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Tampa Bay Times to furlough employees, cut print distribution to twice weekly

Advertising revenue is in decline amid coronavirus business closures.

The Tampa Bay Times will temporarily reduce its print edition frequency to two-times per week beginning next week, the paper announced Monday.

The Times is also implementing eight-week furloughs for some staff members whose work has been affected by the virus and the resulting economic fallout, though the paper did not say which positions would be affected. Delivery personnel and workers at the paper’s print shop would likely take a hit.

Employees will also not be permitted to take paid leave or vacation for the next two months, according to Gabrielle Calise, a reporter with the Times.

 

“In the last two weeks, retailers have cancelled more than $1-million in advertising they had already scheduled. Until ad revenues recover, we must sharply reduce the costs of producing and delivering an edition in print,” Times CEO Paul Tash wrote in an email to subscribers.

Subscribers will receive the paper on Wednesdays and Sundays, the paper’s two largest circulation days. Papers will be delivered and available for purchase on news stands on those days.

The reduction is in response to what the paper describes as “unprecedented fallout” due to business closures and cut-backs resulting from massive social distancing efforts amid the COVID-19 crisis.

As businesses face hard economic times, the Times is experiencing a dip in retail and event-related advertising.

“Our commitment to journalistic excellence is unchanged,” Tash said. “What is changing, temporarily, is how we are able to deliver it. Readers can still get every bit of coverage online at tampabay.com and in our e-Newspaper, and we hope they will.”

The Times also prints and delivers national publications including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and USA Today. The Times said subscribers to those publications should contact those outlets for information on how they might be affected.

“These extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures,” Tash said. “All at the Times look forward to the day when our nation and community have weathered this storm.”

The Times had hinted at a reduction to its print product in an email to subscribers earlier this month.

It’s a series in a string of financial troubles for the paper, both before and after the coronavirus pandemic began wreaking havoc on the economy.

Around the same time Tash emailed subscribers about a potential reduction in printed papers, the Times laid off 11 employees including several reporters. Longtime environmental reporter Craig Pitman was among them and the most forward-facing writer affected.

Before that the paper sent a memo to employees notifying them of a temporary across the board pay cut of 10% and possible layoffs.

Tash along with Editor Mark Katches, General Manager Joe DeLuca, Vice President of Sales and Marketing Bruce Faulmann and Chief Digital Officer Conan Galatty each took a 15% pay cut.

The Times has been 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.

As of the end of 2017, the Times had net assets totaling nearly $40 million, according to the most recent 990 tax filing available.

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 Janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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