Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Central Tampa Edition To Return - More or Less

Very interesting meeting tonight at the Tampa Tribune. 40 or so people from the Trib and from the neighborhoods attended the meeting. The Trib had Gil Thelen (Publisher), Janet Weaver (Executive Editor), Duke Maas (Managing Editor), Bayard Steele and Dennis Joyce (Senior Editors) and others. The Central Tampa area had leaders and representatives from many of the neighborhoods, but especially the Seminole Heights neighborhoods and most especially Old Seminole Heights.

One of the comments made was the anger people felt about the manner in which they learned about the loss of the Central Tampa section. After a resident asked for an apology about that, Janet Weaver immediately responded with "I'm sorry, we could have handled it better" and discussed how they could have provided better notification of the changes. It is refreshing to have a senior executive of a large organization, without hesitation, apologize for an error.

The Tribune explained that the Central Tampa section was started 6 years ago. It had hoped that readership of the Trib in this area would would increase as a result. It did not. The readership in Central Tampa was 39%. The average readership is 68%. Further more it generated only $33,000 a year in ad revenues. This was cover the cost of 4 reporters and other staff and the cost of printing the paper. The other neighborhood editions generate $143,000 a week. One interesting thing they did was they cut the Central Tampa section, they did not necessarily cut the reporter positions, because although the Central Tampa section was a revenue black hole, it was a news bonanza.

In spite of all of this we may be getting a Central Tampa edition back - sort of. The bureau will not return. However they are exploring to see if they can modify the paper that is sent to Central Tampa residents. They use as a base the South Tampa section. They give us back the name Central Tampa and modify or move around some of the content to reflect more of a Central Tampa emphasis. For example if a story in the South Tampa section about Seminole heights is a front page but bottom of the fold story, in the Central Tampa section it might move up to top of the fold. They might be able to subsitute some of the information in South Tampa section with Central Tampa info. IE Crime Stats. However a good portion of the info would be common info. (As it was already. If you read the old Central Section closely, you would often see articles from other neighborhood sections.) This semi-reversion is very good news.

They also are exploring of possibly doing some reverse publishing, where they take commentary or stories from selected area blogs and use it in the paper. Normally blogs quote from the paper. I believe this means they would do the reverse, and quote from the blog or use the blog as source material. By doing so, they could get a better feel for community issues and concerns or find stories that might get overlooked. This sort of happens with this blog, in that the blog is read by reporters from the Tribune, St. Pete Times, Weekly Planet and TBT and they use it for story ideas. The reverse publishing would go one step further and quote from the blog. This blog may be one of the blogs the Trib looks at. I think the Weekly Planet article on the Central Tampa issue might be a good example of one type of reverse publishing.

After a comment made about the difficulties in getting the news to the right Trib reporters, the Trib noted they are hosting a workshop for non profit agencies in the near future about getting press releases to reporters. They may open it up to the neighborhood organzations.

It became clear that the only way to get a full Central Tampa Bureau back was to increase readership and advertising. I recommened the Trib consider ways to partner with neighborhood associations to increase the readership and advertising. They thought it was a good idea.

The Trib will make a decision about the modified Central Tampa section by the end of next week

I appreciate the Trib listening to us.

There was more, but it is late and I am tired. Perhaps some readers who were there can can fill in the blanks. I will post more later. If anyone from the Trib wants to comment on this post or correct anything, please feel free do so in the comments section or email me.


Molly said...

Did anyone else notice when the guy from the Ybor chamber of commerce (sorry I don't know his name) mentioned that the Tribune is doing a great job with their entertainment magazine, tbt*, the Tribune staff nodded and moved along? I just thought that was interesting and would have loved to jump in and clarify, but it was hard to get a word in!!
Everyone was so passionate and outspoken last night!! It was great to see such a sense of community and I'm so happy to have moved into an area like this.
It was obvious last night that the Tribune values South Tampa more right now. What surprises me is that 6 years ago the area probably could not have supported a Central Tampa section. And now new businesses are moving in, some moving out of South Tampa and into our neighborhood. Now is the time for a section like this and they are taking it away. I just don't understand!

blogger wife said...

I attended both the Tribune meeting and the Arts Council meeting this week. I've heard artists referred to as the "waiters and waitresses of the world", and Central Tampa referred to as the "donut hole" of Tampa. Since identity seems to play a major role in this newspaper issue, I suggest we change our name to the Donut Hole. Think about it, what are donut holes but the core. As a child, I can remember on rare occasions my mother would fry up a batch of homemade donuts. I found the holes totally fascinating and the tastiest part of the donut. Imagine an arts festival called The Donut Hole Festival, with our very own Krispy Kreme bakers cooking decadent sweets. On a crisp autumn day, hot donuts and coffee are just the thing to accompany your stroll through the arts.

Michael Hussey said...

Did anyone else notice when the guy from the Ybor chamber of commerce (sorry I don't know his name) mentioned that the Tribune is doing a great job with their entertainment magazine, tbt*