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Local Paper's Sale, Layoffs Mean Less Local Journalism

Apr 13, 2018

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg had his marathon chat with members of Congress. And there was a firestorm over local TV stations owned by Sinclair Media all reading the same script about “fake news.”

But lost in all that media news is a significant shift in the local media landscape in Tampa Bay.

In the past week, Tampa’s free alternative weekly, Creative Loafing, was sold to a Cleveland company and much of its local staff was let go. The same day, *tbt, the free daily newspaper owned by the Tampa Bay Times announced it was reducing publication from five days a week to one. And the Times newspaper also started its own round of layoffs.

“All of this adds up to fewer journalists telling fewer stories about the local Tampa Bay region to the local Tampa Bay region,” said Kelly McBride, vice president at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, which owns the Tampa Bay Times.

There are a lot of reasons why these local publications are continuing to see hard times.

“The local print media never really recovered from the recession of 2008. Right now, all the advertising dollars go to Facebook and Google,” McBride said. “And that was the money that used to pay your local journalists. So behind the rise in these latest changes is the rise in cost of newsprint, by about 30 percent. And that’s because of tariffs that were imposed by the federal government.”

The losses are about more than money, McBride said. Local news organizations are part of an ecosystem.

“So many local businesses depend on these publications for coverage. It might be restaurants or theaters or clubs that are trying to get entertainment info out into the world,” she said. “So even if you don’t consume these publications on a regular basis, you may notice that it is a lot harder to find information about certain events just because there are fewer people dedicated to this kind of coverage.”