Make us your home page

Ernest Hooper, Times Columnist/East Hillsborough Bureau Chief

Ernest Hooper

Ernest Hooper is the East Hillsborough Bureau chief and columnist at the Tampa Bay Times. Hooper joined the Times in 1992 and has worked as a prep sports writer and editor, TV/radio sports columnist, NFL writer, news columnist and unofficial ambassador, representing the Times as an emcee, judge or keynote speaker at hundreds of nonprofit events and civic functions. Hooper added the role of East Hillsborough Bureau chief in 2012. He oversees news content for the Times' regional edition east of Tampa, the SouthShore & Brandon Times, and writes two columns a week. His commentaries about family, community issues and political perspectives have helped Hooper connect with readers over the years, but he's probably best known for his signature tagline: That's all I'm saying.

Phone: (813) 661-2440


  1. Ernest Hooper: Hillsborough County School District needs meaningful action, not platitudes

    Human Interest

    When it comes to the Hillsborough County School District, the more I see, the less I know.

    Every week, the notion the district can successfully navigate its budget crisis and all the ancillary problems sprouting from it takes a hit. The dispute between the district and the teachers union — now at an official impasse — is just one of the problems.

    In the last few months, teachers, school bus drivers, former employees, concerned citizens and worried parents have expressed dismay about superintendent Jeff Eakins and the School Board....

  2. Ernest Hooper: Alabama vote shows Democrats should quit taking black vote for granted


    Former NBA player Charles Barkley established himself as a truth-teller long before the term became vogue.

    His controversial "I am not a role model" commercial drew a mix of outrage and support during his playing days, and his critical eye serves him so well as an NBA analyst for TNT that rival network ESPN also gives him airtime.

    So when CNN handed Barkley a microphone after Democrat Doug Jones was declared the winner in Alabama's U.S. Senate race Tuesday night, it didn't come as a surprise that Barkley cut to the heart of the matter with an unvarnished comment....

  3. Hooper: Yacht StarShip weathers the storm

    Human Interest

    At the height of the economic downturn, Yacht StarShip owner Troy Manthey said he and his wife, Jill, worried about the company's survival.

    "We were counting ice cubes," Manthey said.

    But they made it. The dining cruise business that sails out of the Channelside District and Clearwater Beach rebounded nicely, adding a fleet of Pirate Water Taxis in 2016.

    Now Manthey brings a newly renovated boat to its Clearwater Beach offerings on Friday. The larger Yacht StarShip IV replaces the Yacht Sensation, and will be able to seat 150 dining guests and spur the company's vigorous wedding business on that side of the bay....

  4. Tampa Bay one-upped by a vegan strip club town

    Human Interest

    I have an old high school friend, Andrea, who now lives in Portland, Ore., and so consequently every time I come across news about her adopted hometown, I reach out to her.

    Whether it's some weather phenomenon, a story about the legendary Voodoo Doughnuts or a friend looking for a good restaurant in the Pacifc Northwest city, I almost always drop her a note when Portland pops into my head....

  5. Sports and loyalty seem to be strangers

    Human Interest

    FSU coach Jimbo Fisher may yet shed some insight on his decision, but the fact he eschewed an annual salary of $5.5 million with the Seminoles to sign a reported 10-year, $75 million contract (and more difficult job) with Texas A&M has me wondering what it takes to make a man happy.

    Loyalty always has proved fleeting in sports, but having won a national title at FSU and successfully filled the shoes of the legendary Bobby Bowden, Fisher appeared poised to craft another long run. Now he's gone, and we're left with yet another reminder that the game so many love isn't really a game at all....

  6. Hooper: A message goes viral on behalf of kids


    Local public relations practitioner Carolynn Smith prides herself on working behind the scenes for her clients.

    Even with a 6-foot-2 frame, the former NCAA basketball player blends into the scene.

    She did so again Tuesday night when she helped former Major League Baseball player Gary Sheffield and his wife DeLeon Sheffield promote their new FYI Network show with a gala at Ulelee.

    This time, however, Smith could have garnered as much attention as Sheffield and some of the other 100-plus dignitaries. Just by chance, a simple video Smith crafted in a parking lot on Bruce B. Downs has gone viral, drawing in digital outlets for ABC News and Inside Edition....

    Former MLB player Gary Sheffield, Seven Marketing & PR owner Carolynn Smith, DeLeon Sheffield and Seven Marketing associate Kristen Rumberger celebrated the premiere of the televisoin show Sheffield Real Estate on Tuesday at Ulelee Restaurant.
  7. Hooper: Try empathy and understanding before you judge

    Human Interest

    A reader sent an email detailing a list of misdeeds, real and perceived, and noted they all had been committed by blacks.

    He cited the list as proof today's blacks should be referred to with the n-word, and he chided me for not criticizing movements such as Black Lives Matter and the protests of NFL players. A strange mix, indeed.

    This reader is not alone in wrongly examining issues through an unfocused racial lens, but what good does it do to suggest a list of criminal acts is representative of an entire race or culture? Blacks, like any group, are so much more complex than what makes headlines....

    Protesters rally for former quarterback Colin Kaepernick outside Ford Field in Detroit before a game between the Lions and the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 10, 2017. Says columnist Earnest Hooper: "Unfairly lumping in peaceful demonstrations and civil disobedience with criminal acts does nothing to help." [JOSE JUAREZ | Associated Press]
  8. Holiday Hopes: Caring for others a passion for teen who struggled to survive

    Holiday Hopes: Caring for others a passion for teen who struggled to survive

    Human Interest


    Joselynn Colon looks up with a grin.

    Her smile reveals and belies all at the same time. It reflects the joys of her present, the hopes for her future, the drive to help others.

    Yet it also hides the pains of her 19 years, the indelible scars — physical and emotional — of a childhood gone too soon and an innocence stolen too young.

    Holding a worn composition book — its binding slipping away, each sheet covered with penciled scribble — she thumbs through the pages of personal poetry....

    TAMPA - Elizabeth Fowler is a mentor to Joselynn Colon, a member of the organization - Starting Right, Now - that has helped inspire Colon pursue a productive, and productively happy, life. Taken 11-20-17 by Scott Purks

  9. Ernest Hooper: Modern times demand new commitment to tradition of media literacy


    Every day I receive emails critical of my columns, and sometimes I find them jarring not because readers object to an opinion but because they don't seem to have a grasp of basic journalism principles.

    Many will protest the inclusion of opinion in my columns, not understanding that as a columnist, it's my job to opine. In my 16 years as a columnist, my editors have told me, more than once, I need to be more opinionated....

    High school media adviser Mark Newton, with his students from Mountain Vista High School in Colorado, urged teachers during a speech in Dallas to emphasize the vital role of a free press in the American democracy.
  10. Ernest Hooper: Effort to revive Urban League can fill a void in Tampa

    Human Interest

    A former U.S. Marine, Tampa businessman Stanley Gray knows all about a few good women and men.

    Now he's looking for a few good corporations to help revive the Tampa-Hillsborough County Urban League. The chapter disbanded in 2006 after its efforts to revive a historic West Tampa building ran over budget.

    Gray is part of a group looking to bring back the league and help boost the community through inclusion-focused efforts....

    A Salute to Black Veterans during 2005 is an example of the work once done in Tampa through the help of the Urban League. An effort is underway to revive the local organization, disbanded in 2006. [Times file]
  11. Sunday Conversation: Tona Bell invites customers to enjoy a 'digital detox'


    Like so many small businesses, Saturday will represent a special day for Paper Seahorse owner Tona Bell. Bell's cozy bungalow business at 211 S Howard features paper and stationery, specialty pens, vintage typewriters and crafts classes. It will offer a number of specials for what's officially dubbed "Small Business Saturday" after the more retail-giant driven "Black Friday."

    But every day at the Paper Seahorse represents a special day to escape and enjoy life's more relaxing pursuits and lost arts. Bell says writing letters, embracing paper crafts and learning to crochet or knit allows her customers to enjoy a "digital detox" and escape the never-ending demands of the cell phone and the laptop....

    Tona Bell traces her fascination with writing, pens and stationery back to her childhood. She now owns the Paper Seahorse in SoHo.
  12. Ernest Hooper: Tampa Bay transit woes hold us back in more ways than traffic jams

    Human Interest

    I met with HART chief executive Katharine Eagan earlier this year and she laid out a thoughtful, cogent, articulate presentation of the challenges facing the transportation agency and the strategies her staff developed to address the problems and its financial shortfalls.

    And then I looked at her and asked, "How long before you leave?" Eagan quickly brushed aside such talk.

    But last week she announced she would leave in January to lead the transit agency in Pittsburgh. I ain't mad at her....

  13. Ernest Hooper: A salute to the students who walked out in support of teachers


    When I was in grade school, I landed in the principal's office and they called my mom down to the school.

    She arrived and delivered one stern warning: "If I have to come down to this school again, you're going to be in trouble."

    "But, but, but ..."

    "But nothing. And I mean that thing."

    That moment shapes my parenting perspective today, one in which I work to openly side with teachers and school administrators even if I might privately disagree. I'm the dad who likes to back the district in its efforts to instill rules and maintain order....

    Students at Jefferson High School in Tampa left class Wednesday 11/08/17 in support of teacher pay raises. Hundreds of students at Hillsborough high schools joined the walkout  [News 10 WTSP]
  14. Ernest Hooper: After heated mayoral election, blacks should bridge divide

    Human Interest

    He's not a St. Petersburg resident, but like so many in Tampa Bay, the city's mayoral race has caught the attention of former state Rep. Ed Narain.

    From his vantage point, Narain worries far more about how the election has divided the black community than who will win.

    "We can no longer afford to simply elect someone and wait four years to hear from them when they need our votes and are paying surrogates to divide and conquer our community again," he wrote in a Facebook post....

  15. Sunday Conversation: Trinity Cafe's Mandy Cloninger revels in her 'year of abundance'

    Human Interest

    As the executive director of the Trinity Cafe, Mandy Cloninger is thrilled to combine her professional work with her personal passion for providing basic needs for people.

    She works tirelessly to help the cafe's two locations serve nearly 500 meals a day (with dignity) to the homeless and food insecure. With the help of volunteers and a dedicated staff, the cafe even managed to serve its guests through Hurricane Irma....

    Trinity Cafe executive director Mandy Cloninger often serves and sits with the homeless and 
food-insecure guests who come to the cafe every day. She is “happy to see their growth and their support and have their friendship through service.”