Monday, July 16, 2018
Opinion

Come join our Pasco/Hernando news groups on Facebook

James lives in Brooksville and is retired from the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office. Jill is a bartender from New York, who lives in Hernando Beach now.

Joanna owns a hair salon in Trinity. Ali is a realtor and lives in Wesley Chapel.

What do the four have in common? They’ve all joined one of the community Facebook groups we started in mid-March to serve up local Tampa Bay Times news and host conversations for our neighbors. James and Jill joined the Hernando page. Joanna and Ali joined the Pasco page.

As I write this on Tuesday, the two Facebook groups have a combined membership of 1,700. That’s astoundingly fast growth for this sort of thing, and has downtown editors wondering what’s in the water up here.

We think the answer is a simple: People on the North Suncoast want news about their hometowns and stories about people they know. That can be hard to find when you’re wading through coverage of the entire Tampa Bay area.

It’s good to know how your county commission spends your tax dollars and what events are happening close to you this weekend. You’ll find that on these Facebook pages.

In recent years, Facebook has played a bigger role in helping us deliver news to readers. Printed newspapers still appeal to many people, and others visit our website at tampabay.com for the latest breaking news.

But not everyone subscribes to the paper or goes to the website.

Starting two weeks ago, we began posting stories as we finish them to these local Facebook groups — hours or days before the stories appear in print. Group members comment on the stories and share them with others. They also post items of their own, like one this week calling for volunteers at the animal shelter and another about a local theater presentation.

We’ve posted house rules for the groups, encouraging people to discuss and debate, but to be respectful. We’ve asked them not to post commercial or campaign items. We are individually approving every person who wants to join and every post they want to put up. That helps us ensure the conversation stays civil and on point.

We are pleasantly surprised at how quickly the groups are growing and how active the members are. I sat at breakfast with my husband the first Sunday after we launched, thrilled to learn about each new member as I checked them in, one-by-one.

They are a diverse group, by gender, job and geography. About 70 percent are women, and 30 percent are men. About 30 percent are 45 to 54 years old, and 25 percent are 35 to 44. Younger and older members are joining, as well.

Of those I checked in, more than half are not Tampa Bay Times subscribers. Oddly, we see that as a good thing.

Our community Facebook groups are reaching people who may not otherwise see our stories. We can share news with a new audience this way and get valuable feedback on our work.

So come join us. Go to Facebook, search for "Pasco County Community News from the Tampa Bay Times," or "Hernando County Community News from the Tampa Bay Times." Click "Join." It’s that simple.

Then read our stories, let us know what you think and share some news of your own.

Oh, and say hi to your neighbors.

Contact Karen Peterson at (727)893-8082 or [email protected] Or follow @TimesKPeterson.

Comments
Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

The St. Petersburg City Council made the appropriate but difficult decision to reject a contract with renowned artist Janet Echelman for one of her aerial sculptures. It would be wonderful for the city to have one of her signature works, but Spa Beac...
Published: 07/13/18

‘Everybody needed to know what happened’

The brutal murder of Emmett Till, a black Chicago youth, in Mississippi nearly 63 years ago went unpunished, but not forgotten. A decision by his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to allow an open casket at Emmett’s Chicago funeral represented an act of def...
Published: 07/13/18
Editorial: Personal bias taints Florida’s clemency system

Editorial: Personal bias taints Florida’s clemency system

A recent exchange between the governor and Cabinet and a felon seeking to have his civil rights restored underscores the arbitrary unfairness of Florida’s clemency system. A long waiting period, a ridiculous backlog of cases and elected officials who...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18

Trump should work with Congress on immigration

Donald Trump’s resounding victory in the 2016 presidential election came at least in part because the New York businessman grasped the disconnect between how millions of Americans and the political establishments of both parties felt about immigratio...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18
Editorial: Trump’s trade war hurts American consumers

Editorial: Trump’s trade war hurts American consumers

Voters who looked to Donald Trump to make America great might want to look at their wallets. The president escalated his global trade war this week, threatening new tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports — everything from seafood, beef and ...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18
Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

The imaginative Ybor City ballpark proposed by the Tampa Bay Rays fits nicely into the 21st century vision of a sophisticated city and would secure major league baseball’s future for the entire region. It also carries an eye-catching cost that will h...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18
Editorial: Supreme Court pick qualified, but confirmation process should be vigorous

Editorial: Supreme Court pick qualified, but confirmation process should be vigorous

For the second time in less than 18 months, President Donald Trump has nominated a well-qualified, conservative federal appeals court judge to the U.S. Supreme Court. That does not mean Judge Brett Kavanaugh should get an easy pass through Senate con...
Published: 07/10/18
Updated: 07/11/18
Editorial: Nobody uses fireworks to scare off birds

Editorial: Nobody uses fireworks to scare off birds

Americans are accustomed to celebrating the nation’s birthday by blowing up Chinese fireworks for days — a rite of recklessness that kills seven people a year and sends another 13,000 to hospital emergency rooms. The tragic toll struck close to home ...
Published: 07/09/18
Updated: 07/13/18
Editorial: Let local governments regulate short-term rentals

Editorial: Let local governments regulate short-term rentals

The Florida Legislature’s meddling in local issues has created another mess for neighborhoods across the state. No family should have to put up with a short-term rental next door that overwhelms their street with constant visitors, traffic and noise ...
Published: 07/09/18
Updated: 07/10/18
Editorial: The real forces behind mass shootings

Editorial: The real forces behind mass shootings

It’s the refrain by gun advocates in the wake of every mass shooting: The attacker was mentally ill. They obtained their gun illegally. The message is that gun violence isn’t about guns but mental instability and gaps in law enforcement. But a recent...
Published: 07/08/18
Updated: 07/09/18