Ray Roa, Editor-In-Chief of Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, weighed in on how the alternative news source stays afloat in a saturated media market while speaking at a Cafe con Tampa event.
Creative Loafing was founded over three decades ago “in the spirit of a dissident press,” Roa said, adding that a lot of their readers know the publication as Tampa Bay’s “woke, lefty newspaper.”
The paper’s mission is to amplify voices not commonly heard in the traditional news sphere. But covering fringe voices has become a bit more challenging in recent years given the polarized political environment, Roa said.
“We try to amplify these voices that are on the fringe,” he said. “Obviously that’s a little bit harder now than it was three or four years ago because a lot of these fringe voices now spew rhetoric saying that school shootings are fake, a lot of hateful rhetoric, bigoted, and the kind of rhetoric that lands you in jail.”
A big part of the paper’s success — it’s free. Roa said that’s a notable distinction in the age of online subscriptions and article limits.
“There’s literally no barrier outside of internet connection,” he said. “I think journalists and newspapers are allowed to find a way to make ends meet. But I can’t imagine that many people are reading some newspapers after the three articles, which is a shame.”
The media outlet also relies on web analytics to tailor their content to their target audience.
“We know who our readers are based on analytics,” Roa said. “We’re a web first company. We put everything online and it finds a place in our physical newspaper.”
Perhaps one of the paper’s most defining features is its ability to cover parts of stories that the dailies and the news stations won’t touch, Roa said. That led him to one of the main criticisms of the newspaper — it’s left-leaning bias.
“The bias is very clear. But our stories are very, very fair,” he said. “Just because a story is balanced doesn’t mean it has to be neutral.”
Roa went on to reference recent legislation, such as Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” measure, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law by opponents, as items of passion that he does not want to be neutral on. He also criticized Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recent election police arrest.
“How can you write about DeSantis’ election police arresting those folks, or the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ legislation, and not feel something,” he said. “This obsession with objectivity has hurt the very communities that we’ve tried to stay neutral to.”