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Ernest Hooper, Times Columnist/East Hillsborough Bureau Chief

Ernest Hooper

Ernest Hooper is the East Hillsborough Bureau chief and columnist at the Tampa Bay Times. Hooper joined the Times in 1992 and has worked as a prep sports writer and editor, TV/radio sports columnist, NFL writer, news columnist and unofficial ambassador, representing the Times as an emcee, judge or keynote speaker at hundreds of nonprofit events and civic functions. Hooper added the role of East Hillsborough Bureau chief in 2012. He oversees news content for the Times' regional edition east of Tampa, the SouthShore & Brandon Times, and writes two columns a week. His commentaries about family, community issues and political perspectives have helped Hooper connect with readers over the years, but he's probably best known for his signature tagline: That's all I'm saying.

Phone: (813) 661-2440


  1. Hooper: Critics of Rays, pier plans need to offer ideas

    Human Interest

    When it comes to the Rays stadium situation and the St. Petersburg pier, it's time for opponents to offer solutions — compromising, consensus-building solutions.

    City Council members can't keep rejecting Mayor Rick Kriseman's Rays deal proposals without offering counter plans. Residents who favor an upgraded or renovated pier need to lead an effort to combine the best of the proposals, instead of forcing everyone to go back to the drawing board for a third time....

  2. Guns and college students a bad mix


    University of Tampa professor Jennifer Whelihan allowed me to serve on a panel of journalism professionals who addressed her media writing class Tuesday night.

    But I have to confess, my thoughts focused more on completing this column than sharing any brilliant insight with the students.

    Then it dawned on me. Let the students guide the column and kill two birds with one stone. Heck, they're already more interesting than me....

  3. Hooper: Florida Legislature should play it safe with Seminole Tribe gambling

    Human Interest

    Visitors to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa can find Beatles memorabilia adorning the walls. The Florida Legislature can find a solution to its impasse with the tribe in the lyrics of a classic Beatles song.

    Over the last five years, the state has yielded $1 billion from the gambling compact it has with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Although other well-monied gambling interests are seeking to gain a foothold with a change in the regulations, the state should play it safe instead of betting on a new deal that could yield unintended consequences....

  4. Combat veteran and best-selling author tells teens he admires them

    Human Interest

    Wes Moore, a Johns Hopkins graduate, Rhodes Scholar, Army combat veteran and best-selling author, stood before a small group of teens at the A La Carte Pavilion Thursday evening, ready to offer remarks and field questions.

    I knew he would start by sharing with the kids the keys to his success. I knew he would tell them how he rose from a troubled childhood in a hard-scrabble neighborhood to work as a White House fellow....

  5. Hooper: Mindful discussion on race is worthwhile


    Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz asked baristas at his popular coffee shops to engage customers by marking their cups with the phrase "#RaceTogether."

    He wants to spark a dialogue about racial tensions and racial inequality, but the early indication is that the initiative only sparked backlash against his company.

    It's too bad, because Schultz says his goal is to create a dialogue that can be a catalyst for empathy....

  6. Ernest Hooper: Yes, Vinik's plan for downtown Tampa is for real

    Human Interest

    Bob Abberger says more than one person has queried him about Jeff Vinik's grand vision for the 40-acre plan surrounding Amalie Arena, asking, "are you for real?"

    Abberger, senior managing partner for Vinik's Strategic Property Partners, always assures the plans will be as spectacular as they appear in renderings. He delivered that message again at last week's Downtown Partnership forum, fueling greater excitement....

  7. Hooper: Girl Scouts Woman of Distinction finds destiny in helping others


    When you run a nonprofit called Fulfilling Your Destiny, you need to fulfill your own.

    Karen Mertes emphatically says she's living up to the promise of the moniker — and not just because of achievements like being named a Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida on Tuesday.

    Mertes points to her website — — which details the triumphant and courageous stories of people she has helped....

    Author and activist Katherine Schwarzenegger, center, spends time with honorees at Tuesday’s Girl Scouts Women Of Distinction Luncheon. From left are Karen Mertes, Renee Vaughn, Schwarzenegger, Evelyn Follit and Lenore Costello.
  8. Hooper: Salute to World War II veteran holds lesson for politicians

    Human Interest

    The American Dance Orchestra regaled a Florida Strawberry Festival crowd Wednesday with a concert draped in patriotism.

    The star of the night, however, proved to be Ted Keiser, a 96-year-old veteran and former World War II B-17 bomber pilot who was saluted by the band. The crowd gave Keiser and his wife, Ann, a standing ovation after learning of his heroics, which included earning a Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross....

  9. Hooper: Bucs coach Lovie Smith leads by healthy example


    Tampa Bay Bucs coach Lovie Smith says it's important to model healthy habits for his players, but that doesn't mean you will find him lifting free weights with his younger charges.

    "I like to keep my confidence up," said Smith, displaying a dry wit.

    "That wouldn't help my confidence. I can't go in there and lift with them. This younger generation is a lot bigger and a lot stronger."...

    Getty Images
  10. Hooper: Florida's budget surplus might be worth saving, not spending

    Human Interest

    The 2015 Florida legislative session begins Tuesday with lawmakers fretting that they can't match all the tax cuts and increased spending that Gov. Rick Scott wants to deliver.

    The state enjoys a surplus, but wisdom and caution seem to be in order. The Great Recession remains in the rearview mirror and the prudent call might be to fill rainy-day coffers and offer a lot less than $700 million in tax cuts. That's one definition of being conservative. … ...

  11. Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest comes to Plant City's Strawberry Festival

    Human Interest


    It's sport, spectacle and awe.

    It's simple in theory and difficult in practice.

    It's also kind of gross.

    It's competitive eating, and no one can say for certain why it's a growing fascination with the American public, but when the Florida Strawberry Festival hosts a Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest at 6 p.m. Sunday, it's certain to draw competitors hoping to eat their way into the famed July 4 world championship at Coney Island. And it's certain to draw a crowd....

    After downing 179 chicken wings in 10 minutes, Joey Chestnut is announced the winner of the World Chicken Wing Eating Championship at the original Hooters location in Clearwater Florida. Mikki Sudo came in second, eating 155 wings
  12. Boys and Girls Club transforms lives

    Human Interest

    Kassindjaa Montague's academic success had taken a dreadful turn.

    She didn't attend class for two months. She transferred to another high school for the rest of her freshman year.

    She returned to her old school as a sophomore — only to find more trouble.

    But her mother, Kadessa Lindsey, didn't quite know why her daughter's promise was shrinking.

    Finally, Kassindjaa found solace at the Ridgecrest Boys & Girls Club in 2013. Club director Dre Nix built a rapport with Kassindjaa....

    Kassindjaa Montague is the Boys & Girls Club’s Youth of the Year.
  13. Spoto community rallies behind girl who suffered traumatic brain injury


    Less than a day after they learned their friend was in the hospital, they organized.

    Just hours after word got out that she suffered a traumatic brain injury, they gathered.

    And in the agonizing moments after a freak car accident on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway left 18-year-old Tyra Janelle Brown fighting for her life, they prayed.

    Simple word of mouth led nearly three-quarters of the 1,400-plus students at Spoto High to gather around the flag pole in the school's courtyard on that Monday morning last month. Right after third period, they pulled together in a solemn show of love and concern....

    Tyra Janelle Brown
  14. Hooper: Don't judge all teachers by a handful of bad apples

    Human Interest

    At St. Petersburg High, a teacher sparked a major problem by naming students on his door under the title, "terrorist list."

    A Turkey Creek Middle School teacher allegedly had sex with her 15-year-old student.

    And everywhere, good teachers cringe and wonder why the stories of their tireless dedication can't get more attention from the media. I know because a teacher and an administrator told me just that last week....

  15. Hooper: Celebrate Black History Month's heroes of today


    Wali S. Shabazz walked through the Middleton High Library before a young group of African-American males, showing each a framed, faded, yellow newspaper ad touting that slaves were to be "sold and let."

    The goal is to teach the teens how far blacks have come, to help them understand that their heritage goes beyond what Shabazz calls, "gangsterism."

    "The whole issue of being involved in negative criminal behavior in our community, that's a morals issue, that's a values issue, that's a misconception of what they think is black life," Shabazz said. "So, we have to correct their thinking as it relates to their history, their culture and their values."...