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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. Rise in Florida's HIV infections more noteworthy than a celebrity's confession

    Human Interest

    A celebrity grabs headlines when he says he's HIV positive, but it's the rise in Florida's HIV infections that needs attention.

    The state Department of Health says Florida had 5,821 new HIV infections in 2014, a 27 percent increase from 2012.

    The AIDS Service Association of Pinellas, a member of Empath Health, hosts a prayer luncheon in St. Petersburg at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, World AIDS Day, at the Empath Health Community Service Center: 3050 First Ave. S....

  2. Compassion fuels woman's kindness campaign


    SEFFNER — The couple in the Winn-Dixie checkout line couldn't cover the cost of all the items they put on the conveyor belt.

    So, one by one, they began to put them back.

    Karla Gibson, admittedly wearing only her "house dress" and sporting "dirty hair," simply came in to get a few items. The delay offered Gibson the perfect opportunity to roll her eyes, sigh loudly and glare.

    Instead, she leaned in and asked, "How much are they short?"...

    This is a photo of Karla Gibson and her sons Kyle, 13, and Chad, 16. Photo courtesy of Karla Gibson.
  3. In the rush to Christmas, we're stepping on Thanksgiving Day

    Human Interest

    I've never bought into the alleged "War on Christmas," but the "War on Thanksgiving?" It's getting trampled in the rush to celebrate the later holiday.

    Christmas decorations already adorn stores, radio stations are trotting out Mannheim Steamroller and more retailers are open on Thanksgiving as Black Friday bleeds into a day once reserved for family, football and food.

    Some clerks actually want the holiday overtime and some customers actually can't wait. Restaurants serve those who opt out or don't have access to a big family meal, and that's good....

  4. Hooper: Hillsborough MADD founder targets underage drinking

    Public Safety

    At the age of 13, he was an alcoholic.

    At the age of 17, he took the life of Linda Unfried's sister, Josie DiStefano Palomino, in a DUI crash.

    Unfried founded the Hillsborough chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in the wake of her sister's death 31 years ago. She remains vigilant today. She thinks of the teen involved in her sister's death and wants desperately to reduce underage drinking....

  5. Property flip warrants generous donation to CASA

    Human Interest

    Joseph Emerson purchased property from Community Action to Stop Abuse and flipped it for a $569,000 profit. Tampa Bay Times senior correspondent Susan Taylor Martin reported there's no indication anything improper occurred, but let's hope Emerson becomes one of CASA's most generous annual donors. It's the least he could do. …

    Heavendropt will be among the more unique vendors at the Junior League of Tampa's Holiday Gift Market this weekend at the Florida State Fairgrounds....

  6. Hooper: People facing threats of violence need our help

    Public Safety

    On one side, you have local law enforcement imploring witnesses to step up and help them with a spate of unsolved murders, offering protection for those who have received threats.

    On the other side, critics note it's easy to tell people to "be courageous" when you aren't on the receiving end of intimidating messages from gangs.

    State Rep. Ed Narain, D-Tampa, wants to change the dynamic. He's filed a bill that would provide an exemption from public records for the names of witnesses to a felony....

  7. Hooper: Inspiring speeches share tales of fortitude


    Unspeakable acts scarred the childhood of Julio Ayala.

    But standing before more than 400 people at the Spring of Tampa Bay's recent Gift of Peace Luncheon, Ayala found a way to speak about them.

    To help the Spring, a domestic violence shelter, Ayala told of the constant abuse his stepfather inflicted on his mother, the torturous chapters of Ayala's own upbringing and how it eventually led to his lifelong battle with substance abuse....

    Julio Ayala poses with Mindy Murphy, executive director of The Spring of Tampa Bay at the Tampa Convention Center. Ayala spoke about the challenges of his childhood at the Spring's Gift of Peace Luncheon on Oct. 22. Photo courtesy of the Fine Art Photography Company.

  8. Hooper: Pinellas school district needs formal way to involve community


    It happened again Saturday.

    A concerned citizen with proven methods, eager to help the Pinellas school district in the wake of the Tampa Bay Times' "Failure Factories" reports, told me she can't find a portal with the school district to present her ideas.

    She's not alone. A lot of folks, including a woman who once instituted a debate program at Lakewood Elementary, recognize that the community needs to help the district. But the district needs a formal way to welcome input and vet ideas....

  9. Hooper: For local fitness instructor, 'Cancer makes a village'


    Apple store employees made International Plaza shoppers stop and pause when they gave her a standing ovation just days after doctors diagnosed her with breast cancer.

    Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston recorded an impromptu message of encouragement. So did Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier. Cater Me Fit provided meals for the duration of her treatment, and Famous Tate donated a refrigerator to hold all the new food....

    Shawn Becklund, a trainer at Truly Fit Studio on W Hillsborough has received overwhelming support since being diagnosed with cancer in April. Becklund (center, gray shirt) stands among the friends and family that help make up the "Strong as Shawn" Team: Jacob Siemer, Paula Zitzelberger, Aidan Becklund, Josh Siemer, Becklund, Chris Gonazalez, Melinda Hipley and Avalon Becklund. Photo by Ernest Hooper
  10. Hooper: Widow Wendy LaTorre offers unvarnished truths about suicide


    Wendy LaTorre calls them the big three.

    It was bad enough that a grieving LaTorre had to deal with the publicity from the high-profile suicide of her husband, William LaTorre, a year ago this month.

    She described it as a pain so profound she struggled to get out of bed some days.

    Then came the three haunts:

    Judgment. Gossip. Abandonment.

    Judgment? Some told her it was a sin or a coward's way out, even though experts say it's neither....

    Wendy LaTorre’s husband, William, died last year.
  11. Ernest Hooper: Hillsborough transportation initiative needs some super heroes

    Human Interest

    Hillsborough's latest foray into creating a comprehensive transportation plan remains perilously close to faltering, and while time, reason and positive results from a series of investigations may help, Go Hillsborough needs a super hero boost.

    Transportation Avengers may emerge from the business community just in the nick of time. Columbia Restaurants owner Richard Gonzmart and Lightning owner Jeff Vinik have expressed an interest in transportation, with Gonzmart saying he's willing to help pay for mass transit....

  12. Hooper: From swimming with the 'sharks' to starring on stage, Riverview everyman does it all


    The question for Riverview everyman Brian Kleinschmidt is not what he has done, it's what hasn't he done.

    He's competed in the Amazing Race and produced a commercial that reached the finals of Doritos' 2014 "Crash the Super Bowl" contest.

    Locally, he starred as a dreadlocked Tarzan in an area theater production, delivered a motivational speech at this years Riverview Chamber of Commerce's new teacher breakfast, and tonight will emcee the final installment of the SouthShore Music Festival's Comedy Show at the Regent....

    Brian Kleinschmidt, a self-described “dad-preneur” from Riverview, pitches the Ez-Pee-Z potty-training seat in Shark Tank.
  13. Ernest Hooper: intrigued by popularity of Bernie Sanders watch parties


    It's not surprising to learn Bernie Sanders supporters will gather at the Silverking Brewing Company in Tarpon Springs Tuesday to watch the Democratic presidential debate, but it's a little surprising to learn the event has reached capacity.

    "If you had told me a year ago that a Democratic debate event in Tarpon Springs would draw over 100 people, I would've said, 'You're crazy,' " said organizer Matthew Thomas, who noted his group is using the Silverking because it's normally closed on Tuesdays. "But because of Bernie's popularity, we've had to turn people away."...

  14. A chance to spread some happiness through jazz


    For jazz improviser Fred Johnson, every performance is an opportunity to create a special moment.

    "Words can really empower people to feel good," Johnson told Studio 10 Live's Stephanie Webb last week. "When you go to a concert you feel great. My journey is to help people experience that more often."

    Johnson joins Dick Rumore's Jazz Underground Orchestra to provide another moment on Saturday at the RCS Grande Gala benefit at Clearwater's Banquet Masters Speakeasy, 13355 49th St. N. The Roaring '20s-themed party promises to be, well, grande. ...

  15. Ernest Coney Jr.'s legacy is to build a better communities


    Ernest Coney Jr. stepped to the lectern before 500 people at TPepin's Hospitality Center on Tuesday and laid out his vision for the Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa.

    "How is a destiny of a community determined? How is the destiny of a person determined?" asked Coney, the corporation's CEO and president. "Some talk about the direct and indirect correlations: educational achievements of parents, the ZIP code you live in, the college you were admitted to, the socioeconomic status of your family....