Is the Tampa Bay Times about to suspend or limit home paper delivery?
Based on an email sent to subscribers Thursday, it’s possible.
“We are committed to keep our news report strong for the duration of this crisis — even if we cannot bring you a printed newspaper every day of the week. Government curfews or eroding business conditions could make that impossible,” Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash wrote.
The Times declined to comment with further details.
Tash opens his email describing the newspaper as “the daily miracle,“ “even in the best of times” noting all the steps it takes to put it on your driveway or doorstep every morning.”
“As you have noticed, these are not the best of times,” Tash wrote.
While the email appears to blame the coronavirus for a potential slowdown of print delivery service, it comes two days after the paper laid off several reporters and one day after it let go of one of its superstars, environmental reporter Craig Pittman.
The email also makes no mention of the paper’s ongoing financial struggles.
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.
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.
Yet Tash’s email maintains optimism in the face of adversity.
“All our people — journalists, sales reps, press operators, delivery contractors — are working with talent and energy to keep the printed edition of the Times coming to you even now. So far, so good,” he wrote.
Tash suggests current subscribers activate their online, digital access to the paper on its website, noting subscribers have access to all the same information online as they would in the print edition.
“The only difference — besides the obvious one — is that the electronic version has some extra comics and features, and you can make the type as big as you want,” he said.
“We all are seeing and feeling changes we could not have imagined even a week ago. The eerie quiet around town feels a lot like the days when a hurricane is bearing down on us, except there is no way to predict how bad this storm will get or how long it may last,” Tash continued.
“On the other hand, I am fully confident that our newsroom will bring you terrific coverage of it, no matter what. Every day, our journalists are posting dozens of stories about how the crisis is unfolding in Florida and Tampa Bay.”