30 December 2011

The sun sets on 2011 and the dawn of 2012

As 2011 fades into the sunset and 2012 rises at dawn, I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year! In Spanish, Feliz Año Nuevo! In Slovenian, Srečno novo leto! And in German, Glückliches neues Jahr!

If any year was newsworthy, 2011 was it. We started out 2011 here in St. Petersburg with the unfortunate loss of three St. Petersburg Police Officers and the funeral services that followed. Right as the funeral for Officer David Crawford was wrapping up another horrific news story was in the making across the bay in Tampa, and I watched the events unfold on Bay News 9: The horrific murder of Beau and Calyx Schenecker at the hands of their mother, Julie Schenecker.

Later on down the road in 2011 the Space Shuttle program came to an end with the launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis. I remember very well when the Space Shuttle program started in 1981 and the horrific explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986; in fact, I was just coming out of classes at St. Petersburg College for the day and I was on my way home when I heard on the radio in my car that the Space Shuttle exploded after liftoff.

And we can't forget the biggest news story of 2011: Casey Anthony, found not guilty in the death of her 2-year old daughter, Caylee. The trial, held in Orlando for seven weeks, had a jury that had to come from Pinellas County due to the extensive pre-trial publicity. I was watching bits and pieces of the Casey Anthony trial on Bay News 9 at home, especially the closing arguments, and I thought Casey Anthony would be found guilty either as charged or on a lesser charge. I was at work watching Bay News 9 in the conference room next to my office when the verdict was read: Not guilty. The only offenses that Casey was guilty of was the four counts of lying to law enforcement.

I was shocked to see a not guilty verdict. There was a major uproar over the verdict after it was read; the Pinellas County jurors were fearing for their lives which is why the names of the jurors were not released for a few months. Unfortunately, this is how the American system of justice works.

We also have seen the end of a tradition which was on WMNF 88.5 FM for 25+ years: The end of the Polka Party Express, which aired its last show on Sunday, 20 March 2011. According to a blog entry I wrote earlier this year when the Polka Party Express pulled out of the station for the last time, it felt like the day when Amtrak pulled out of St. Petersburg for good in 1984.

Moreover, we also lost a Slovenian polka music legend on 29 September 2011: Lojze Slak. I enjoyed his music all the time, especially when it was played regularly on the Polka Party Express. My favorite Lojze Slak tune of all time? Glas Harmonike.

And we can't forget the first ever national test of the Emergency Alert System on 9 November 2011, which took place at 2 PM Eastern Time. The test from what I understand was far from perfect: The audio was garbled or hard to hear depending on what station you were tuned to as well as stations not even getting the test in the first place. If we want a better national warning system, it needs to be fixed.

Remember the reliable Emergency Broadcast System that served its purpose from 1963 to 1997? If you were growing up in that era (especially from the late 1960's onward) and you were watching Saturday morning cartoons, during commercial break a scary slide came on - sometimes with the Civil Defense symbol - and the infamous "this is a test" and the dreaded two-tone signal. Luckily, the Emergency Broadcast System did not have to be activated on a national scale, with the only exception being the EBS mishap in 1971.

So, if any year was newsworthy (other than the St. Petersburg Times writing scare stories about house values and the real estate crisis, thank you Mark Puente), 2011 was it. Did I mention the St. Petersburg Times?

When 2012 dawns come Sunday, 1 January 2012 the St. Petersburg Times will be known under a new name: The Tampa Bay Times. To me, this is a mistake. Why?

Let me set the record straight:

1. Tampa Bay is not only a body of water, it is the name of the region that encompasses two cities, St. Petersburg and Tampa, and within two counties, Pinellas and Hillsborough.

2. Tampa Bay is not a city, period.

3. We St. Petersburg residents have been accustomed to and know our daily newspaper as the St. Petersburg Times. This assures our identity as a city for well over 100 years.

4. We St. Petersburg residents are not part of Tampa nor Hillsborough County. In fact, it is the St. Petersburg Times that championed the cause for the creation of Pinellas County from the western part of Hillsborough County in 1912. In 2012 we celebrate 100 years of being a county separate and apart.

5. St. Petersburg slowly loses its identity as a city. We have been known by plenty of other monikers over the years such as God's Waiting Room among other things. Add to that the recent article in Men's Health about St. Petersburg being the most saddest city in America.

Don't the editors at Men's Health Magazine have something else to write about instead of labeling St. Petersburg in a negative spotlight? After all, depression knows no boundaries.

The St. Petersburg Times may be changing its name to the Tampa Bay Times come Sunday, 1 January 2012. However, it will continue to be the St. Petersburg Times in my book.

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