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BIG ARTS ‘Talking Points’ to offer perspective on Florida issues

By Staff | Feb 6, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Rosemary O’Hara

Rosemary O’Hara, editorial page editor of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, thinks often of one searing image following the deadly shootings at Parkland High. Two women embrace outside the school, one collapsing into the other’s arms. Grief unites them. Yet today, two years after the nation’s worst school shooting, the two women don’t speak. Such is the state of the gun debate in Florida and for much of the United States.

O’Hara will offer a seasoned journalist’s view of three big topics in Florida – Parkland, pollution and the coming Florida presidential primary – at the BIG ARTS Talking Points series on Feb. 11 at 4 p.m. at Strauss Theater.

The Sun-Sentinel was awarded the highest honor among journalism Pulitzers, the public service prize, for its Parkland school shooting coverage, an entry that included editorials she shepherded into print. Still, the tragedy continues, not only for the school and families, but throughout the state with little to show on improved school safety issues, specifically guns.

“People came together in this moment of great tragedy, but later, fault lines appeared that have left this place torn apart,” she said.

Shortly after the shooting she had a tearful interview with the county’s school superintendent. Today they barely speak.

On pollution, the issues of red tide and blue-green algae continue to threaten both coasts, complicated by dangerous sea level rise. The Sun-Sentinel partnered with The Miami Herald and The Palm Beach Post to produce a continuing series called The Invading Sea, offering readers an array of news and opinion pieces on the complicated issues of surviving sea level rise. She will elaborate on how the newspapers are working to explain the urgency of critical water issues throughout the state.

And just a month before Floridians head to the polls for the presidential primary, O’Hara will offer an insider’s view of the challenges ahead on election security, access to ballots and the hot issues on the minds of residents. With 1 percent election margins common, the risks are high for Florida to better manage its ballots.

O’Hara, who grew up in Tampa, got her first reporting job there, and then went to work for The Miami Herald, where she covered the beginning of the AIDS crisis and later became an editor, before moving to the Washington bureau to cover the Bill Clinton election. Later, she went to the Cincinnati Enquirer as managing editor of the newsroom, just at the time of a police shooting of a black youth that led to four days of rioting. In response, the paper organized a major community outreach effort that led to discussions in 145 neighborhoods on racial tensions, a model of civic engagement by newspapers.

The experience prompted her to want to lead an editorial page, and that desire brought her back to the Tampa Tribune. After a few career detours into politics as a Republican gubernatorial candidate’s press secretary and as owner of a startup journalism endeavor, Florida Voices, she’s back in newspapers in Fort Lauderdale. She’s served as a Pulitzer Prize juror and is a past leader of the Association of Opinion Journalists, now part of the News Leaders Association.

Tickets for $20 and include a complimentary wine reception with the lecturer following the talk.

The Sanibel & Captiva Trust Company is the company sponsor for Talking Points.

For tickets, visit www.BIGARTS.org, call 239-395-0900 or visit the box office, at 900 Dunlop Road, Sanibel. The evening of the lecture, tickets will be sold beginning at 3 p.m. at the Strauss Theatre.

The Strauss Theatre is at 2200 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel.