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Tampa Tiger Bay cancels Friday panel discussing political journalism in peril

Another cancelation as the grip of coronavirus tightens.

The Tampa Bay Tiger Bay Club is canceling its Friday meeting tackling mounting issues facing the newspaper and news media industry due to concerns stemming from coronavirus.

The event, set to feature Florida Politics Publisher Peter Schorsch will join WUSF News Director Mary Sheddon, NPR television critic Eric Deggans, Bay News 9 political reporter Mitch Perry and University of South Florida journalism instructor Wayne Garcia, will be rescheduled at a later date.

The group was set to discuss the future of political journalism amid a decline media landscape.

More than 2,000 newspapers have closed in the past 15 years while others have been taken over by large media organizations and had newsrooms stripped to the bare minimum.

Panelists will delve into the overarching question about how, if intrepid journalists are facing layoffs and pay cuts and newsrooms are lacking resources to dedicate to investigative reporting, readers will have access to information about what their elected officials are doing. And more important, who will hold them accountable when strapped finances keep the fourth estate at bay?

The struggle is real.

Last month, the AP reported newspaper chain McClatchy, which publishes the Miami Herald and dozens of other local newspapers, was filing for bankruptcy protection.

A couple weeks later, the Tampa Bay Times informed employees via internal memo that it would be cutting employee pay 10% for 13-weeks noting that the “regrettable” decision was prompted because “revenues are falling short, a little in circulation and more seriously in print advertising.”

In that same memo, the paper warned job cuts were also likely.

The news prompted Times Political Editor Steve Contorno to take to Twitter asking readers to subscribe to the newspaper. Another reporter linked to a page where readers can make financial contributions to the Times’ investigative reporting fund to help cover the high cost of in-depth investigations, which can pull reporters from normal duties for weeks or months at a time.

But those investigations are perhaps the most important part of local journalism. The Times has uncovered scandals, trends and institutional problems, which have led to fundamental changes. The paper’s collaboration with WTSP on zombie campaigns led to a national conversation about defunct candidate spending. Its investigation into Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital uncovered a series of institutional failures that led to several avoidable deaths. The investigation prompted top leadership at the hospital to resign.

Still other reports among other papers have uncovered judicial bias by highlighting the disparity between sentencing imposed on minority perpetrators and their white counterparts.

Those reports take not only time, they cost money. Fees for public records can cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars. And news organizations face potential lawsuits, which can lead to copious legal fees to keep lawyers on retainer.

But the media climate has changed. News has become akin to on-demand services with readers’ attention spans growing shorter and the way they consume news becoming increasingly less conducive to traditional news revenue models.

So how can the industry respond in a way that meets reader demand and keeps the lights on?

Stay tuned for updates on the new date from the Tampa Tiger Bay club. Tickets for members are $25. Nonmembers can attend for $35. Only members, however, may ask questions.

Tiger bay is a nonpartisan political group that presents lively discussions on important issues and with candidates for office.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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