A look back on Tampa Bay area news from 2016 might carry a warning: Hold your nose. There was mud flinging and sludge slinging, with Gawker on trial over a sex video and St. Petersburg's mayor feeling the stink of trial by sewage. But the news wasn't all bad. As the year comes to a close, Tampa Bay Times editors chose 10 state and local stories that stood out, presented in no particular order here.
ALEXA, WILL YOU TESTIFY AGAINST ME? POPULAR AMAZON ECHO DEVICE RAISES PRIVACY ISSUES
Is your Christmas gift spying on you? A murder case out of Arkansas raises new questions about privacy in an age of ever-more sophisticated — and intrusive — technology. And it involves Amazon's best-selling holiday product, the Amazon Echo, a voice-controlled speaker that has sold millions. This complicated case, first reported by tech news website The Information, has legal and technological experts assessing how our expectations of privacy shifts as technology becomes more embedded in our everyday lives.
MURDERED FLAMINGOS, DOG-EATING ALLIGATORS, SPRAY-PAINTED TURTLES AND ANOTHER YEAR IN FLORIDA ANIMALS
[Busch Gardens, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
We've seen a bear cub survive a wildfire and dog who fell off a boat and into a propeller pull through. Wildlife officials reminded locals to stop painting turtles, Batman the Pig found a new home and we said goodbye to Pinky the Flamingo after one of the most bizarre stories of 2016. Ah, another year in Florida animals. Sara DiNatale recounts all the crazy animal stories she's written this year.
BIG CORPORATE GIVERS TO AREA UNITED WAY SUNCOAST HOLD STEADY BUT OVERALL CONTRIBUTIONS SLIP A BIT
Call it a revealing holiday tradition. United Way Suncoast, the non-profit community organization that helps pool area charitable fundraising, unveiled its third annual list of the 100 "most generous" workplaces in the four counties it serves: Hillsborough, Pinellas, Sarasota and DeSoto. It should be no surprise as to which company made the list.
SECOND MAN ARRESTED, CHARGED WITH MURDER IN CONNECTION WITH DEADLY TEMPLE TERRACE HOME INVASION
The search for the second suspect in this week's deadly home invasion ended early Friday in a Tampa hospital. Hillsborough sheriff's deputies arrested Leroy Monsalvatge, 24, without incident at Florida Hospital and charged with him first degree murder, among other charges. He had been admitted for an unrelated illness.
REPUBLICAN MEDIA STRATEGIST ADAM GOODMAN COULD WORK FOR A DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE IN 2018 GOVERNOR RACE
If Democratic Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine makes a run for governor, as he's widely expected to, he may have a surprising media strategist — Adam Goodman of Tampa. Goodman is a nationally prominent Republican media strategist whose clients have included John McCain's presidential campaign, Republican governor and Senate candidates in a half-dozen states, Attorney General Pam Bondi and numerous Florida GOP congressional candidates. He was just named a teaching fellow in media and politics at Tufts University.
FIESTA BOWL: FORGET PAYBACK, CLEMSON QB DESHAUN WATSON PAYS IT FORWARD
A dozen years ago, Deshaun Watson, his single mom Deann and three siblings were residing in government-run apartments in Gainesville, Ga. The primary landscaping was clotheslines. Crime sprouted like weeds through the sidewalk cracks. Watson was 9 when he returned from a trunk-or-treat function at a local church with a bag full of Halloween candy and a Habitat for Humanity pamphlet nestled inside. They were the recipients of a new home, thanks to former Bucs running back Warrick Dunn. Watson has helped construct Habitat homes. Oh, and this: He has evolved into one of the greatest football players in Clemson history.
OHIO STATE-CLEMSON STIRS MEMORIES OF WOODY HAYES, CHARLIE BAUMAN AND THE PUNCH
Ohio State and Clemson are playing again, for the third time in history, and that can mean only one thing, Martin Fennelly writes. You know, other than Saturday's national playoff semifinal. We get to remember Woody Hayes and Charlie Bauman. We get to remember The Punch.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS-CAROLINA PANTHERS PREDICTIONS FROM THE TAMPA BAY TIMES STAFF
The Times' Bucs writers offer their predictions for Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium.
YOU CAN WATCH DISNEY WORLD'S NEW YEAR'S EVE FIREWORKS ONLINE SATURDAY
[Walt Disney World]
For those of us who would rather curl up in our jammies on New Year's Eve than brave the crowds, Walt Disney World will live stream the Magic Kingdom fireworks show online Saturday night. The fireworks show, called Fantasy in the Sky, is an extravagant one, with fireballs sent into the sky from multiple launch sites around the theme park, not just behind Cinderella's Castle.
BEST OF 2016: REVIEWING THE YEAR IN REVIEW, FROM ALBUMS TO SONGS TO CONCERTS
Wow, 2016. What a great year, huh? Actually, no, Jay Cridlin writes. It was an unbearable dirge of angst and loss that stretched for 12 solid months. We lost some amazing musical talents, including some Tampa Bay favorites, and pondered our own mortality in the process. It's time for a fresh start. Bring on 2017! But before we do that, let's look back at Soundcheck's year in review, one last time, with feeling.
WINTER TV PREVIEW: PREMIERE DATES FOR NEW AND RETURNING SHOWS
Did you think you were going to have a break to catch up on other shows? Nope. Starting Sunday, your TV will be fully loaded with new stuff, such as the highly anticipated fourth season of Sherlock. So bookmark this list to make sure you don't miss the new shows(*), and your returning favorites. We're not including midseason premieres, only new seasons of returning series.