By Jim Bleyer
First, the bad news.
Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, the area’s much beloved alternative weekly, was bought out by Euclid Media Group. Known as EMG, it owns a portfolio of nine such city publications including the Orlando Weekly.
EMG has shown a penchant for marginalizing and, in some cases, eliminating political news. It didn’t take long for the Cleveland-based outfit to telegraph its intentions to Tampa Bay readers.
Two immediate casualties of the local acquisition were ultra-proficient Editor-in-Chief David Warner and kickass News Editor Kate Bradshaw. EMG’s track record suggests independently-sourced news stories in Creative Loafing will henceforth be a rarity. Those who perused the Orlando Weekly before and after its changeover can attest to that.
Readers accustomed to in-depth exclusives can now expect more stories like this: a profile of former county commissioner Kevin Beckner who failed to win the 2016 race for Hillsborough County Clerk of the Circuit Courts. That campaign was two years ago.
Wednesday’s digital edition of CL carried the story. It was basically a list of Kevin Beckner’s favorite things from obsession to meat market to performance venue.
The pap was listed under “Politics” on CL’s front page. The “writer” should be thankful there was no byline. Embarrassing.
So the fraternity of Tampa Bay news sources untainted by pay-for-play investors and the corporate establishment lost an important member. The public will become more reliant on local blogs for independent political commentary: Tampa Bay Beat, Eye on Tampa Bay, Shadow of the Stadium, Ybor City Stogie, Bay Post Internet, and the Tampa Bay Guardian.
On to the innocuous.
The Tampa Bay Times announced it would scale back publication of its *tbt tabloid from every weekday to once a week. Only puzzle aficionados will notice. Other than offering the more challenging L.A. Times crossword, the *tbt is basically a stripped down version of the Tampa Bay Times with pun-laced headlines.
The *tbt freebie was bad business anyway. Its only competition: the Tampa Bay Times whose pay news racks are frequently side-by-side in the same locations. Rolled out in 2004 as a weekly, *tbt started publishing five days a week in 2006.
Reason for the cutback: Trump-inspired tariffs on imported newsprint.
The ironies are too rich. Last year, publisher Paul Tash announced the debt-laden Times wanted “to connect with Trump voters” while simultaneously accepting a $12-15 million cash infusion from right wing investors. With propaganda disguised as news stories, the move backfired humongously as subscribers rebelled and voters rejected endorsed candidates.
And, it was the tariffs that triggered the *tbt contraction, not any in-house recognition that it used an incredibly poor business model.