Creative Loafing Tampa Bay keeps charging on thanks to new Press Club members

A six-week update.

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click to enlarge Creative Loafing Tampa Bay keeps charging on thanks to new Press Club members
Sandra Döhnert Bourne

When Creative Loafing Tampa Bay laid off 58% of its staff members on March 18, it felt like our world was getting turned upside down. We said goodbye to seven of 12 full-timers, and outside of our office we moved face-first into the uncertainty of a virus that’s since wreaked havoc on the local businesses, artists and institutions this 32-year-old alt-weekly has devoted its life to.

Our remaining staff—three full-time employees in sales/marketing plus two full-time editorial staffers—dove in (and is still swimming!). This group hasn’t missed a print issue, and last week our website took record traffic.

Two months after those layoffs, CL launched its first six-week Press Club campaign to help keep the website and print issue free while also offsetting advertising revenue losses induced by COVID-19 shutdowns.

Before we launched Press Club, CL was dead last among seven newspapers owned by Euclid Media Group when it came to activating donations to support CL’s unique brand of local journalism. In the six-weeks since launch, only one market raised more money than CL. That achievement belongs to readers who kept flocking to cltampa.com, picking up print issues and spreading the word. It also belongs to readers who took an extra step to make a one-time or recurring donation that said, “I believe in the work Creative Loafing does, and I can’t imagine living in a community without this alt-weekly.”

It’s a scary feeling putting your hand out for money, but CL’s readers told this staff that doing so was OK, and that they have our back. You can’t put a price tag on that kind of support.

A goal of the Press Club was to raise $50,000 to help the paper crawl out the financial hole it fell into when coronavirus arrived. We’re not at the finish line yet, and I wish I could make like one of EMG’s other papers and tell you we are now hiring back a laid off editorial staffer, but I can’t. I don’t think I’ll know about staff rehires until closer to June 30 when companies that received PPP have to bring back furloughed employees to get loan forgiveness.

What I can tell you is that in the last six weeks, the world around us has changed in ways no one could have imagined. Sure, coronavirus is still out there fucking shit up, but the most significant civil rights movement of this staff’s lifetime is unfolding on the very streets we call home. That unified push for change (and the ugliness of those who’d like to maintain a status quo that allows racial violence to continue unchecked) has invigorated us, just like it’s energized you.

I promise you that this skeleton crew and small army of contributors will keep doing everything it can to tell that story, plus the stories of the countless artists, restaurateurs, local politicians and community members this paper serves. Asking for a hand up is tough for this proud bunch, but we’ve come to grips with the cards we’ve been dealt. In the last six weeks, we learned that there are a whole heck of a lot of you willing to give us a fighting chance. We’re gonna keep charging on, Tampa Bay, and that’s all thanks to you.

Support local journalism in these crazy days. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you up to the minute news on how Coronavirus is affecting Tampa and surrounding areas. Please consider making a one time or monthly donation to help support our staff. Every little bit helps.

Follow @cl_tampabay on Twitter to get the most up-to-date news + views. Subscribe to our newsletter, too.

About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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