Hooper: Hillsborough School District’s water testing reveals journalism’s value

Mitchell Elementary School is one of 21 elementary and middle schools that have tested positive for exceedingly high lead levels. Over the last 16 months, the Hillsborough County School District has been quietly testing its schools' drinking water for lead. So far it has checked 51 schools and found lead in 50. There are roughly 200 more schools that haven't been looked at for lead. BRONTE WITTPENN   |   Times
Mitchell Elementary School is one of 21 elementary and middle schools that have tested positive for exceedingly high lead levels. Over the last 16 months, the Hillsborough County School District has been quietly testing its schools' drinking water for lead. So far it has checked 51 schools and found lead in 50. There are roughly 200 more schools that haven't been looked at for lead. BRONTE WITTPENN | Times
Published August 13 2018

There are so many takeaways from the Tampa Bay Times story on the Hillsborough County School District testing for lead in its schools’ water systems. Certainly, the district’s decision to wait a year before revealing high lead levels to parents raises concerns. But here’s another one.

In the piece, finely reported by a team headed by reporters Corey Johnson and Marlene Sokol, deputy superintendent for operations Chris Farkas said the district’s decision to test for lead was prompted in part by an initial inquiry by the Times.

That testing likely will result in cleaner water and healthier students. Hopefully, a looming crisis will be averted. And, the efforts of Johnson and Sokol will have helped spark the positive change.

As journalists, this is what we do — strive to make a positive difference in the lives of people. Think about that the next time someone tells you the news media is the enemy of the people. …

Seen on a bumper sticker: 13.1 — Because I’m Only Half Crazy. …

Some supporters at the University of South Florida want to see the school build a 30,000-seat on-campus football stadium. The Rays are bidding to build a 30,000-seat baseball stadium.

Clearly, different agendas, but I wonder if there’s a chance for a collaborative effort. What the Bulls would lose in not being on campus could be made up playing games in the heart of a thriving entertainment district. …

A guy campaigning for a Congressional candidate trudged through the rain to visit my home and share his enthusiasm about his choice. At the risk of having everybody knock on my door, I’ll concede it won me over. In an age of television ads, mailers and social media posts, handshakes and earnest conversation still matter.

That’s all I’m saying.

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