The same year Tampa Bay Times reporters and staff members were being laid off and forced to take pay cuts, the paper’s top executive remained just fine.
Not only did Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash not take a pay cut in 2019, he actually earned (ever so slightly) more than he did in 2018, according to available 990 tax forms.
Tash earned just shy of $1,000 more in 2019 than the year prior, with $489,182 in total compensation. From 2017 to 2018, Tash also saw a slight pay bump of about $3,000.
Those would be no-big-deal pay bumps consistent with fluctuations in executive pay and cost of living adjustments in normal circumstances. But these are not normal circumstances. The Times is financially in dire straits.
Forms for Tash’s 2020 compensation are not yet available and won’t be for some time. But it’s not like the paper’s financial crisis wasn’t already in full swing in 2019.
In October of that year, the times laid off seven journalists — five full-time reporters and two part-time. They also shed two positions through attrition.
Two months prior, the Times successfully convinced a team of investors, including Tash himself, to increase their loan to Times Publishing Company by $3 million, bringing the total loan to $15 million.
Worse, the year prior, the Times laid off about 50 employees. The same year, Tash penned a letter lamenting increased expenses related to then-President Donald Trump’s paper tariffs and warned layoffs would loom. They did.
In February of 2020, the Times temporarily cut worker pay 10%. When the cuts were announced, the paper said top executives would also take paycuts, theirs 15%. That included Tash, Editor Mark Katches, General Manager Joe DeLuca, Vice President of Sales and Marketing Bruce Faulmann and Chief Digital Officer Conan Galatty.
The 2020 990, when it is available, will reflect whether those pay cuts came to fruition.
Later in the year, in March, the Times implemented eight-week furloughs for some staff and cut its print schedule from seven days a week to just two.
The Times announced another round of pay cuts this month, 10% to full-time employees, that could last up to six months.
If Tash and other executives did indeed shoulder cuts themselves in 2020, good for them. But the paper’s long history of financial decline, which continues into 2021, begs the question: Why not sooner?
Tash’s pay is publicly documented in 990 tax filings through the Poynter Institute, which employs him. Those forms clarify that he did not take any pay cuts in 2018 or 2019 despite ongoing and increasing financial strife.
Surely laid off workers — including ace environmental reporter Craig Pittman, Deputy Editor for Sports Mike Sherman, senior researcher Caryn Baird and others — might be peeved to see that their sacrifice wasn’t shared among the paper’s top earners.
And worse, those who have been suffering round after round of pay cuts are far more impacted by a reduction in pay than someone who makes close to a half million a year. Ten percent of a $40,000 salary might only be $4,000 compared to the nearly $50,000 hit Tash would take under the same pay cut, but no doubt $4,000 means more to a lower wage worker than to a millionaire whose pay would still be well into six figures.