Tampa Bay Times Will Not Print Every Day

man reading a newspaper

Photo by Ekrulila on Pexels.com

Today we mourn the loss of another daily newspaper. After Sunday, April 5, the Tampa Bay Times will cease printing the newspaper every day. Starting Monday, the paper will not print on Monday. Or Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The Tampa Bay Times will become a two-day newspaper, printing on Wednesday and Sunday.

It is ironic that the Tampa Bay Times is using the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic as the excuse for ceasing to be a daily newspaper. The Covid-19 pandemic is a historic event of Biblical proportions. Covid-19 is the biggest daily news story since World War II.

Previously, big-city newspapers prided themselves on continuing the public service of covering and printing the news every single day through even the most disastrous and dangerous times. Newspapers considered it an almost sacred duty.

As far as I know, London newspapers continued to print every day during the Battle of Britain, when the city was bombed every night. Newspapers did not stop printing every day during the flu pandemic of 1918, which happened to coincide with the final, decisive year of World War I.

(Yes, social media consumers, cities had two or more daily newspapers — sometimes many daily newspapers — in days of yore. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.)

For the record, the Tampa Bay Times is really the St. Petersburg Times. It began calling itself the Tampa Bay Times after the city of Tampa’s last daily died. The newspaper’s office is still in St. Petersburg. I suppose the name change protected Tampa from the humiliation of being the largest U.S. city without a daily newspaper. Well, no longer.

It used to be normal for big cities — even small cities — to have two or more competing daily newspapers. Cities had afternoon newspapers and morning newspapers, and sometimes newspapers that printed all day, edition after edition. You knew things were changing when big cities that previously had two newspapers became one-newspaper cities. In the case of St. Petersburg and Tampa, two of the biggest cities in Florida became two cities with one newspaper for an entire region. The newspaper was renamed for the bay which separates Tampa from St. Petersburg. The one remaining newspaper in recent years was little more than a shadow on many days.

It was unable to print such things as the daily box score of the region’s Major League baseball team. In the past year, the paper often reported discovery of forgotten grave sites as the most important news of the day. It was digging up information that was decades old, and neglecting to print much actual news.

The Tampa Bay Times has devoted full pages to predicting its own demise many times since the Covid-19 pandemic became serious. At a time when the public is in need of the latest news of a major continuing dangerous event affecting every citizen, the Tampa Bay Times is eager to excuse itself from the chore of printing the news. Its executives seem almost proud of their intention to downsize the newspaper, holding the paper up as a sad victim of the news, rather than a reporter of the news.

The former daily newspaper is now begging readers to subscribe to an “online” version. I wonder how long it will continue to print on Wednesdays? How many more employees will be laid off? And how long before it prints a final headline, “FAREWELL.”

Goodbye, Tampa Bay Times. Rest in peace.

— John Hayden

Transparency And Truth In Charlotte

Wednesday evening, and into the wee hours of Thursday morning, I watched the news from Charlotte, mostly on MSNBC, occasionally clicking over to CNN.

A couple of criticisms of the cable TV news coverage come to mind: Continue reading

Health Care Coverage in Parallel Universes

The American cable news channels are in full parallel-universe mode today, Saturday.

MSNBC had President Barack Obama, campaigning for health care reform in Minnesota. MSNBC televised the president’s speech in its entirety to a crowd of thousands. MSNBC’s cameras showed wide-angle views of the packed arena, people cheering wildly.

When the president explained the problems facing health care in America, someone in the audience shouted, “We’ve got to do something!” Mr. Obama agreed,  “We’ve got to do something.” It was a long way from Washington, where a congressman shouted at the president this week, “You lie.”

President Obama said he’s not going to waste any more time with cynical politicians who are clearly committed to defeating health care and destroying his presidency.

The crowd in Minnesota was “Fired up!” and “Ready to go!”

Meanwhile, over at FOX News, they were covering an anti-health care rally on the Mall back in Washington. The FOX News camera focused in tightly on a knot of demonstrators (two dozen? a hundred?) and one unknown speaker ranting about the First Amendment and “uniform taxation.” One thing you have to give the health-care opponents, they’re not a single-interest group. No indeed, they’ve got a gunny sack full  of gripes. (Correction: Later in the day I learned that there were a lot more than a hundred demonstrators in Washington. There were thousands and thousands. See note from Lizzi in Comments below.)

FOX was in Texas, too, providing air time to some Texan who was complaining about health care for everyone. What an un-American concept! Health care for all, even the unemployed, even the poor, even people with pre-existing conditions.

The Texan said the government ought to stay out of health care, because the government has no experience running such a program. Umm . . . What about Medicare? Senior citizens seem quite fond of Medicare. Who do you think runs Medicare?  What about Social Security, which has one-percent administrative costs? Who do you think runs Social Security?

And so it goes. MSNBC and FOX News, two professional cable news channels, reporting live from  parallel universes.