Sun…. (I’ll bet there are already offers on the table)… but Frank, take a look at Matt’s response and tell me what you think….

    Daniel wrote: “… it’s just the idea of purchasing the paper in order to provide his slanted, right-wing views …”
    To Daniel: 1) Trust me, we would not have remained in business for 16 years under that business model; 2) If believing in the Declaration of Independence (“life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” i.e. individual freedom) and the U.S. Constitution qualifies as ‘slanted, right-wing views,’ “guilty as charged and proud of it”.

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