Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sorry to see this story: pay cut at Tampa Bay Times … by gimleteye

I'm not sure I agree with Peter Schorsch's blog assessment of shortcomings of the Tampa Bay Times. He writes, "Today’s pay cut announcement reminds us that the Tampa Bay Times is the Boston Celtics of regional newspapers." Meaning, the paper has been resting on its laurels.

For seven years now we've been at our blog, Eye On Miami, and ours is a frequent one-way dialogue with our city's newspaper of note: The Miami Herald.

We started writing, believing that maybe the Herald editors (publisher/s?) would see there is a dedicated audience for strong local content bearing a sharp, critical eye (hence, gimleteye). Alas. We were wrong.

The Herald has been less and less relevant, as financial pressures erode Miami's only daily newspaper (although the publishers and top line executives never seem to suffer). Part of what keeps us going is that there are other newspapers in Florida where tough-minded editorial content seeps throughs; the Tampa Bay Times being first and foremost.

Now the Times, owned by the non-profit Poynter Foundation, is contracting (read, reporter salaries). Nothing good came from the Herald's contraction, and nothing good will come from the Times'.

In a fair and equitable democracy, there would be a public clamor for print journalism above and beyond the stipulations of the so-called free market.  I don't know if that discussion will ever happen in the United States …

By Peter Schorsch on September 18, 2014
st. petersburg times

It is another dark day at 490 First Avenue South, the headquarters of the struggling Tampa Bay Times. CEO and Publisher Paul Tash lowered the boom with a memo outlining a 5 percent pay cut for all staff — or whatever staff is left after forced layoffs further decimate the newspaper.

It’s so bad at the Times, which is facing a 2016 deadline to pay back a $28 million loan from high-interest lender Boston-based Crystal Financial LLC, is warning employees to take the blue pill, resign voluntarily now and receive 13 weeks severance pay or take the red pill, take your chances and see your severance package capped at eight weeks.

In other words, resign now and you’ll have money through the holidays or push your luck and you could be working part-time at The Gap this Christmas season.

Tash minces no words when explaining the dire situation facing Times employees.

“If you are uncertain about your standing with the Times, this is a good time for a frank conversation with your supervisor, writes Tash. “If this long, difficult stretch has tested your commitment to the Times or the newspaper business, this is a good time to consider your options.”

Of course, I have no sympathy for the Times as it continues to struggle financially. The newspaper has deemed me a competitor and has on more than one occasion tried to put this competition out of business. So when I think about Times staffers — many of them good, young people probably in their first job — facing 5 percent pay cuts, I’d like to sympathize with them on a human level, but, honestly, my feelings are hathotic.

Even if I felt differently about the Times, I would say it’s no surprise to see the Times still struggling. It’s digital offering is a dog’s breakfast and it’s paywall system is as straightforward as spaghetti squash. It’s still a 20th century newspaper company operating in a 21st century news environment.

In fact, I almost think the Times has doubled-down on its old ways. Too many of its reporters are acolytes of “longform” (does the enormously talented Michael Kruse get paid by the word?) and too much of the newspaper reads like a really well written and edited lifestyle magazine.

Of course, what some will say is still hurting the Times is its betrayal of its roots and its decision to pay attention to Hernando and Pasco County at the expense of its coverage of Pinellas and South Tampa. Karma is a bitch and the newspaper gods are still punishing the Times for changing its name.

As for my headline, that the Times is the Boston Celtics of regional newspapers, it truly is. Just ask reporter Ben Montgomery, who tweeted this afternoon that “Whenever I’m feeling blue, I like to come down here and count the Pulitzers.”

Does that not sound like every Celtics fan you’ve ever met and how they’re still talking about Bill Russell and Larry Bird and the championship banners from yesteryear?

As former Celtics coach Rick Pitino once remarked, “Larry Bird is not walking through that door, fans. Kevin McHale is not walking through that door, and Robert Parish is not walking through that door.” The Celtics only became relevant again when they stopped hanging on to the past and embraced the modern games of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

You can’t pay your rent with someone else’s Pulitzer Prizes. Best consider your options, Timesmen.


Johnny Appleseed said...

It's sad that one of Schorsch's criticisms is that the Times still believes in "longform."

Schorsch apparently thinks that newspaper readers prefer to consume their news in Twitter-sized bits.

This, I don't doubt, and would point to Gov. Scott as proof of the attention span of the residents of this Godforsaken state that long ago became the refuge for the anti-intellectual arm of far right conservatism.

Just ask the Highlands Co. resident who drives his Ford dualie with the Confederate flag in the back window.

Anonymous said...

Sad situation. These managers have to really manage now. Play time is over. Adjustments should have been made before they got in debt. Why you need to borrow money is just as important as who you borrow money from. It just kicks the can down the road, and some of these roads lead to awful places.

Anonymous said...

George Clooney got married today! This is what the dumb-downed American people want to 'see' about (not 'read' about.)
Any newspaper that deals with politics, education, climate change, or other truly important issues is in trouble these days.
Idiocracy rules!