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Are we steppin' in the right direction?

Has it been six whole months since I stopped verbally beating up on county commissioners, school board members, sheriffs, city council members and various scofflaws _ no connection, of course _ as an editorial writer to become a fun-loving, adorable arts and entertainment writer?

(Okay, maybe not so adorable to people whose toes I crunch now.)

Some people asked why the change. So I asked back: "If you had your choice between sitting through three hours of Port Richey City Council meetings as editorial writer or sitting through three hours of rib-tickling farce as theater critic, which would you choose?"

Come to think of it, is there a difference?

Whatever, I have simply shifted a critical eye from the courthouse to the playhouse, from the art of politics to the politics of arts.

But enough.

What are we up to with this Steppin' Out section every Friday?

Our editors noticed some time ago that a lot is going on in Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties that is overshadowed in other parts of the newspaper by the Big Doings in Tampa and St. Petersburg. That's understandable; it's hard to make the lead story the opening of a new community theater production when Luciano Pavarotti is at the Sun Dome. But to those of us who prefer to drive four, rather than 40 miles for entertainment, community theater happenings are big news.

We have always put information about such events in various columns, but the editors felt it was time to put the major ones, plus interesting commercial events, in one place _ a local version of the Weekend section that all Times subscribers receive. In addition, the editors wanted regular reviews of local restaurants. They wanted stories about neat places to go within easy reach of our area. And they wanted to make everyone in our area aware of these doings.

All they needed was someone to develop, coordinate and oversee these pages. Thus was born Arts and Entertainment Editor.

When I heard the position was being created, I jumped to apply. It seemed a perfect fit. I had taught college-level literary criticism, have training in the dramatic arts, played flute in the college band and orchestra for four years, am an avid cook and even more avid diner, and I love to seek out new places to go.

Although Steppin' Out does a great many things like Weekend, we aren't its clone. One big difference is when we run stories.

Weekend writes feature stories about that weekend's events, often the day they happen.

We write many of ours a week in advance.

There's a reason; many of our events aren't as familiar to our readers as the big, famous events and performers that are in the city. People tell us they need to know more information than a name or event to make a decision about going.

If they decide to go, they want to buy tickets early in order to get good seats. And they often need time to hire babysitters, make pre-event dining reservations or collect a batch of friends to go with them.

When we ran the stories on the day the event was to take place _ or even the day before the event _ many of our readers told us we had let them know about it too late.

Our current format seems to be working okay.

Of course, we are constantly adjusting to make it more useful to you, the reader.

We'd like to know what you think about what we're doing. Do you like the timing of stories? Do you like the format? Would you like to see something added? Deleted? Changed?

Please write to me at P.O. Box 11321, Port Richey, FL 34668, or call (813) 869-6262 after 7 p.m. and leave a message.