Observer readers sound off on local events.
An absence of Dora
Only one time in a reporter’s life is it right and proper to be the center of a story: the day you die. As usual, Dora Walters scooped me. A couple of deadlines later, maybe I can add a few words about the woman who touched so many lives with truth.
What happened to all her notebooks? Contact sheets and negatives? Are the bound volumes of past issues containing her works on the hurricane evacuation list? Taken together, the batch would weigh more than my diminutive and persistent amiga, the indefatigable Dora.
As a cub radio reporter covering Sarasota County in the 1970s, I ran across her at car wrecks and county commission meetings. She was working for WTVT in Tampa. A major media TV news gal. Their south-of-the-bay one-man-band, shooting 8 millimeter film. She was the station’s first female reporter but already a seasoned pro from the competitive northeastern newspaper trenches.
I once raced up on a car crash. Dora was already there, both of us using cop scanners. “Who’s the guy in the car?” I asked her. “You need to find out for yourself,” she replied. OK, I found a cop. Or another time, “Who’s the guy with the blue tie?” in a county commission meeting atop the Terrace Building in downtown Sarasota. “Snow White, I think it is. With a W.”
She was always so helpful to the competition.
Once there was an effort to start a Manatee-Sarasota press club. A monthly meet for drinks and laughs. Dora was a founding member. Maybe we could sell T-shirts to endow a high school scholarship. Herald-Tribune reporters boycotted the meetings, under stern publisher eyeballs. Were we Writer’s Guild secret agents? We designed a logo and called it the After -30- Club. The -30- being an old reporter shorthand at the bottom of the story to denote “that’s the end.”
Our orbits diverged, as I gravitated to TV, and she gravitated back to print. Years later, I was back in Sarasota with my radio reporter hat back on. Delighted to rejoin several of the After -30- gang on the beat, including tiny Dora with her raspy cat’s-tongue voice.
She was now on Longboat Key patrol, plugged and wired. Heaven help her competition. I was delighted she wasn’t in radio.
We were both sailors, volunteering at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron, where she could uncurl. A placid skipper, if I remember right. Doing more than her part to keep the place going.
I married and moved away. Dora in that period entered the most perilous portion of her career, now a top dog reporter with little competition. Her coverage of island events was often the only coverage, which can bestow real power.
She sailed those dangerous waters on an even keel for more than a decade. Everybody has an “inside tattoo,” a short statement that lasts your life long. Hers read “responsibility.” Longboat needed her insights, and she gave them in plain English on deadline every week.
Technology evolved around her, from a Bell & Howell wind-up camera to the age of video-on-demand. The physics of moving a story has changed, but telling it hasn’t.
Every reporter we lose is a stilled voice. We need a lot more Doras.
Bring back the birds
Commissioners, now that you have eliminated all but two male peacocks from the Village, it’s time to send your Public Works employees to the farm (where you supposedly sent the one female and numerous hatchlings for the past two years) and round up 10 male peafowl and bring them back to the Village.
In your infinite wisdom and decision to have 12 male peacocks roaming our Village streets, I must agree it was a decision I can live with, though I seldom agree with anything you propose. I will leave that conversation for another time.
So let’s get busy with it and get us our 10 birds that you owe us. After all, it was your decision to start with, so let’s abide by the rules that you have created.
And for those people who can’t stand the peacocks, I couldn’t care less. Live with it. We have to live with you.