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Siesta Key Thursday, Jul. 14, 2011 7 years ago

Pelican Press going back to its roots

by: Matt Walsh Editor & CEO

Greetings, Pelican Press readers and advertisers.

This edition of the Pelican Press marks the completed transition of the Pelican Press’ ownership from Milwaukee-based Journal Community Publishing Group to our company, The Observer Group Inc., locally owned and publisher of the Sarasota Observer, Longboat Observer, East County Observer and Gulf Coast Business Review and the Palm Coast Observer on the east coast of Florida.

Our staff of 75 is excited about the opportunity to build on the Pelican Press’ outstanding 40-year tradition of serving this community.

Straight away, you’re going to see some changes this week. They are not dramatic, but they no doubt may ruffle longtime Pelican Press readers who have come to view this community newspaper with the same affection as that favorite pair of old shoes — those comfy, trusted shoes that are an everyday part of your life.

Before long, our hope is that you still will feel that way — and then some — about the Pelican Press. That’s our challenge.

We’re energized to take it on.

One step in that direction is this: We’re taking the Pelican Press back to its founding roots — the community newspaper and primary source of news and information about Siesta Key and for Siesta Key residents and business owners.

Those roots go back to March 1971 when a young pharmacist and his wife, John and Elizabeth Davidson, published the first edition of The Key News to the Key, the precursor to the Siesta Key Pelican, which later became what you know today as the Pelican Press.

In their first edition, the Davidsons articulated part of their rationale for starting their six-page, tabloid-size paper:

“Siesta Key can no longer be called a rustic tropic Key just a stone’s throw from the city of Sarasota. However, we like to think we are a very special place with a very special brand of people who support the things which add to the quality of life.”

Those words still ring true today about Siesta Key and its residents. Little has changed in the 40 years.

And just as the Davidsons filled their little newspaper with folksy, homespun articles that focused on the comings and goings on Siesta Key, we see that as one of our aims as well.

In fact, we see one of our challenges with the Pelican Press similar to that of our sister paper on Longboat Key: to give the Pelican Press the feel, voice and content of a friendly, small-town chronicler of local people and local happenings, while at the same time providing the Pelican Press’ smart, accomplished readers with the kind of sophisticated news reporting they deserve.

We believe we can do it. And we will — accurately, professionally, passionately.

Be assured, we are not abandoning one of the trademarks of the Pelican Press over the past 15 to 20 years — that is its award-winning and aggressive, illuminating coverage of Sarasota County and Sarasota city government. We are committed to continuing to serve as a watchdog for taxpayers — in print and online.

To this end, the Pelican Press and Sarasota Observer will share two highly competent government reporters from the Sarasota and Longboat Observer staffs. Robin Roy, city editor for the Sarasota Observer, will serve as county editor for the Pelican and Sarasota Observer, while Kurt Schultheis, city editor at the Longboat Observer the past five years, will cover the city of Sarasota for both papers. Their leader will be Pelican Press Managing Editor Rachel Hackney, who in addition to that role, will continue as the Pelican Press’ eyes and ears on Siesta Key.

The Pelican Press and Sarasota Observer also will share the talents of Sarasota Observer staffers, including Community Editor Loren Mayo; Arts & Entertainment Editor Heidi Kurpiela; and Black Tie Editor Molly Schechter. They have anchored the Observers’ “Diversions,” the arts and entertainment section that the Suburban Newspapers of America recognized last year as the top entertainment section among weeklies in the United States and Canada.

For advertisers, we have combined the sales staffs of the Pelican Press and Observers. If your business needs a professional to help you attract customers, we have the pros to advise you and the design staff to create your message — for print and online.

More important, we have the audience coverage advertisers want to reach. The combined Pelican Press and Sarasota Observer — which is one purchase for advertisers — has a weekly distribution of 30,500 copies in the off season.

If you include the Longboat Observer with the Pelican and Sarasota Observer, the three papers combined have a weekly circulation of 43,000. For comparison, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s distribution in the same coverage area totals 45,746 on Sundays, 38,850 on weekdays.

If we add in the East County Observer, the Observer Group papers have weekly distribution of 63,000. That tops the Herald-Tribune’s 57,452 in the same area.

As we said at the outset, joining forces with the Pelican Press is a great opportunity. We’re charged up. Don’t hesitate to let us hear how we can do better.

Contact Matt Walsh at [email protected].

When John and Elizabeth Davidson published the first edition of The Key News to the Key, one of the tiny boxed articles on page 5 of the six-page paper said:
Special Notice
“We have our ears to the ground but we may not hear it all, so if you have any news, tidbits about yourself, your friends or the Key, please contact us.”

That same message holds true today. Contact Rachel Brown Hackney at the Pelican Press at 349-4949 or email her at [email protected].


• The layout and design of the Pelican Press has been modified to adopt the headline and text fonts used in the Observers. The Observers consistently have been reocognized for their attractive design and readability.
• We have lengthened the paper by an inch and a half to improve visual impact.

• The Pelican Press will continue its tradition of providing aggressive, watchdog coverage of the Sarasota County Commission and Sarasota City Commission. This coverage will be shared and published in the Pelican Press and Sarasota Observer.
• The Pelican also is going back to its roots, re-emphasizing local news, events and people coverage on Siesta Key. If you want to find out what’s going on Siesta Key, the Pelican Press will be the most authoritative and trustyworthy source.
• Pelican Press readers also will begin receiving “Diversions,” the nationally recognized arts, entertainment and society section published weekly in the Sarasota and Longboat Observers.
• We have upgraded the weekly crossword puzzle.
• The opinion page is shifting its politico-economic philosophy to that of The Observer Group’s newspapers, embracing the principals of individual freedom and capitalism and Austrian economics; and the founding principles of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
• Readers will see some new features and columnists (i.e. cartoonist Jorge Blanco’s “The Castaway”), replacing several of the Pelican’s previous columnists. Many of the decisions to discontinue columnists were economic.
• The Pelican Press online content and advertising will be integrated into, judged Florida’s best website among weekly newspapers. Any searches for will be directed to Look for the “Siesta Key” button at the top of the page.

• The combined distribution of the Pelican Press and Sarasota Observer will be 31,000 in the off season.
• Prior to this week, the distribution of the Pelican Press and Sarasota Observer almost overlapped 100%, with each distributing between 22,000 and 30,000 papers. The Pelican Press’ distribution is being refocused primarily on Siesta Key and in Gulf Gate, with a weekly distribution of 8,500. Almost 6,000 of that will be free home delivery.
• The Sarasota Observer’s distribution will total 21,500 weekly. It will be distributed primarily on the mainland, from the Asolo down to Osprey and Casey Key and from the bay east to Interstate 75. About half will be home delivery in selected zip codes, the other half in targeted commercial locations.
• If you would like free delivery of the Sarasota Observer or Pelican Press to your home or business, contact Donna Condon, 941-366-3468. She will determine whether your address is eligible.
• Pelican Press and Sarasota Observer advertisers will get two for one. All advertisements in the Pelican Press also will appear in the Sarasota Observer.
• Altogether, Pelican Press and Sarasota Observer advertisers will reach more than 65,000 readers a week.

• Pelican Press: 349-4949.
• Observer Group headquarters: 366-3468. 


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