Make us your home page

Jim Verhulst, Perspective Editor

Jim Verhulst

Jim Verhulst has edited the Tampa Bay Times' Sunday Perspective section since 2006. He has been a journalist since 1982 and has worked at the Times since 1987, holding a variety of posts. He is married and has two sons.

Phone: (727) 893-8837


  1. Perspective: People of the world, not land masses


    This map shows what the world would look like if a country's size were proportional to its population. It radically rearranges our sense of geographic space. Vast countries such as Russia, Canada and Australia turn into slivers of territory. Europe, and not South Asia, appears to be the real Asian subcontinent. Compiled by Reddit user TeaDranks, the map is an adapted version of a Population Map made in 2005 by cartographer Paul Breding and published by TeaDranks updated its numbers. What the map emphasizes is the primacy of Asia. The continent's immensity is understood in the West but not truly appreciated. That, of course, is echoed in the Western media, where crises in Europe and conflicts in the Middle East still hold far more attention. The lack of coverage of India's elections last year — the world's greatest exercise in democracy — was lampooned by comedians. And many Americans probably weren't even aware of a similar landmark vote in Indonesia, home to the world's largest population of Muslims, or of Saturday's upcoming presidential vote in Nigeria, which will continue its longest stretch of democracy. Some Asian cities, as delineated on the map, are larger than most European countries. As the continent boasts some of the world's most dynamic developing economies, this map is a useful illustration for why some believe the 21st century will be the Asian Century....

  2. Here is history's case for the '15s


    Pity the '15s. Some years ending in "5" have pretty famous events associated with them: Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005; Saigon fell in 1975; and there was the Voting Rights Act of — wait for it — 1965. World War II ended in 1945, the Civil War in 1865. But '15s just don't have the same fame. So as 2015 begins, let's revive the prospects of the '15s by listing some events that we all know but don't associate with a '15. Here are some century-by-century options from Western history for the previous millennium:...

  3. Perspective: Picking stories that will matter to our future selves


    It's hard to see history in the making. Viewed through the long lens of time, which of today's major news stories will prove to have been pivotal? For fun, we once again pick an event for each month of the year that will seem significant when our future selves look back with hindsight's clear vision.


    Hiroo Onoda dies at 91. Don't remember him? He was an Imperial Japanese Army officer who remained at his jungle post on an island in the Philippines for 29 years after 1945, refusing to believe that World War II was over. Caught in a time warp, Onoda believed, as the New York Times put it, that the emperor was a deity and the war a sacred mission. He survived on bananas and coconuts until finally going home in 1974 to a world of skyscrapers, television, jet planes, pollution and atomic destruction. As the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II approaches next summer, there has been a surge in interest among young Japanese about the war that their nation has long tried to forget. Driving this pursuit into the past is anxiety about China's rise — it now is the world's largest economy. As the United States continues to try to pivot toward the Pacific Rim, the death of Onoda — and the meaning of his life — is symbolically and materially important....

    New York police wrestle Eric Garner to the ground in July. Garner died. Despite video, a grand jury declined to indict the officer who had him in a neck hold.
  4. Verhulst column: The lock on our lives


    I've been thinking about my combination lock a lot. I keep it on a locker at work. Twenty or more times a week I spin the dial right, then left, then right, and the lock drops open with a satisfying "chunk." The first time I used that lock — in junior high gym class — we were still sending men to the moon.

    In my pocket is an iPhone 5s. It was the best smartphone ever, the Next Big Thing — until a few days ago. Now Apple has announced a bigger, faster, cooler, more powerful, sexier iPhone. It goes on sale this week, and it's the next Next Big Thing until the next one next year. My 8½-month-old phone — if it were a baby, it wouldn't yet be walking or talking — is already hobbling into its senescence....

    Only one of these two objects is already obsolete. Hint: It’s not the shiny one. I wasn’t quite a teenager when I got the lock. I got this iPhone after I had turned 55. Its days are numbered.
  5. Whither the waterfront


    An expert panel from the Urban Land Institute is preparing a final report on the St. Petersburg waterfront. The idea? To offer guidance from the fresh perspective of informed outsiders. The group was chaired by Mike Higbee, an Indiana-based developer and former development director for the city of Indianapolis. The final report is expected around year's end. Higbee agreed to answer some questions from Perspective editor Jim Verhulst....

    SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
  6. 2012 in review: Lance Armstrong stripped of his titles

    Human Interest

    There is no more famous cancer survivor. And don't even bother trying to name another professional cyclist. Who among us didn't wear a yellow Livestrong wristband?

    The man with the superhero all-American name showed us that you could beat cancer and not just survive, but thrive and be better than before. He made us care about a three-week bicycle race in a foreign country. Grunting up the mountains, flying through time trials and donning the yellow jersey, he denied, denied, denied ever doping while winning the Tour de France seven times....

  7. Jefferson’s Bible


    Thomas Jefferson kept his religion to himself. Privately in 1820, for his own moral reflection, he assembled a volume he called The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. He took several King James Bibles and, with a razor, literally cut passages from the four gospels of the New Testament — choosing segments that offered ethical or moral instruction — and then pasted them together to create his own 84-page book. He left out anything "contrary to reason" and elements he believed to be later additions. For example, he kept the Beatitudes but excised the miracle of the loaves and fishes. What remained he melded into one chronology, no longer separated into traditional books of the New Testament. One could argue that he edited out the divinity of Christ, but one could also argue that he created a volume on which all people of good will — no matter their belief or lack thereof — could agree on as a model for good conduct, a nice thought on this Easter Sunday. He kept the volume private throughout his life. Discovered only late in the 19th century, it has been restored and will be on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History until July 15. Jefferson meant no disrespect. He simply wanted to clarify Jesus's teachings, which he called "the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man." Jim Verhulst, Perspective editor

    Above is one of the Bibles from which Jefferson cut out the passages he wanted to use in his own volume. To the right is page 13 of his Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. It is an example of how he rearranged scripture into one chronological narrative. A partial transcript, with the relevant source, is printed below....

  8. A little light on the subject


  9. What John Glenn meant then and now for the nation


    I was only 3 years old when John Glenn orbited the Earth in Friendship 7, so I don't remember the day. But I remember the decade. Of a nation marching as one behind an assassinated president's pledge to land an American on the moon before 1970. Of grade school assemblies where the principal would wheel out the black and white TV so we young students could all watch the latest Gemini launch. Of my G.I. Joe astronaut set that included a Mercury capsule and a 45 rpm record of Glenn's radio communication with Mission Control. Of a Cold War battle that used space exploration as a proxy for combat to measure whether Americans or Soviets were superior. Of a black and white time — not just in our TV sets but in our moral judgments — about right and wrong. Of a nation — and a world — rejoicing when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in July 1969....

  10. Florida higher ed: From STEM to stern to liberal arts and funding


    I started college years ago as a math major — the path to one of those hotshot STEM degrees. Thank goodness I switched, even if STEM is the slogan of the moment in higher education.

    From Gov. Rick Scott to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, STEM — science, technology, engineering and math degrees — is seen as the pathway to making Florida a high-tech haven with university students graduating into jobs that pay well, or at least into jobs. And some leaders vilify the liberal arts now that anecdotes abound of students graduating with debt and esoteric degrees but few marketable skills....

  11. Pitching in to save a school


    When a school is failing, it is not just its students who stand in harm's way. It is society itself. So when a school needs help, it is essential for the community to pitch in.

    That is what is happening at Fairmount Park Elementary in the Childs Park neighborhood of St. Petersburg. Multiple agencies, including Pinellas County schools, the city of St. Petersburg and the Juvenile Welfare Board, are combining forces to create a holistic approach to helping children and supporting their families to provide a better environment for learning....

  12. Long-distance bicycle rider discovers that routine change is good


    I'm in good shape. I ride my bike a lot, 6,000 to 7,500 miles a year. But twice in recent months, the wheels fell off — not my bike. Me. Blame middle age.

    Every July since 2006, I've taken my bike to Iowa for RAGBRAI (the Des Moines Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa), a seven-day, nearly 500-mile trek of more than 10,000 bikers.

    I was determined to make it this year, too, and learned some lessons to share along the way....

    Jim Verhulst after completion of the 2010 RAGBRAI in Iowa.
  13. A Linkletter St. Petersburg story


    Art Linkletter's death on Wednesday at 97 brought back fond memories of his visit to St. Petersburg more than eight years ago, when he helped to dedicate the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg's new building. While he was noted for recounting the "darndest things" that kids said — and indeed regaled us in the breakfast crowd with a bunch of them — his funniest story that morning was about a visit to a nursing home, or as we used to call them in an earlier time, the old folks' home. Linkletter, sure of his celebrity status, went up to a resident and asked, "Do you know who I am?" The resident studied his face for a moment, then said, "No, but if you go to the front desk, they can tell you." On this page, which is usually dedicated to the serious thoughts of adults, we wanted to honor his passing by sharing some of the wisdom he drew from the mouths of babes (these are from his book Kids Say The Darndest Things). Jim Verhulst, Perspective editor...

  14. If you put the BP spill in your tank


    We now know the BP leak in the Gulf of Mexico is the worst oil spill in U.S. history, but it is still hard to understand its magnitude in everyday terms. Still, let's try. If the escaped crude had been distilled into gasoline (9 million gallons of gas) and pumped into a Honda Accord, and you started driving it continuously from Los Angeles to New York and back (you could make the round-trip 50,000 times), then: ...

  15. A seismic shift for Charlie Crist


    It was only 12 months ago that Gov. Charlie Crist was weighing a U.S. Senate campaign — and was seen as a shoo-in. Now facing a 20-point deficit in the polls to Marco Rubio, Crist has until Friday to decide whether to stay in the race as a Republican, run as an independent or not run at all. With more than six months to go until the general election, it's a good time to stand back from the fray for a minute, and ask some people who are paid to know what's going on, well, what's going on? So we've put some questions to Times political editor Adam Smith, columnist Howard Troxler, deputy editor of editorials Joni James and Times Tallahassee bureau chief Steve Bousquet. ...