Craig Pittman, popular environmental reporter and author, among 11 cut from the Tampa Bay Times

tampa bay times David Straz

Tuesday saw the Tampa Bay Times newsroom gutted of essential staff in a set of layoffs that rocked the local media landscape.

Wednesday followed with another gut punch. Environmental reporter Craig Pittman announced he was the latest casualty.

Pittman is beloved (by some) in the Tampa Bay region for his intrepid environmental reporting and penchant for “Oh, Florida” tidbits.

Condolences and messages of encouragement flowed in from journalists, politicians, and readers across the state and nation.

In addition to his work with the Times, Pittman has written several books, most famously “Oh, Florida! How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country. His fifth book, “Cat Tale: The Wild, Weird Battle to Save the Florida Panther,” was published earlier this year.

A source with direct knowledge of the layoffs told Florida Politics a total of 11 employees had been laid off. A report in the Times later confirmed this number.

Executive Editor Mark Katches said the layoffs were “not related to advertising losses caused by shutdowns from the coronavirus.”

Among the departed is Deputy Editor for Sports Mike Sherman.

Sherman announced his layoff on Twitter.

Some personal news: After three-plus years as @TBTimes_Sports editor (aka deputy editor | sports) I soon will be leaving. I have been laid off. I am grateful to all my @TB_Times colleagues and our community for their friendship and support,” he wrote.

Photographer Octavio Jones and senior researcher Caryn Baird are also exiting the paper.

Daniel Figueroa IV, a digital producer for the paper who most recently was covering the coronavirus outbreak, also announced on Twitter Tuesday morning that he had been laid off.

“Up until about 5 mins ago, I had my dream job as a reporter with  @TB_Times. We have all done our best to keep Florida informed, particularly in light of the current pandemic. Do not take these ppl for granted. The work they do is stellar and essential. I wish them all the best,” Figueroa wrote.

Bob Putnam, who covered Pinellas County high schools, also announced he was laid off on Twitter.

“I was laid off today after 24 years. So if there are any job opportunities out there let me know,” Putnam wrote.

High school sports writer Rodney Page also announced Tuesday he had been laid off.

“Today was my last day at the Times after nearly 24 years. Enjoyed being part of the team. On to the next chapter, whatever that may be,” Page wrote on Twitter.

A spokesperson for the Tampa Bay Times declined to comment citing confidentiality regarding personnel issues.

The layoffs come as little shock. Late last month the Times sent a memo to employees notifying them that beginning in March, employees would see an across the board 10% reduction in pay, a cut planned to last 13 weeks.

The memo also noted that job cuts were likely.

“This step is regrettable but necessary because revenues are falling short, a little in circulation and more seriously in advertising. While we anticipated declines in print advertising, they are deeper than we expected, particularly in display advertising for some large accounts. Our sales teams are working diligently to preserve that business while finding new customers. But the growth of new accounts has not made up for the losses,” the memo read.

The Times is facing steady financial decline. Liens against the paper’s parent company now total more than $103 million, according to documents obtained by Florida Politics last June.

Two years ago, a group of investors including Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, philanthropists Frank Morsani and Kiran Patel and their wives, developer Ted Couch and Washington Redskins part-owner Robert Rothman, BluePearl CEO Darryl Shaw, Times CEO Paul Tash and one other who has not been identified put up $12 million under the name FBN Partners to help the paper stay afloat.

FBN stands for “Florida’s Best Newspaper,” one of the Times’ slogans.

In 2017, the widow of Nelson Poynter who controls a trust that loaned the Times more than $9 million, sued the paper for defaulting on that loan, which at the time still had a nearly $8 million balance.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected]


14 comments

  • Carlos

    March 17, 2020 at 11:15 pm

    Maybe if the Tampa Bay Times would be a little more balanced in their coverage, instead of being a mouthpiece for the Florida Democrat Party and the DNC, circulation numbers and advertising dollars wouldn’t be down? Just a thought.

    • Tom

      March 18, 2020 at 3:27 pm

      Good observation, Carlos. The Orlando Sentinel is also on the rocks. Biased coverage, favoring Democrats. I stopped giving them a real a long time ago.

    • Ken J.

      March 19, 2020 at 9:51 am

      Can you cite definitive, specific instances of imbalanced coverage? Doubtful. ***grabs popcorn, waits***

      And, clearly, you only want to read or hear news that confirms your point of view.

  • Ann Coates

    March 18, 2020 at 2:35 pm

    No Carlos. You are too dumb and bias to see the glorious job these folks are doing for our society. Even if they were objective, your right leaning brain could not possibly comprehend it.

    Even worse is the irrelevant hand-wringing from these reporters that their buddies are losing their jobs.

    This is not news. No one, beside your professional community, cares about this issue. Instead of keeping it on your twitter feeds (where even there it comes off as a juvenile complaint) they project it and place it in stories, despite the fact that they are the only ones who care about this issue.

    Please skip over any arguments that our society would collapse if it were not for them. Western society ran fine before this league of unqualified whiners invented this necessity.

    Layoffs happen in every industry, every day. They refuse, REFUSE, to improve their product, and keep telling everyone it is raining while they micturate on their leg. In fact, much of that analysis is patronizing and reveals their true disdain for the subscribers. The message is, we are doing a great job, and you need us, but you are too stupid to realize it, or willfully bias. What is never considered is that their work-product is sub par and invidious.

    They then whine and cry and cry that no one is buying their product, but we should because they are the last vanguards of republic, when by any measure, they’re not qualified to so do. When they realize that people are not stupid, and can see through the charade of objectivity, no matter the newsman’s denials, will be the moment they can save their industry.

    From any read of their work product, they do not have that capability of humble self reflection, so their industry is doomed. Good riddance.

    • Tom

      March 18, 2020 at 3:05 pm

      Pronoun reference. Look it up. Before you criticize writers, learn to write well.

      • Ann Coates

        March 19, 2020 at 11:02 am

        Thank you for the advice. I disagree, these are not writers, but Journalists. They write at a very basic level, and in elementary prose.

        I appreciate you agreeing with my premise though that one should have skill, experience, and competence before they levy criticism. Thus you agree that most reporters are vastly unqualified to undertake something so important to society.

        This is the problem with reporters. They dont have any substantive experience beside talking about what people did. They dont have skill in the actual doing. Reasonable people find this to be incredulous. If you are going to declare onesself the Fourth Estate, behave like it.

        • Don P

          March 19, 2020 at 2:28 pm

          Those trained in public communication know that newspapers are written in plain simple language for layperson readers. Articles are not a reflection of the writer’s knowledge or bias on the subject but rather their skill and efficiency in reaching their intended audience. Today’s average reader, regrettably, likely has a vocabulary and reading comprehension at the 8th-grade level. The craftsmanship of reporters, journalists and editors to reach down to this level is noteworthy. Readers with greater capabilities may never be satisfied with such material (biased or not).

    • Ken J.

      March 19, 2020 at 9:50 am

      Can you cite definitive, specific examples of bias? I doubt it. ***grabs popcorn, waits***

      • Ann Coates

        March 19, 2020 at 10:55 am

        Can you cite definitive examples of objective stories? I posit that any story that includes “raises questions from many areas” is a clear indication of unfounded bias. Indeed, the bias is invidious, it is done in a way through the selection of stories and the language used therein. Are you saying things cannot be done invidiously?

        For instance, for every single appointment made the person is assumed to not be qualified. Then “what about” questions are asked. The media doesnt report this way on themselves, there is no analysis about their qualifications. This is a specific, defined example that has happened so many times it can be stated generally.

        Have you watched these reporters in action in the process of reporting? Or are you just assuming that they’re self-inhibiting. I can tell you they are not.

        Christine Sexton only does direct interviews with one side of the story, the side that is opposing an action, her stories never include or infer what could possibly be the motive of good, which one would anticipate in a scientifically objective story. Those are two examples. Again it happens with such a frequency, pointing out a single instance doesn’t do much, and you’ll claim that it was an aberration.

        Are you confident that there are checks and balances within their organizations to prevent this kind of thing? I would think there are not given the spiraling of their industry.

        In any event, it matters not if I meet your Catch-22 requirements. The industry is still doomed based on the hubris of those running it and their equal disdain for those who consume their product. Good riddance.

  • Palmer Tom

    March 18, 2020 at 6:05 pm

    This is sad news. As a retired journalist who worked for 45 years covering local news, including a lot of environmental issues. this will leave a significant gap in oversight of government action/inaction. The real tragedy is the loss of diverse voices in journalism in Florida. Good luck to Craig and Sherry and their family.

  • jon

    March 18, 2020 at 11:13 pm

    Time for me to FAKENEWS this source! They deleted my comment… so… f/u ass holes!

  • Erika P.

    March 19, 2020 at 2:01 pm

    I was lucky enough to work at the Tampa Bay Times for five years, and I worked alongside some of the smartest and most well-informed, hard-working people I’ve ever met. It is easy to take cheap shots at journalists when you’ve never had to cover a city commission meeting at 7 p.m. and file an accurate, coherent, informative story by 9:45. The vast majority of reporters I’ve known are dedicated to getting the facts right, and they are harder on themselves than any armchair critic ever could be. They also would be responsible enough to cite sources before dismissing “most” workers of any kind as “vastly unqualified.” The press should never be exempt from tough criticism. However, there’s a difference between holding journalists accountable and making broad, unfounded observations about an entire profession.

    • gary

      March 19, 2020 at 2:44 pm

      So you are a lefty dumbo…!

  • Capt. Paul DeGaeta

    March 31, 2020 at 10:28 am

    For those of us who put party affiliation aside in the fight for Clean Water, this is a devastating blow. Craig Pittman was one of the very few journalists in America who would even mention the word “Mosaic” and expose the calamities of the Phosphate Industry. Craig Pittman should be proud of exposing MOSAIC for what they are.

    The rest of you who are taking this opportunity to fire partisan barbs, you might want to read some of his articles on what phosphate mining has done to Florida. You’d be better served directing that anger at phosphate strip mining that uses five Florida rivers (Hillsborough, Alafia, Manatee, Little Manatee, Myakka and Peace Rivers) like its own personal sewer pipe from Bone Valley to the Gulf of Mexico.

Comments are closed.


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