BY TESS SHEETS AND SELENE SAN FELICE
The Tampa Tribune was unexpectedly purchased Tuesday afternoon by the Tampa Bay Times. This came not only as a shock to Tribune readers, but to the entire Tribune staff.
At approximately 2 p.m. the staff was sent an email by the publisher Brian Burns telling them to attend a 3 p.m. company meeting. Up until this point the paper was fully functioning, and was planning to do so even after moving out of their building by the end of the month.
“We were all anxious and nervous—still hoping for the best,” said Paul Guzzo, the Tribune’s previous enterprise and Cuba reporter. “When Brian introduced the owner of the Times — Christ…the moans and sniffles. It was awful.”
The Times has chosen to hire members of the Tribune staff, but at least 100 of the estimated 265 Tribune employees will lose their jobs in the next week. Guzzo was hired by the Times, but feels guilty about the end of so many careers at the Tribune.
“I feel so terrible for my friends who lost their jobs in a profession where jobs are few,” Guzzo said. “Some of them have worked together for decades and their loyalty to the paper was amazing. They lost their jobs today and a the company they loved. It’s not just the loss of a paycheck. They’re reporters. It’s their art and their love and it’s not freaking fair that this goddamn country cannot support enough print media.”
In the Times article announcing the purchase, CEO and chairman Paul Tash said the layoffs were inevitable in the declining state of print journalism, and would grow to even more if the Tribune remained.
“Whatever is the number of jobs that is lost now pales in comparison to the number of jobs that have been lost already in newspaper publishing generally, because of the economic pressures that have been upon us,” Tash said. “It’s also smaller than the number of jobs that would be lost if this kind of unstable situation had continued.”
In the last 10 years, the number of US newspaper reporters and editors has been nearly halved from approximately 55,000 in 2006 to 32,900 according to Poynter.
In the Times article, Tash characterized the buy-out as a positive consolidation to just one local newspaper.
“The continued competition between the newspapers was threatening to both,” Tash said in a statement. “There are very few cities that are able to sustain more than one daily newspaper, and the Tampa Bay region is not among them.”
The Tribune will not dissolve completely, though. Tash said the paper will now come in the form of a twice-weekly local news section added to the Tampa edition of the Times.
Both the Tampa community and the University of Tampa have lost a valuable resource. For the university, the demise of the Tribune means the journalism program loses a beneficial internship opportunity for students. The Times offers a highly competitive paid internship, but unlike the Tribune, students cannot complete it for credit because of UT rules against receiving academic credit for a paid internship.
In the past year, the Tribune has hosted at least six UT students, giving them not only an early leg-up in newsroom experience, but also an opportunity to complete the major-required internship credits right across the street.
“Our relationship with them allowed me to gain friends in the industry and amazing mentors,” said former intern and UT graduate Doha Madani, who is now completing a journalism graduate program at the City University of New York. “UT’s journalism program has grown so much since I started there and it’s sad to see one of their best partnerships is gone now.”