Florida Matters

Florida Matters tackles tough issues, highlights little-known stories from our part of the world, and provides a greater perspective of what it means to live in the Sunshine State. Join us each week as we journey across the state to explore the issues important to Floridians and cover the challenges facing our community and our state.

www.ed.gov / U.S. Department of Education

Schools in Florida have a lot to deal with. A massive new federal education law looms on the horizon. Parents are suing over standardized testing  and the NAACP is suing over vouchers for private school. To help us sort out the issues, we speak to two reporters who are close observers of education in our state.


Oh, Florida! On the one hand, a white sands, warm winter paradise. On the other hand -- alligators, sinkholes, pythons, hurricanes...you get the idea! Author Craig Pittman explores the irony of the Sunshine State in his new book: "Oh, Florida!: How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country."

For-profit colleges have gotten some unwanted government attention lately—for aggressive recruiting and high interest rates on loans, and for misleading students about what their degrees will help them accomplish.

The Zika virus, which has been linked to the birth defect, microcephaly, is now in Florida. That development has taken concern over the mosquito-borne disease to a new level.

Laura Reiley / Tampa Bay Times

"Locally-grown," "farm-to-table," and "pasture-raised" are the new buzzwords in the food culture, and restaurants are rushing to meet the demand. But one reporter says that at many Tampa Bay area restaurants we're being -- as she writes -- "fed fiction." When she investigated, she found that even farmer's markets are mainly absent of local farmers. Florida Matters' Robin Sussingham sat down with food critic Laura Reiley of the Tampa Bay Times to talk about her recent exposé, "Farm to Fable."

Daylina Miller / WUSF

WUSF News has embarked on a new storytelling mission called "Telling Tampa Bay Stories," where our journalists will be visiting some of the region’s lesser-known spots to record interviews with members of those communities.

A state that has places like Little Havana, Key West,  Disney World and the “Redneck Riviera" is just begging to be written about in fiction. We're talking about the way Florida has been depicted in recent years. What can fiction capture that other types of writing and reporting can not?

A state that has places like Little Havana, Key West, Disney World and the "Redneck Riviera" is just begging to be written about in fiction. Several recent award-winning novels have been set in Florida, and that's the topic of an upcoming Florida Matters on WUSF 89.7.

In this preview,  Florida Matters' Robin Sussingham sat down with Dr. Julie Armstrong, an English professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, and Colette Bancroft, the book editor at the Tampa Bay Times, to talk about the novel "Fates and Furies," by Lauren Groff.
 

Michael McArthur

The statistics are familiar; most startups don't make it. But job growth and innovation are the life blood of a thriving community. On Florida Matters, we discuss how to grow -- and keep -- successful entrepreneurs in Tampa Bay.

The Merriam-Webster definition of an entrepreneur is "a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money." They also must be willing to work hard and crazy hours and give up the security of working for someone else. But the rewards can be substantial.

Todd Bates

This week on Florida Matters (Tuesday, July 12 at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, July 17 at 7:30 a.m.), we are talking about entrepreneurs here in the Tampa Bay area.

The show includes a conversation WUSF’s Lisa Peakes had with Tonya Donati, the creator of the Mother Kombucha Warehouse in St. Petersburg. 

Courtesy of Lisa Sibley Photography

When Beth Buchanan brought her 3rd grade class to the Giraffe Ranch, she knew it meant her students from Monarch Learning Academy in Winter Park would see animals in a completely different way.

“I think it’s a great environment for the kids to learn about animals in a more natural environment than a zoo”’ she said. “The kids loved actually getting to interact with them, and the feedings.”

Robin Sussingham/WUSF

The Dixie Highway that meandered through Polk County in the early 20th century inspired the creation of lots of roadside attractions along its path.

Most are gone now, but their memories are kept alive at the Polk County History Center in Bartow, where WUSF's' Robin Sussingham spoke with curator Maria Trippe about Polk's "Lost Roadside Attractions."

Cathy Carter / WUSF

Long before Florida was known for Mickey Mouse and Disney World, it was a vacation destination defined by its beaches and other attractions that drew on the state's natural beauty. Spots like Silver Springs and Cypress Gardens -- and a variety of places that put the word "gator" in their names.

On this Florida Matters, we take you on a ride through the Tampa Bay area's  weird and wonderful roadside attractions, with stops in the past and present.

Carrie Caignet

It’s the height of summer and there’s no better time to share your memories of Florida's roadside attractions. This week, WUSF’s Florida Matters is taking a look at some classic places that don’t fit the definition of modern theme parks. And it’s made us take a look back.

Daylina Miller/WUSF

A massive fish kill in the Indian River Lagoon in spring has been linked to fertilizer use, and with growing concerns about pesticides and where food comes from, more people are growing their own produce right in their own yard. 

Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF Public Media

Imagine a baseball park that is free and open to the public when no games are scheduled. Imagine real grass but with a roof to shield you from Florida’s frequent rain storms.

Those are just a few of the ideas and innovations Tampa Bay Rays President Brian Auld has in mind for a new stadium no matter where it gets built.

The shooter in the Orlando mass murder was Omar Mateen, a US citizen who said he was a practicing Muslim. He professed his allegiance to ISIS during his attack on the gay nightclub.

In this Florida Matters preview, Retired Army Colonel Derek Harvey, a senior fellow at USF's Global Initiative for Civil Society and Conflict, and Dave Couvertier, who recently retired from the FBI with 33 years in law enforcement including experience with SWAT, hostage negotiations and as an agency spokesman, speak with Robin Sussingham of WUSF's Florida Matters. Harvey and Courvertier discuss extremist Muslim groups, and the way  the Internet is one big way they spread their message.
 

Florida House of Representatives

Florida's Legislature has a new House Speaker.

Starting in November, Land O' Lakes Republican Rep. Richard Corcoran will preside over the state House of Representatives.

This week on Florida Matters, (Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday at 7:30 a.m.), we’ll feature a newsmaker conversation with him.

Corcoran, who is serving his fifth year in the Florida House and who once served as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s chief of staff, is a conservative known to stand up against his own political party.

Coming into the 2016 Hurricane Season, Florida has been on something of a lucky streak. It’s been 11 years since a hurricane has made landfall in the state but experts say this could be one of the most active storm seasons since 2012.

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