The Power of The Press on Clearwater Beach
By Anne McKay Garris
One summer, back in the 90's, while I was editor of the Beach Views newspaper, I hired two journalism students to help me. Liz was a student at the University of Florida, and Tracey was at St. Pete Junior College, Clearwater Campus. They became instant friends and added some fun and laughter, as well as well-written stories to the summer.
They were so helpful to me, I hoped that this experience would be useful them. Then came the day of discovery. Liz handed me a story about plans for the City of Clearwater's July 4th fireworks. "Remember that story we did about Bird Island, just south of the causeway," she said. "That's where they are going to launch the fireworks? Won't it disturb the birds?"
"That's a possibility," I said, "Why don't you find out?"
I challenged her to be an investigative reporter and find the answer to her questions. She called the Seabird Sanctuary, the Audubon Society, and then called City Hall with these experts' opinion on fireworks from Bird Island. She was rewarded, shortly, by an altered news report, saying the fireworks would be launched from Memorial Causeway, instead of Bird Island. Her eyes were wide with wonder.
"Did we do that?" she asked. "Is that what they mean by the power of the press?"
I just grinned.
As of last Fourth of July, the Clearwater fireworks are still launched from Memorial Causeway, inconveniencing some motorists, but sparing our beautiful seabirds in their island rookery.
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