TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Tampa Bay Times announced on Tuesday that it had purchased the Tampa Tribune and its related publications. The Tribune will no longer be printed.
Tribune subscribers will receive the Times starting Wednesday. The resulting paper will have the fifth-largest Sunday circulation of all newspapers in the country, according to Poynter, which owns the Times.
The Tampa Bay Times CEO and chairman, Paul Tash, held a press conference Tuesday afternoon. Tash said the competition between the two papers was putting both “in peril.”
“It’s been a rough stretch for newspapers” during the last 10 years,” Tash said.
“There are very few cities that are able to sustain more than one daily newspaper, and the Tampa Bay region is not among them.”
“We really do want to make the Times a better newspaper for all our readers,” he said. “We call ourselves Florida’s best newspaper, not to brag, but as our commitment to you.”
“It’s important to have strong, vibrant local newspapers going forward,” Tash added.
Poynter said the two papers have been competitive for decades, as they previously had separate readership bases. The Times started its Hillsborough edition in 1987. Four years ago the paper switched its name from the St. Petersburg Times to the Tampa Bay Times.
That competition had waned a bit in recent years, as both papers tried to hang on amidst layoffs, furloughs and the depressing reality of the newspaper business. The rise of the Internet and the Great Recession decimated newsrooms across the country and more advertising has shifted to digital networks powered by Google and Facebook.
For years, the Tribune was considered the more conservative paper, while the Times was thought of as more liberal.
“There’s going to be jubilation certainly within the Times and I’m sure they’re going to pick up tens of thousands of new subscribers,” said Gary Mormino, a Florida historian and professor emeritus at the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg. “If you’re a newspaper reader, this is sad news. The competition has been overall good for the community.”
The Tampa Tribune was formerly owned by Media General, which also owns WFLA TV. WFLA TV and the Tampa Tribune operated out of adjoining buildings on the same property overlooking the Hillsborough River in Tampa.
Media General sold the Tampa Tribune to Tampa Media Group for $9.5 million in 2012.
Tampa Bay Times buys, stops printing Tampa Tribune
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In July the Tribune’s headquarters were sold to developers. The Times has been printing the Tribune since February, according to Poynter.
The Tribune, which is 123 years old, will no longer print “as a standalone newspaper,” the Times said. However, the Tribune’s name will be used as a section title twice each week for Hillsborough County readers, Tash said. “We raise these banners to honor the history of both newspapers and their hometowns,” he said.
The Times says it plans to continue using tbo.com “after a refinement of its content.” That site will exist with tampabay.com. In addition, the Times will operate Centro, a weekly Spanish language paper owned by the Tribune, in addition to Highlands Today and Suncoast News.
At least 100 Tribune staff members will lose their jobs, Times officials said in a press release. The Tribune currently has around 265 full-time staff members, the release said. Jobs that are duplicated will be eliminated, the Times executive said during Tuesday’s news conference. The executive said the number of jobs lost will pale in comparison to the jobs already lost in the industry. “We will be as supportive as possible,” the official said.
Some Tribune employees are being offered jobs today, the executive said. He said several dozen jobs are being offered, including reporters, editors, columnists and advertising employees. The executive said he does not anticipate Times employees losing their jobs.
The Tribune was started in 1893 as the Tampa Morning Tribune. The paper began printing daily in 1895.
Mayor Buckhorn responds to shuttering of Tribune
After Tuesday’s announcement, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn released the following statement:
“The city of Tampa has a rich history that was told by the Tribune for over 100 years and they chronicled Tampa’s amazing story with dignity and grace. They enriched our lives by telling the daily stories of heroes and villains, triumphs and tragedies and the many colorful characters that made Tampa special. We are in debt to the thousands of Tribune reporters, editors, photographers and other staff who made that happen. They should be proud.
“I am absolutely confident that moving forward, we will continue to have that story told by the award winning journalists at the Tampa Bay Times. They have set the standard for journalists for decades and I know are committed to ensure that as the Tampa Bay area continues to grow together and succeed together, that the stories continue to be told.
“As the son of a journalist, I am saddened by the loss of any paper but I am confident in the future of this community and those that would chronicle its rise and give a voice those who are voiceless.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
As part of the takeover, the Tampa Tribune’s website TBO.com has been temporarily shutdown. By Tuesday afternoon, viewers were being redirected to the website of the Tampa Times.
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