This publication began as a green sheet offering product discounts nearly 30 years ago.
As the county’s two older newspapers – including the Brooksville Sun Journal – closed their doors by 1992, Hernando Today morphed from its humble roots as a weekly to a burgeoning daily publication in less than 15 years.
That was until today.
To understand how I progressed to this point, let’s trace my beginnings.
My journalistic roots began in the Sunshine State in 1984 after relocating from Los Angeles to Pasco County following the 1984 Summer Olympics or the Games of XXIII.
It was during my tenure as sports editor of the weekly The Zephyrhills News that I crossed paths with Bulldog football coach Barry Gardner.
Gardner helped resuscitate Zephyrhills football. After his first season at the helm in 1985, Gardner explained, “I didn’t come here to go (expletive) 3-7.” And he never did.
Three consecutive winning seasons followed before he packed for a neighboring county, landing a gig at Hernando County’s brand new Central High.
Seemingly at every turn before he left, the former Jacksonville native encouraged me to relocate.
Instead, my life’s compass drew me to the Winter Haven News Chief and then a stint with a public relations firm in Lakeland before returning to Pasco County.
Former Hernando Today sports editor Ted Swing eventually enticed me to Brooksville.
He laid the cards on the table, saying he was “tired of the office politics” and would remain on board for another year or possibly 18 months.
True to his word, 18 months later, as Swing departed, I was tabbed sports editor.
That run lasted until just prior to Christmas 2011, when Media General, who owned the Florida Communications Group, aka Hernando Today, at the time, parted itself with nearly one-fifth of the Florida workforce.
Due to the downturn locally in the economy – especially with the housing market going south –
many of us weren’t fired per se; instead our full-time jobs were simply eliminated. Pooffffffff. Just like that. Welcome to 21st-century Corporate America.
To make a living since then I’ve written for The Tampa Tribune and the Citrus County Chronicle and with Hernando Today – until today.
I can’t tell you how many countless stories, briefs, columns and lives I’ve been fortunate to be a part of.
My first story for Brooksville-based Hernando Today was the Class 1A, District 5 Boys Golf Tournament at Scotland Yards in Oct. 23, 2000. Hernando finished fifth in a solid field.
Fourteen years later, this final column signals my last piece.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t say goodbye to a pair of prep mentors that shaped my life in Hernando County, but are no longer among us: Gardner and Pat McCoy.
Same with former Spring Hill Dixie Baseball co-director Helen Keith, who’s got to be smiling down on how her tiny rec league has blossomed.
There are countless folks that have not only influenced me with their particular insight, but have eased my journey for so many years including: Bob Levija, Bill Combs Sr., Eric Swensen, Sal Basile, Bill Vonada, Mike Garofano, Ernie Chatman, Tim Sims, Bill Browning, Matt Smith, Joe Nicolai, Eric Milholland, Tom Brown, Teri Sellers and Sonya Burns.
At the height of Hernando Today’s sports page popularity, we had 10 correspondents and one full-timer (Chris Bernhardt Jr.) under my wing.
Any administrator is only as efficient as the surrounding staff. With that said I feel fortunate to have hired three folks that enabled me to put together a terrific product for public consumption: photographers Cathy Kapulka and Joe DiCristofalo along with Bernhardt.
I could never repay that trio with the amount of respect for their due diligence, their thinking “outside the box,” their loyalty and the character they proved under at best the difficult times in this business
Whenever a newspaper closes, that community’s voice, its pulse, is silenced. I know not what the future holds for me or anybody else.
Thirty years ago in “Pure Water City,” I interviewed my first coach, Zephyrhills volleyball skipper Pat Wenger.
In asking her to sum up her team’s efforts in a season-opening three-set drubbing, the former Illinois native explained succinctly, “Sometimes you get the bear; sometimes the bear get you.”
That sound bite has never been forgotten. It seems, 30 years later, that the “bear” won this time, too.
But as a sage English teacher once shared with me, “Players play, coaches coach and writers write.”
So, I’ll attempt to saunter on.