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Flash! Elvis not seen in new Pinellas tabloid

Published Oct. 16, 2005

Tram Tragedy. Buzzard Attack. Fondling Fantasy. The Train They Didn't See. With headlines such as these and a color photo of a bikini-clad blond on the front page, the tabloid has the earmarks of the National Enquirer or the Weekly World News.

But the publication is the Pinellas Weekly Advertiser, the county's only tabloid dedicated to presenting news and other information in a special way.

"We're trying to be different, trying to give readers something slightly outrageous and have some fun at the same time," said Jim Carroll, the tabloid's managing editor.

Carroll, 28, also is the publication's only reporter and headline writer.

The Pinellas Weekly Advertiser is not new. It began publication in 1981, but contained basically ads until a format change with the Jan. 18 issue, he said.

The tabloid, looking for more readers, added news for the first time in that issue. While there is some local, national and international news of record and public service articles, most stories are about strange incidents.

A burglar falling asleep in the midst of his crime, buzzards devouring boat seat covers and British dentists using painkillers that cause sexual fantasies are a few of the tabloid's recent stories.

They are written with a touch of sensationalism, said Carroll.

"The sensational aspect always comes into play. We wanted to make a paper that is fun and easy to read," he said. "We're shooting for something like the English tabloids, the type of tabloids that people pick up and find them fun to read."

Carroll, who was an editor at the Beach Bay News in Panama City for two years, researches other publications for stories he thinks will appeal to tabloid fans. Then he rewrites selected stories. The tabloid also contains some syndicated editorial cartoons and columns.

Another feature was introduced in the Feb. 8 issue _ a front page color photo of a woman in a revealing bathing suit. Each week, such a photo will depict one of "the best beauties the beaches have to offer."

"We hired a freelance photographer to go to beaches and find women willing to pose. It's really not that complicated," Carroll said.

The new format seems popular. He said the Pinellas Weekly Advertiser's circulation has increased from about 5,000 before the change to almost 9,000.

Published each Thursday by Florida Communications Group in Clearwater, the tabloid is sold for 50 cents at convenience stores and from some racks.

"We want to be part of the community," Carroll said. "We also want to keep people up-to-date on news and make it enjoyable."