Hold the presses!
It’s official on January 1, 2012.
The St. Petersburg Times will become The Tampa Bay Times, and continue a long procession of journalism excellence which started way back there in 1884 as a country weekly in Dunedin which was sold to a fella named Paul Poynter in 1912, and was willed to the Poynter Institute – non-profit school for journalism founded in 1975 by Nelson Poynter – by Poynter’s son Nelson Poynter” in order to preserve the Poynter family’s great belief in independent journalism in the public interest.”
Which probably meant in order to keep the Times out of the jaws of corporations who were gobbling up newspapers and publishing entities by the shovel full and then setting loose their bloodless bean counters who have savaged some of the best newspapers in this country.
The St. Petersburg Times may as well be called ‘venerable,’ and we will do that right here.
Known as “Florida’s Best Newspaper,” the paper can also be called vulnerable, as are so many of the great newspapers in this country have become given the rise over the past generation of the rise of digital media over, well, let’s say, tactical media.
Tactical being the touch, the sight, the ritual of leafing through page after page of who, what, when, where, why…and how, instead of the quick flick of the fingers and wrists to scroll down a computer screen, or pad or smart phone or, now, a kindle in order to get the news of the day.
News of the day, which increasingly has turned to news of the minute with live streaming and billions of words streaking through the social media of the internet as mostly raw and unedited material which now constitute the “First rough draft of history,” and blogs written mostly by ‘citizen journalsts’ who increasingly serve as our eyes and ears on the state of the world.
Gone are the days when our news source had been filtered through the hands and eyes and experience of professional and seasoned reporters, and flanks of editors and fact checkers.
Now, we are there, as it happens, when it happens, wherever it happens, whenever it happens, at the mercy of tweets and posts and UTube and Facebook to try to sort out the information, and facts and truth from all of the technology which has overwhelmed one of the basic tenets of journalism, get it right.
Get it first. But get it right.
The St. Petersburg Times, oops, The Tampa Bay Times, has not only survived this technology and information explosion, it has thrived, and prevailed in the Tampa Bay Area, and sustained a national reputation for excellence, and acknowledgement of that excellence with eight Pulitzer Prizes, including one in 2009 for the establishment of the reporting and research which go into it’s “Truth O Meter” a triumph of fact checking which has handily debunked statements made by politicians, government, institutions and interest groups and a whole lot of other scalawags.
And in doing all of that the Tampa Bay Times has overwhelmed the paper across the bay and far and away tops the circulation and readership of The Tampa Tribune, which has largely gone to an internet site, leaving it’s paper edition floundering as it sits stacked high in the boxes on the streets next to the near empty Tampa Bay Times news box.
This is not to say we are happy about the weakness and woes of the Tribune.
The risks of a one-newspaper metropolis are great, even dangerous.
Journalism is not called the fourth estate for nothing, and the more eyes and ears and thought and analysis on the politicians and government and special interest groups who inhabit our world, the better.
And so we say, good on ‘ya, St. Petersburg Times, as 2011 comes to a close, and welcome to your successor for the new century of news making and shaking.
And — -30-