It was a little sad, but honestly not at all surprising to read today that one of our two local papers – The Tampa Tribune – is closing up shop, as it was just acquired by its competition.
I’d link to the video by their CEO “announcing” this exciting change, but even ironically it’s a painfully stale video to watch … one of those pieces of evidence that will surface 50 years from now and make people think, “Wow, so your print journalism was still alive back when this guy was somehow a part of it?!”
Anyways, I was just thinking about how when I first moved to Florida … or technically even before I moved here, I was an avid reader of The Tampa Tribune. As soon as I got here, I signed up for a full subscriber to kind of soak in the locality as much as possible, but I think a good year prior to that I actually would get their Sunday editions mailed to me at home up in Michigan! They would arrive about a week late and I would use them mostly for scoping out jobs and apartments, but also just in general to sort of fantasize about this far off land that I dreamed of moving to eventually one day…
Hell, I think I actually even applied for a few jobs with the Tribune over the years, but clearly those never got too far! 😯
I guess I stopped reading the Tribune probably 5-6 years ago when it became more common to have a stack of papers sitting in the corner that I had to make a conscious effort to flip through before throwing them in the recycling bin. Slowly there became less and less that they had to say that I hadn’t already read in one form or another online, plus computers have always had this nice way of not turning your thumbs black while you’re reading them, and so eventually I just canceled my subscription altogether and really just never looked back.
The state of journalism itself these days kind of has me torn because although some publishers have done ok or better at embracing digital media, most of the big guys like the Tribune and the Times have not and as a result it’s left a bit of a hole in the news that needs to be filled one way or another. In some cases we’re seeing TV stations and even radio branch onto online to snag in those readers, but they still ultimately have the same issues that print ran into – finding a way to financially support their efforts without either selling out to special interests or else just putting entertainment first and making it hard to take them seriously when it comes down to real news.
And of course, the web and social media have made it easier than ever for groups and organizations themselves to share their own news, so I suppose that some of the playing field left behind is still covered by them, but then there’s always the conundrum of honesty vs. being self-serving, too…
Personally I’d think what I’d like to see is some new local news organizations popping up to take the place of these corporate behemoths who can no longer seem to make a profit in the space. The Internet being a super cheap replacement for the classic printing press and technology in general continuing to rival that which goes into professional productions, there’s no reason that a small team of passionate journalists couldn’t get together and create their own local media company to cover the same types of things that these newspapers used to cover. Unless their plan is to strictly target senior citizen communities, newspapers aren’t going to make a comeback – at least not with any generation who can operate an iPad without having to call their grandkids for tech support – so the barriers for entry in this new age world of journalism are really lower than ever.
Because we need local coverage in our daily lives to talk about the things that didn’t happen around the country in New York or Los Angeles. And a media company for a mid-sized metropolitan area like the Tampa Bay region may not be able to support the 250+ employees that the Tribune was said to have had prior to today’s announcement, but 20-30% of that including a decent, local sales team? It seems like it should be very doable, and it would be a great asset to a community that continues to grow despite its conglomerate-owned media giants flailing for relevancy because they simply don’t know how to do business in a world where most readers don’t care about print and won’t pay for an online subscription.
Mind you, *I* certainly have no desire to take on that challenge myself, but for our local journalists who are really passionate about the thing that they do – you’ve probably got better odds trying your own thing than you do vying for a spot at the paper.