UPDATED: 03/02/20 2:49 p.m.
Starting next week, full-time staff at the Tampa Bay Times will take a temporary 10% pay cut; which is supposed to end on June 5.
TBBJ said that the cuts begin with the March 13 paycheck. That’s six bi-weekly pay stubs assuming the June 5 paycheck doesn’t include the 10% cut.
The news was delivered in a note to staff signed by the Times executive team—including Chairman and CEO Paul Tash and Executive Editor Mark Katches.
Tash and Katches, along with three other executives—Executive Vice President and General Manager Joe DeLuca, Executive Vice President and Chief Digital Officer Conan Gallaty plus Vice President of Advertising and Marketing Bruce Faulmann—will take a 15% pay cut in that same period.
Executives also said that “additional reductions in staffing are likely,” which is depressing since the paper just laid off seven journalists in October 2019. The October layoffs came nearly a year after the Times cut 16 newsroom jobs and 18 months after the paper laid off 50 employees company wide. After those layoffs, the Times also started combining the national and local sections from Monday-Saturday.
According to a post published on Tuesday afternoon, the pay cuts are a “regrettable but necessary [step] because revenues are falling short, a little in circulation and more seriously in advertising.”
Creative Loafing Tampa Bay reached out to the Times to see exactly how many full-time staffers are affected and inquire about the median and average salaries for full-time reporters at the paper. An official at the paper had no comment and said they will not be able to share the memo sent to staff.
The Times anticipated declines in print advertising but the note said that the drop has been deeper than expected “primarily in display advertising for some large accounts.”
“...the growth of new accounts has not made up for the losses,” the note added.
On Twitter, Times staffers, who’ll get five additional days of paid time off as part of the pay cut, reacted by soliciting good pet pics and quoting media website Nieman Lab in pointing out that “Americans are more willing to pay for local news when they know local newspapers are in trouble.” Two staffers mentioned having a tough day while another said she was, “Finally watching Love Is Blind because it's been a DAY.”
Editorial writer Elizabeth Djinis wrote that, “What sucks so bad about this news is not just how demoralizing it is to me and my coworkers, who work so hard every day, but that it prompts people on the internet to say: ‘See, you journalists deserved this.’”
Steve Contorno, who routinely tears down the playhouses of politicians on behalf of the Times, straight up put out a caw-caw for some financial support by writing, “Dear millionaires, CEOs, philanthropists and all around generous people who like supporting good causes,” before dropping a link to the paper’s investigative fund.
At the time of this post, Katches’ last message on Twitter came on Feb. 24 when he reacted to Oregon Ducks basketball star Sabrina Ionescu becoming the first player in Division I to have at least 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists. Katches spent the weekend after the news retweeting reporters and big-upping the Times’ in-depth report on armored truck company GardaWorld, adding that “It cost the @tb_times about $200,000 to produce this investigation.
The cut also comes after news surrounding the retirements of two longtime Times staffers: Editor of Editorials Tim Nickens—who’s set to leave this spring— and reporter and editor Susan Taylor Martin, who retired quietly at the end of 2019. Those departures came after longtime reporter and columnist Ernest Hooper left in November 2019 following his move from column writing to the Times’ sports desk.
So for now, local media watchers will have to wait and see what happens after June 5 when the temporary pay cuts are supposed to be lifted, but the timing of the cut coincidentally happened on the same day that the staff at the 144-year-old Orlando Sentinel unionized to battle what it called new "vulture capitalist" owners.
"Like the other Tribune newspaper unions, we are deeply concerned by the potential takeover of hedge fund Alden Global Capital. Alden has been called the 'grim reaper' and 'Darth Vader' of the newspaper industry because it harvests its properties for short-term profit and leaves the carcasses to rot," reads the Sentinel Guild mission statement.
Times Publishing Co. and Times Holding Co. are owned by the nonprofit Poynter Institute for Media Studies, which was created by Nelson Poynter—a longtime Times publisher—to ensure the paper’s local ownership.
In the fall of 2019, a collective of Tampa Bay business leaders who invested in the Times—including Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Ybor City property developer Darryl Shaw—increased its loan to the Times Publishing Company by $3 million. That same group of investors lent the Times $12 million in 2017, one year after the Times bought the Tampa Tribune and immediately shut it down, putting an end to the paper’s 123-year relationship with the city it served.
The end came so suddenly for the Tribune that the paper didn’t even get to put a farewell edition together (that week, CL changed its front page to look like the Trib’s). The New York Times said that about 265 people lost their jobs when the Tribune closed.