Hey Neighbors! As LkldNow’s newest full-time reporter, I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself to you. I am one of you – a Lakeland resident who loves this community and all it has to offer.
I grew up here on the southernmost side of town, almost at the corner of Shepherd and Lunn roads. My neighbors, brother and I played in and explored the woods around Poley Creek, rode our bikes and their Big Wheel on our dirt road, and spent endless hours swimming in our pool.
I attended Medulla Elementary, where one of my classmates – Gale Ivey MacLeod – is now the principal. Then I went to Lakeland Highlands Junior High, where my favorite times were the hours spent in Preston Stafford’s art classroom.
I graduated from Kathleen Senior High School, where I took every science class I could from the now-legendary Ed Vetter. I even babysat for him and his beautiful wife, Lana. I have fond memories of giving a weekly speech in Linda Privett’s honor’s English class, diagramming sentences in Mildred Nailing’s honors English class and of all the novels I read in Beth Johnson’s AP English class.
It was in Mrs. Knight’s journalism class that I first met LkldNow’s founder and publisher, Barry Friedman; he came to talk with us as a new and very young editor at The Ledger.
Watching Channel 13 one evening during high school, I sat up and leaned in when a reporter ran (backwards, as I recall) down the federal courthouse steps in Tampa to question three county commissioners about taking bribes. And that’s when a spark ignited and I thought, “I want to do what that reporter is doing.” Holding officials accountable is something I have done throughout my career, from stories on a congresswoman helping herself to campaign donations to a School Board grappling with books some deem inappropriate.
Many of you might recognize my name – like Barry, I worked at The Ledger. It is a paper I grew up reading and one I like to call my first journalism teacher. I remember reading about the Vietnam War, the Jonestown mass suicide, and the Sri Lankan civil war in The Ledger.
The paper brought the world into my kitchen. And then I went out into the world. I got a job as a Cypress Gardens Southern Belle and worked my way through Polk Community College. Then I earned a B.A. in history at Florida State University. After graduation, I got a job working for Israeli Television’s English News. As an anchor and reporter, I covered the Gulf Crisis and then the Gulf War, watching SCUD missiles rain down on Tel Aviv. I’ve also traveled extensively – 31 countries on six continents – most recently to the United Arab Emirates in March.
I wound up in Washington, D.C., where I covered Congress and the White House for a small wire service, States News Service. The pay was low, but the young staff was great. And that was when I got to work with Barry for the first time. States contracted with the Florida papers that were owned by the New York Times, including The Ledger. Barry was a thoughtful editor, who always discussed any changes he made. He also talked a lot about his daughters, Laurel and Amelia, and his wife, Sharon. I felt like I knew them long before I met them.
I eventually left States and D.C., freelancing in Haiti and Iraq for Associated Press Radio, and then in South Florida for The Miami Herald and as a writer for WSVN television in Miami. Then I reported for a television station in Tallahassee, covering local news, the Legislature and Election 2000 – yes, THAT presidential election.
I have also reported on the Space Coast for Florida Today newspaper and then worked for The Gainesville Sun. My career has seen two stints in public relations – first for Habitat for Humanity at their international headquarters in Americus, Ga., and then at the University of Florida. I taught art for a year at a small elementary school in North Florida. I loved the children but I thought their germs might actually kill me at one point — and that was long before COVID.
In the last 25 years, I have written a book on astronaut Lisa Nowak’s criminal case, “Star Crossed,” and on a friend’s life-after-death experiences in “The Book of Tom.” I also wrote and illustrated a children’s book about Lakeland native and former Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles. It’s available for free online at “The Legend of Lawton He-Coon.”
I stayed in touch with Barry over the years and would drop in to see him when I was in town. He was the first person I called when I moved back to Lakeland in 2017. LkldNow was still fairly new and he didn’t have the budget to hire anyone else.
What Barry is doing with this nonprofit, online, hyperlocal-news source is where local news is headed. People want local news from people they know and trust. As usual, Barry is ahead of the curve. I was thrilled when I reached out to him in late April to see if he had an opening and was told he did. While it does sadden me to leave my friends at The Ledger, I felt it was the right move at the right time for the right reasons.
My focus will be the city of Lakeland and also education as it affects the town. So if you see me around town walking Lake Hollingsworth, strolling through Hollis Gardens, shopping at the Grove Park Publix or at Crowder Brothers in Southgate, attending an event at the RP Funding Center or church at First United Methodist, or eating at one of my favorite downtown spots like Nineteen 61, The Terrace, Harry’s, Palace Pizza, or Taco Bus, say hi and let me know what’s important to you. Or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me on @kmooretheledger on twitter.
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