Tuesday’s announcement that the Tampa Bay Times was buying the Tampa Tribune and ceasing publication of the later paper may have come as a shock to many who casually follow the media industry, but for those of us who work in it and keep tabs on these things it seemed almost anti-climactic. The Tribune has been dying a long, painful and slow death over the course of the last half decade.
Make no mistake about it – the death of the Tribune and newspaper consolidation isn’t a good thing – but it was inevitable for better or for worse. While the Times has long been the paper of record in the state of Florida, the Tribune whose editorial bent tended to be further to the right than most of the major Florida daily papers served a very real market for local news in Hillsborough County.
For years, the Tribune has struggled as the paper’s ownership has changed and the printing presses were shut down. The moment the paper ceased operations and the Tampa/St Petersburg media market became a one-paper town was long in coming, but still extremely sad. With this comes a responsibility to the Times to not rest on it laurels and to continue the type of aggressive reporting that has made it Florida’s paper of record.
Local interest stories particularly on the Hillsborough side of the bay will need to be a focus of the Tampa Bay Times going forward. The paper which has won pulitzer prizes for local reporting among other things is uniquely equipped to continue the tradition the Tribune had established on the local beat. Ultimately, from a pure standpoint of informing people if folks are going to read a daily newspaper in this age of digital news, blogs and 24-hour news channels, I would prefer it to be the Tampa Bay Times to any other paper in the state.
However, that doesn’t mean the death of the Tribune is a positive thing – it’s not but given the inevitability that played out in recent years better the “Trib” fall into the hands of the Times than anyone else. Still, now that the Bay Area has just one major daily newspaper the lack of competition could either make the Times an even better paper or lull the newspaper into a sense of complacency on the local front. Let’s hope it is the former.