Traffic Advertising’s fluffiest employee specializes in tail pitches

Traffic Advertising’s fluffiest employee specializes in tail pitches

Social media specialist Brooke Nolan often uses Lily Bella the Shih-Tzu as inspiration for advertising content.

By Mikayla Lewis

PALM HARBOR, FL – While seated at her desk enjoying her boost of morning caffeine, Brooke Nolan is greeted by a small, fluffy thing: Lily Bella. The elderly Shih-Tzu fueled the inspiration for a day’s worth of social media posts at Traffic Advertising.

Nolan, 22, spends most of her day glued to a bright red iPad, producing social media content for over 13 car dealerships in Florida. She’s been with the company for about a year, continually growing in her own craft and expanding her horizons within the companies she works for.

“Traffic Advertising is a full-service marketing and advertising agency in Palm Harbor, providing clients with a range of services including traditional media buying (such as radio and print), social media marketing, digital marketing, and more. We have clients throughout the country ranging from automotive to hospitality,” said Shana Moran, the digital director at Traffic Advertising.

Nolan starts off the day like most by checking her social media accounts; only, she does this pretty much all day. It sounds like a Gen-Z dream to spend all day browsing Instagram and Facebook, but Nolan puts more effort into the posts she makes than the casual food pictures and filter-ridden selfies that saturate social media platforms.

Nolan has gained a reputation in her office for finding opportunities in the mundane, or areas one might not normally explore.

“I look for inspiration all around me. From national days to other brands’ content, to even music. It’s all about trusting the process,” Nolan said.

Nolan used Lily Bella as her inspiration for a stream of Instagram story posts on Traffic Advertising’s account, serving as an example of how Nolan utilizes her surroundings to create interesting content.

Lily Bella is Traffic Advertising’s fluffiest employee. Courtesy of Brooke Nolan

A lot of Nolan’s posts revolve around relevancy to months or seasons, holidays, current events or trends by creating eye-grabbing visuals. She most often uses Canva to create Instagram and Facebook content – the company currently only works through these two social media platforms, and soon, they will expand to Twitter.

There was a clear shift in content when Nolan started at Traffic Advertising – she goes the extra mile to create interactive content.

“A lot of content creators in the scene have stuck to the old ways, from advertisement strategies, to not putting effort into social media,” Nolan said. “And I came from a background in film and music. Plus, I’m a lot younger for my role, and that allows me to put my own twist on it.”

She brings a creative outlook to the company through her background working in the arts. The current idea she is working on is an adoption event at Volkswagen Wesley Chapel, which only opened a year ago. May is national pet month, making a pet-related event relevant, especially because it’s for a good cause. She plans on using organic posts to boost the event, as well as creating an Instagram filter and reaching out to local animal shelters to collaborate.

Nolan has put time and effort into curating posts for their clients and has had success in promoting and covering events before.

Brooke Nolan, the social media specialist at Traffic Advertising, uses her iPad to do most of her daily tasks. Courtesy of Brooke Nolan

“My most successful post would have to be a family Halloween event I photographed at Hyundai New Port Richey,” Nolan said. “It got a few thousand impressions organically. I also got to see how impactful events are on the community.”

While Nolan is the creative mind behind Traffic Advertising’s content, Dan Consoli acts as a curator of sorts. Consoli is the social media manager and oversees the content before it is put out. He is a first-time social media manager but has worked with social media at other jobs in the past. He works with the budget and manages all social media content before they are posted to clients’ pages.

“My favorite part of my job is creating a well-performing ad with the ever-changing landscape of Facebook Ads Manager,” Consoli. “With Facebook’s updates that seem to come out of nowhere constantly messing with your ads, it feels nice to be up to speed and use those changes to optimize my ads rather than fall prey to them.”

Consoli has also found success in advertising events with Nolan. Together, they created a buy-back event in March for a client.

“It maintained one of the lowest cost-per-result and highest messaging rates that this company has seen in the last few months,” Consoli said.

The social media team at Traffic Advertising composed of Nolan and Consoli reflects the significance of successful advertising and event planning and execution through social media. Creating interactive, eye-grabbing and relevant content is a key component in sales success within an ever-changing, technologically evolved society. As trends ebb and flow, advertisers have to stay on their toes.

Swim trunks and miraculous circumstances

Swim trunks and miraculous circumstances

How borrowing a pair of swim trunks and trying to win back your girlfriend can land you on the front page of The New York Times.

By Sierra Laico

SARASOTA—As he flips through pages of notes, types away on his computer, and scrolls through his phone searching for the right contacts, freelance journalist Isaac Eger forages for his next story.

Being a freelance journalist does not offer a typical day-to-day routine, so shadowing one on any given day may not give you the riveting reporter story you would hope for. But Eger enjoys the creative freedom that working freelance provides. As someone who makes a living from writing articles—he has quite an abnormal view of writing.

“My day consists of lots of phone calls, lots of emails. Like, reaching out to potential subjects. I’d say that there’s a lot less writing than there is anything. I find writing to be incredibly painful—it’s probably my least favorite part of the job, actually,” he said.

Eger did not plan on becoming a journalist. Shortly after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in history from Reed College, Eger says he stumbled upon journalism under extraordinary circumstances. While on his first trip to New York, Eger met Joe Sexton, who was the editor of the sports page of The New York Times, by borrowing his swim trunks. About a year after graduating college and going through a breakup with his girlfriend who told him he was not ambitious enough, Eger set his sights on sports writing.

“To prove to her I was ambitious I was like, ‘I’m going to become a sportswriter,’ because I enjoyed writing and talking about sports. So that’s when I reached out to Joe Sexton, I said ‘Hey, remember me? I borrowed your swim trunks, I’m going to move to New York to become a writer.’ I asked him if he had any advice or anything I could do for him, and he said ‘Come to New York, settle down for a little while, and then we can talk,'” he said.

Eger spent the first month in New York playing basketball around the city, and by the time he met with Sexton, Sexton wanted to hear his basketball tales. After telling him stories, Sexton told him to write them down, which Eger did. After receiving some edits from Sexton, Eger got a call a week later from Sexton telling him to buy a copy of The New York Times—and Eger’s story was on the front page.

“It was funny, I couldn’t really appreciate what had happened because all I wanted to do was win back my girlfriend,” he said.

Isaac Eger often does fieldwork to speak to potential sources for his Florida-based stories. Courtesy of Isaac Eger

Eger has since narrowed his journalism to a more local lens, and for the past few years has been writing for Sarasota Magazine. His passion for local journalism runs in the family, as his mother worked as editor-in-chief of the magazine from 2018 to 2022. Eger says he enjoys working for the magazine because of the personal relationships he has made there and the trust the magazine has in his writing. This has allowed him to take on stories that would otherwise be a tough sell for other publications, such as a recent story he wrote about the September 11th terrorist attacks and its connection to Sarasota—which is where former President George W. Bush was at the time.

Along with the story connecting 9/11 to local roots, Eger has developed a beat writing about environmental issues affecting Florida as well as beach privatization along Florida’s coasts, one of which won multiple local awards, in addition to the national Folio Eddie award in the category of “Single Article, City & Region, Overall” at the prestigious Eddie & Ozzie Awards.

As for his stories about environmental issues affecting Florida, late last year subsequent to the infamous Gabby Petitio disappearance, Eger wrote a story about how the manhunt for Brian Laundrie devastated Venice’s Carlton Reserve.

“Petito and her family are the victims of this sad story, but so is the Carlton Reserve. The depiction of Florida as a wild and untamable landscape couldn’t be farther from the truth,” Eger wrote. “The last slivers of untouched Florida exist only as archipelagos between sprawling sub-developments. Florida does not need to be tamed. Rather, it is in desperate need of re-wilding. If we continue to think of Florida as a hellhole, it’s easier for developers to convince us to pave over it.”

Eger also has a newsletter called “Apocalypse Florida,” where he writes stories about “Florida and the end of the world.” The newsletter, which you can receive for free or by paying a small optional fee, features stories about politics, culture, the environment, and other topics—most of which find roots in Florida.

What could be next for Eger? Eger says he is “going with the flow,” but has a lot of projects in mind, including two book ideas—one about basketball and Buddhism, and the other about Florida—which he eventually wants to walk the entire coast of to continue his research on beach privatization within the state.

The track goes hot despite the rain at Showtime Speedway in Clearwater

The track goes hot despite the rain at Showtime Speedway in Clearwater

By Autumn Reinhardt

With weather predictions of rain and wind, many still showed up to Showtime Speedway to watch the races.

The rain didn’t stop racers and spectators from participating on Saturday night, Feb. 5, 2022, for drag racing and drifting at Showtime Speedway in Clearwater. The event, Street Wars, allows for everyday speed cars such as the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Charger and even a Jeep Trackhawk to show off their skills and race to the finish.

Even with the weather predictions, around 600 people showed and around 300 people stayed and watched the races in the rain.

Drag racing and drifting began around 8 p.m. and ran side by side until the rain began. For safety reasons with the weather, drag racing was shut down around 9 p.m., but drifting continued throughout the night.

“I’ve been here for nine years and I enjoy racing. There are a lot of good people out here. We don’t see many serious wrecks,” said Rick Wendling, a paramedic at Showtime.

Racers and spectators braved the rain for the “Street Wars” event at Showtime Speedway in Clearwater.

Many safety measures are taken for drivers including seatbelts, helmets, fire suits and roll cages

“We’re motorsports rescue certified, which covers the NHRA,” Wendling said.

The track enforces the equipment to be up to code, or the drivers will not earn points or payout and will be disqualified, according to Showtime.

The NHRA was founded in 1951 by Wally Parks. Parks’ goal was to “provide competitors a place to race,” according to the NHRA. Drag racing has evolved over the years; top performers ran at 140 mph in 9.0 seconds in the 1950s and now run over 330 mph in less than 3.7 seconds.

Showtime, a member of the NHRA and formerly known as Sunshine Speedway, opened its doors in 1960, just nine years after the NHRA was established. Generations of families have been racing here for years.

“My parents met at Showtime and have been together ever since. I grew up coming here a lot and it caused me to start racing too. I started in junior dragsters when I was 10, then I moved to big cars when I turned 16. My car is a full chassis roll cage car with a 302 small block,” Jamie Brannen a local drag racer, said.

Showtime has continued to entertain the community for years with races and events almost every weekend of each month. For more information and a schedule of events visit ShowtimeSpeedway.us.

A rainy race night at Showtime Speedway in Clearwater | Photos by Autumn Reinhardt

New ‘2D restaurant’ arrives in Orlando; another planned for St. Petersburg

New ‘2D restaurant’ arrives in Orlando; another planned for St. Petersburg

By Kassandra Vargas

Florida’s first 2D restaurant has opened in Orlando, and more are opening across the state.

A 2D restaurant is a restaurant that is decorated with black and white decor to give the illusion and experience that customers are entering a book, cartoon or doodle.

A 2D restaurant was featured in Netflix’s “To All the Boys: Always And Forever In Real Life” at a cafe in South Korea known as Greem Cafe. 2D restaurants are common in Asian countries and those designs have inspired the trend to come to America.

Twenty Pho Hour in Orlando is America’s first 2D noodle bar and the menu offers a variety of items from egg rolls, dumplings, boba, noodles and much more. The cafe has gone viral on TikTok and has sparked an interest to many across the state.

“I saw the video and I was like oh I might need to go check that out,” Miles Franklin said.

The noodle bar is on International Drive near many tourist attractions in town. Since the viral success, the restaurant usually has a wait, but takeout options are also available.

The restaurant has tablets inside to place your order and the food comes out as soon as it’s ready. Indoor and outdoor seating options are available, and the restaurant is open every day of the week.

St. Petersburg is dipping into the 2D experience in a couple of weeks with the opening of the 2D Cafe. The cafe is going to be in the former Swah-Rey location on Central Avenue and provides a similar experience.

The @the2Dcafe on Instagram has provided a sneak peek to their followers on the design process of the establishment. Menu items that you can expect are coffee, pastries, croissants and more. The cafe expects to open in late February or early March.

As more 2D restaurants open across the state, they will provide a unique and Instagram-worthy experience to customers who visit.

Courtesy of Twenty Pho Hour/Instagram

Planting a dream in Riverhills Park in Temple Terrace

Planting a dream in Riverhills Park in Temple Terrace

By Julia Lorelli

TAMPA – Many people in the Tampa Bay area use Riverhills Park as a peaceful escape. The 10-acre park offers an array of different amenities. Then in 2012, a few eager community members put their minds together for a solution in sustainability by founding the Temple Terrace Community Garden.

The main founders and leaders are Elizabeth Leib, Travis Mallory, Grant Rimbey and Steve McBride. Quickly joined by others who were anxious to start gardening, their dreams began to bloom.

The members put their own money into the project and wrote a few small grants for tools and supplies. Tapping into local resources, they were able to get soil and compost for free, “well if you don’t count the sweat equity they put into getting it,” said Cheri Donohue, a loyal member since the start.

The City of Temple Terrace gave them the rights to garden the plot at Riverhills Park. The community garden had to invest in the plumbing and pays for all the water used.

Tools, compost and advice for gardening are also readily available for all. From green thumbs to green heads of cabbage, this community garden is equipped with all the necessities for success.

“This is a wonderful place for new gardeners to begin,” said MaryRose, one garden member who swears she beat cancer from the power of plants.

Tools, compost and advice for gardening are also readily available for all. From green thumbs to green heads of cabbage, the Temple Terrace Community Garden is equipped with all the necessities for success. | Photo by Julia Lorelli

The garden is accessible through a yearly membership of $10 with garden beds available for $35.

Fruit trees surround the perimeter of the garden so most members grow seasonal vegetables. Occasionally a newsletter is sent by the club coordinator to encourage members with tips and tricks for harvesting, what vegetables to plant during each season, natural pest control and volunteer opportunities.

“I am still in love with the idea of neighbors coming together to grow not only healthy food but to pass on their knowledge about best garden practices,” Donohue said.

To learn more information about the community garden visit the Tempe Terrace Community Gardens website or email Shelby Alinsky at sdalinsky813@gmail.com.

Amid tensions over COVID-19 restrictions, Disney World brings back mask requirements

As COVID-19 continues to surge within the U.S., one health care worker shared her thoughts on visiting theme parks amid the ongoing pandemic.
Courtesy of Unsplash.com | Joe Burbank

By Madison Jackson

USFSP Student Reporter

One of the happiest places on Earth also can’t seem to ignore the world is still dealing with a pandemic.

Walt Disney World decided in June to again require face coverings indoors, regardless if they are vaccinated. However, wearing a face covering in an outside setting remains optional but encouraged in crowded areas.

“As we have done since reopening, we’ve been very intentional and gradual in our approach to our COVID-19 health and safety protocols,” Disney mentioned in a previous statement, also adding, “We encourage people to get vaccinated.”

Disney’s policies were updated to reflect ongoing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some of the new health and safety protocols at Disney include:

● Face coverings are required for all guests (ages 2 and up) in all indoor locations, regardless of vaccination status.
● Easy access to handwashing facilities and hand sanitizer dispensers.
● Limited availability within each of the theme parks, as managed by a park reservation system.

While some still debate the COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC and other health leaders around the world continue to advocate for everyone who can get the shot to slow the spread of coronavirus. The first COVID-19 vaccine to get full FDA approval was from Pfizer-BioNTech, which was originally allowed under an emergency use authorization.

Still, only about 53.2% of Americans are fully vaccinated, and about 53.2% of Floridians are fully vaccinated, according to the World Health Organization and data from the Florida Department of Health.

As cases in the United States and in Florida continue to rise, especially that of the highly contagious delta variant, the CDC and other world health leaders say it is more important now than ever to keep social distancing and wearing face coverings even if you are fully vaccinated.

The surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths due to the delta variant has weighed especially heavy on front-line health care workers.

“It has become incredibly stressful at work. I literally go to work all day, sleep a few hours, and then go back,” said Gina Finch, a frontline worker at Baycare Mease Countryside Hospital in Clearwater. “Especially because we are worried about a new surge of cases due to the summer break and with children going back to school … I strongly urge everyone to get vaccinated.”

While dealing with the overwhelming surge of COVID-19 cases as a health professional, Finch is also a Disney lover and has been a Disney World pass holder for a few years. She expressed uncertainty about the safety of visiting theme parks because of the high potential for large crowds.

“I love Disney World as much as anyone else and I definitely try to go there when I can,” she said. “However, I don’t know if now is that great of a time to be enjoying large gatherings like a theme park. Personally, I haven’t gone since the new spike in cases. This virus is dangerous, and people need to wake up and realize this is all real and shouldn’t be taken lightly.”

Florida, currently, is a huge hot spot for rising COVID-19 cases. Because of this, Florida has also become a political battleground over what kind of restrictions should be in place, especially within private companies and in schools.

Recently, the mayor of Orange County, where Disney World is located, announced an executive order declaring a state of local emergency in response to a surge in cases. Meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis remains opposed to mandating many restrictions related to the pandemic.

“I think that those who are fully vaccinated are probably okay going to Disney. Do I think it’s completely safe? No. But as long as everyone who is vaccinated continues to protect themselves by washing their hands, social distancing, and wearing a mask are most likely okay. I don’t think unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people should be going there, but I guess it’s their choice. To me, it just seems too risky,” Finch said.

Finch advised people to be more cautious as the number of cases continues to tick up. While many want to get back to a sense of normalcy, Finch said “acting like everything is back to normal is just not helping.”

“Our hospitals are filling up with patients quickly. Just the other day we had a 17-year-old who was doing okay at first, but we had to airlift him to another hospital because he wasn’t able to breathe,” she said.

USF student engineering societies are back in workshops and racing to compete

By Annabella Keim

USFSP Student Reporter

TAMPA – After a year and a half shut down, societies of student engineers at the University of South Florida are finally back and working on several new and innovative automotive and aerospace projects.

Reece Ulmer, a senior at USF Tampa, is the Society of Automotive Engineers’ lead designer for the base frame, otherwise known as the chassis. Their 2021-2022 car body has already been manufactured and will have a four-cylinder engine compared to their previous
build’s single cylinder.

Students are now preparing the suspension, and Ulmer estimated the entire vehicle will be complete within a couple of month’s time, ready for participation in
Formula SAE competitions across North America.

“If you refine your designs and you talk to a lot of people on the team, you can bounce ideas off of each other,” Ulmer said. “It’s pretty much all student taught, it’s just the application of knowledge.”

The Society of Automotive Engineers does quite a bit of in-house production at its workshop on campus. In order to efficiently create a vehicle from scratch, the team created different subsystems within the group that focus on a specific aspect of the car: chassis, suspension, breaks, powertrain, drivetrain, ergonomics, composites and aerodynamics. Each subsystem has its own team of students dedicated to designing, testing and manufacturing the creation.

“Once that geometry is set, everything is pretty much ready to get bolted on and attached. And then, it’s just about refining the work that we’ve already done and finding ways to improve it the best we can after that,” Ulmer said.

The small, formula-style racing cars are taken to the Formula SAE annual competition where the project will compete against 120, and indirectly against more than 500 other student-created vehicles. This year’s competition is in Michigan.

Due to the pandemic, all manufacturing stopped because students were not able to be in the shop. All of the activities had to move over to the group’s Discord server, which only allowed for designing and deliberations. Trying to stay motivated, Ulmer said, was the most challenging part of meeting virtually.

The student-led Society of Automotive Engineers, in collaboration with the Society of Aeronautics and Rocketry, hosted a racing and rocketry showcase at the USF Tampa campus on Sept. 2.

This event gave students the opportunity to see and catch up on the progress of each society’s innovative engineering projects. In the past, the Society of Automotive Engineers has placed sixth place overall at the Formula SAE Lincoln and placed favorably in other categories like endurance and fuel efficiency. The Society of Aeronautics and Rocketry has also participated in several different NASA student competitions.

Alumni from each society are often sought out by engineering giants such as SpaceX and General Motors. Companies like Optimum G, Continental, Stewart-Haas Racing and Raytheon Space all have hired USF SAE alumni in the past. SpaceX even filters their applicants based on their involvement with SAE.

No matter your major, all students are welcome at the Society of Automotive Engineers and the Society of Aeronautics and Rocketry. Interested students are also welcome to come to the Society of Automotive Engineers workshop located at the USF Tampa campus engineering research building to see some welding and learn more about cars.

To learn more about aerospace engineering, come to the Society of Aeronautics and Rocketry’s payload meetings for the NASA Student Launch every Tuesday and Wednesday at 5 PM in the ENR building at USF Tampa. For more information join the SOAR Slack page at usfsoar.slack.com.

Traveling front-line worker finds escape in Tampa and St. Petersburg amid pandemic

Traveling front-line worker finds escape in Tampa and St. Petersburg amid pandemic

By David Melhorn

USFSP Student Reporter

TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG – Traveling nurse Halle Pinizzotto knows that the pandemic is plaguing Florida, but this did not deter her from accepting an offer to fill a position at Tampa General Hospital.

“I’ve always known that I wanted to be a nurse,” Pinizzotto said. “I went to a specialized high school that offers a Health Sciences program. I just knew that I wanted to help people to the best of my ability. When the opportunity presented itself, I was more than ready to go to Florida. I’ve never been to the area, and to be able to do my job with the beach not far away was clearly enticing enough to solidify my decision.”

Pinizzotto works in the ICU at Tampa General Hospital primarily with coronavirus patients with high oxygen requirements and the critically ill. She has worked two out of her three-month contract with Tampa General Hospital.

According to reporting from the Tampa Bay Times, Florida has reported 3,409,165 coronavirus cases with 48,722 deaths due to the coronavirus as of Sept. 17, 2021.

“The truth is most of us are exhausted,” Pinizzotto said when asked how morale is in the hospitals. “But the reward of taking care of a patient and seeing them improve keeps us going.”

After changing into her isolation scrubs and donning her protective equipment, Pinizzotto typically reviews orders, labs and medications before proceeding to check the patients’ IV drips, ensuring that they are full and braces for the ensuing shift.

“We are spread very thin. So not only are we in unsafe circumstances because of the raging coronavirus all around us, we are unable to provide the care we would like to because we have more patients than safe and limited resources. Maintaining your morale is difficult with so much sadness around,” Pinizzotto said.

Tampa General Hospital is a 1,041-bed non-profit research and academic medical center located on Davis Island in Tampa. TGH was recognized as one of America’s Best Hospitals by U.S. News & World Report 2021-22 according to the hospital’s website.

A Tampa Bay Times reporter recently spent 12 hours in a COVID-19 ICU ward in Clearwater, documenting what nurses and other hospital staff experience on a daily basis. The report also detailed how health leaders are seeing nurses feeling demoralized, exhausted, and frustrated over still having to deal with people who will not wear a mask or get vaccinated.

It has become increasingly frustrating for healthcare professionals such as Pinizzotto, who continues to work herself to exhaustion every day and witness the coronavirus firsthand, only to come home and see friends on social media debating the seriousness of the pandemic.

“I would urge them to talk to someone who is seeing it firsthand,” Pinizzotto said. “I don’t even have the energy for people like that anymore because it is truly exhausting to see people dying all around you and people tell you that it’s not real or that you’re lying about it. I’ll never be able to express the sadness and trauma that I will carry around the rest of my life because of working in the COVID-19 ICU for the last year and a half. It won’t get better if people don’t start doing their part. Until then, people will keep being hospitalized and dying and eventually the health care workers will be so burnt-out people will be lucky if hospitals ever have adequate staffing or safe conditions/patient ratios ever again.”

Pinizzotto is no stranger to going to states that are surging with coronavirus cases. Before Tampa, she was assigned to a hospital in Dallas, Texas, which is flooded with new daily coronavirus cases much like Tampa. Pinizzotto is from New Jersey and worked in Arizona before Texas. She graduated with a nursing degree from Widener University in Pennsylvania in 2016.

“One thing that has shocked me about working in Florida the most is the lack of vaccinated people including those in the healthcare profession. What has also shocked me is that this place is all about freedom, but marijuana isn’t legal,” Pinizzotto said. “The biggest difference working in Florida compared to other states is that Florida protects their healthcare providers well (as far as I have seen) from violence in the workplace more seriously. However, they don’t compensate the nurses as well for how hard they work you the way that northern and far western hospitals have done. This is also noted anytime you tell a recruiter you want to work in Florida- they warn you about this.”

With the constant stress and sadness, Pinizzotto urges people to find a way to cope and unwind. Pinizzotto knows that there is much to do in the area and tries to experience as much of it as she can after recovering from a grueling work shift.

“I have been so impressed with the area. I find myself trying to convince all my friends to visit here. From the beaches to the bars to the people, the vibe here just feels very genuine to me,” Pinizzotto said.

Some of her favorite experiences in the area include John’s Pass, Downtown St. Pete, Whiskey Joe’s, Teak at St. Pete Pier and Oystercatchers in Tampa.

“If I had to convince someone to move here, I would take them to St. Pete Beach and Downtown during the day with dinner on the St. Pete Pier. I would tell them about the beautiful beaches around the area and cool bars and restaurants to try. It’s also just full of beauty with the bay, water, trees, parks, and wildlife,” Pinizzotto said. “Florida is a lawless place. People are allowed to do almost anything they want, and I understand why that is desirable. I am in love with the beach towns all around. People seem happy here.”

When asked if there were still something she would like to do before she leaves Pinizzotto said, “Tiki hut boat bar ride at John’s Pass, Siesta Key Beach, and Bern’s Steakhouse.”

Pinizzotto could not find many things she dislikes about Florida. When I asked, she only said, “I don’t know… gators!? Significant less money but it’s a great destination. Lastly, no one is vaccinated.”

Halle Pinizzotto, center, is a traveling nurse who has spent the last two months in Tampa and St. Petersburg amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

A calm voice in a frenzied time

Rob Lorei News
Gabby Dacosta | USFSP
Rob Lorei, shown delivering local news, helped found WMNF 40 years ago.

By GABBY DACOSTA
USFSP Student Reporter

TAMPA – As the morning news played on a nearby television and music streamed over the radio, Rob Lorei sat behind piles of newspapers and books, clicking away on his computer as he gathered the latest news to share with listeners.

As news director of Tampa based radio station WMNF-FM 88.5 and host of an hour-long show called “Radioactivity,” Lorei focuses on breaking news and what he calls “local shake-ups.”

“If the highway is shut down, I want to tell them about it,” said Lorei, 65.

He and six others founded the station 40 years ago. After working at his campus radio station at Antioch College in Ohio, he heard about efforts to start a community radio station in Tampa and came south to help in 1978.

“I knew Tampa didn’t have one and I wanted to bring a positive impact,” Lorei said.

He and the other founders started the station on the second floor of an old house with a few dollars and a lot of determination. There was virtually no equipment.

WMNF first went on air in September 1979. As a community radio station, it relies on grants and listeners’ donations – not commercials – to stay on the air with a mix of public affairs programming and varied music.

Even its call letters are distinct. WMNF stands for Member-sponsored Non-commercial FM.

With much of its budget coming from listeners, WMNF encourages its audience to interact with the station in many ways.

During his “Radioactivity” program on Nov. 15, Lorei spoke with Michael Mann, a climatologist and geophysicist who is director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. Mann spoke about how burning fossil fuels for energy and transportation affect climate change.

Listeners were able to call in and ask Mann questions themselves.

And throughout the program, listeners called in to share their own opinions on everything from climate change and veganism to the Donald Trump’s impeachment proceedings.

Listeners can also leave a voice mail sharing their opinions on the show or what was discussed and have it played during the next broadcast.

“It’s a way for people to give feedback so it’s not only a one-way communication,” said Lorei, who interviews guests respectfully and chats with callers in a calm voice.

Rob Lorei Sound Bite
Gabby Dacosta | USFSP
Lorei records a sound bite for his weekly program on public television’s WEDU.

Lorei shared his appreciation for the station’s listeners when describing his most memorable days at WMNF.

After funding for the station was cut, WMNF asked listeners to donate. Lorei said that they raised more than $100,000 in one day.

When the station staged a fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, more than 100,000 people donated, he said.

“When you attract those type of viewers, you know you’re doing something good,” Lorei said.

Lorei is also a managing editor and debate moderator of a weekly panel discussion on WEDU-TV called “Florida This Week.”

It is the longest running news and political affairs program in west-central Florida. It welcomes journalists, community leaders and political insiders to discuss important stories from the week.

Every Friday the show is prerecorded and then broadcast at 8:30 p.m. on WEDU.

Over the years, Lorei has moderated a number of political debates on TV. On TV and radio, he has interviewed countless public figures, including former presidents, governors, senators and authors.

Earlier this year, Lorei himself became a figure in the news.

He was fired from WMNF in February 2019 by station manager Craig Kopp, who cited low ratings, programming that offended Jewish audience, and Lorei’s reluctance to use Facebook.

Lorei was reinstated the following month after public outcry and a drop in listener pledges. Kopp resigned shortly afterward.

She’s back, in a different role

Trinity Nelson
Courtesy Trinity Nelson
At first, says Trinity Nelson, she was nervous about supervising former schoolmates.

By KIARA SORIANO
USFSP Student Reporter

TARPON SRINGS – Still only 17, Trinity Nelson graduated from Tarpon Springs High School last May and is already one semester short of an online associate degree in early childhood education at St. Petersburg College.

But every weekday morning finds Nelson back at her old high school, this time in a different role.

She is the lead teacher at a preschool on campus, overseeing the activities of 11 children ages 3 through 5 and directing the work of 86 high school students who help with the teaching.

The Little Spongers Preschool is one of three community preschool programs affiliated with the Pinellas County school district. It has been at Tarpon High for 30 years, serving little ones in the community, including a few who are children of Tarpon High teachers.

Students enrolled in the high school’s early childhood education program get experience and training in the preschool, and when they graduate they have the state-required credentials to enter the early childhood workforce.

Nelson, herself a product of the school’s program, had a close relationship with director Jason Ranze during her time at Tarpon High.

“I’ve been volunteering at my old elementary school for years and Ranze knew this, so once I graduated, he offered me the job since his other teacher had just left,” said Nelson.

“Trinity has been in my class since her freshman year and she’s a great student, so I knew that she would be great for this job since I trust her,” said Ranze.

The 86 high school students who help in the preschool are divided among five class periods. Nelson helps them develop lesson plans and keep up with their own classwork.

“When I first started working here, I was kind of nervous,” said Nelson. “I didn’t know how to be the boss of people that I know and went to school with, but I think I’ve gotten better as the months have gone by.”

The Little Spongers Preschool operates on a Tuesday-to-Friday schedule. On Mondays, Nelson prepares for the upcoming week and assists student teachers who need help, while also squeezing in time for her college homework when she can.

A Friday morning at the preschool starts at 8 for Nelson. That gives her a few minutes before the school opens at 8:30 to go over her plans for the day. Then she stands at the door greeting the preschool students and their parents as they enter.

Since it was a Friday, both the high school and preschool students seemed excited about the weekend ahead. A few of the parents stopped to talk to Nelson as they bid their children goodbye, and she made sure to greet every preschooler as they put their belongings down.

Nelson observes the student teachers as they teach lessons that fall under the weekly theme of animals and interjects if a preschool student needs assistance. After the class period ends and new student teachers enter, Nelson leads both sets of students through circle time as songs are introduced and the preschoolers learn about the calendar and telling time.

When the bell rings for high school lunch period, the children are having nap time. Nelson reverts to her high school student days.

“Since my friends still go here since they’re seniors, we usually all get together and eat lunch since this is the only time we get to see each other during the day,” she said.

After high school lunch, it’s time to wake up the children for their lunch. Nelson helps her assistants put sandwiches, milk, and fruit cups onto trays that are handed out to the kids.

After lunch comes the last activity and everyone’s favorite time of day: playtime. Nelson sits with a student in her lap on the small playground and makes sure that everyone stays safe as they run around having fun.

After outside time, the preschool students return to await the arrival of their parents after a brief closing activity. One by one, Nelson bids each child goodbye until next week.

Then she spends about 20 minutes recapping the day with the director before departing for home.