Tampa Bay Times leaders say donations are an important and growing revenue stream to sustain journalism

Conan Gallaty and Paul Tash were in Ybor City to talk about the paper's 'season of renewal.'

click to enlarge (L-R) Conan Gallaty, Paul Tash and Tom Scherberger at the Cuban Club in Ybor City, Florida on May 20, 2022. - Photo by Kimberly Defalco
Photo by Kimberly Defalco
(L-R) Conan Gallaty, Paul Tash and Tom Scherberger at the Cuban Club in Ybor City, Florida on May 20, 2022.
In front of a packed ballroom at Ybor City’s Cuban Club, Tampa Bay Times leaders told politicos that an important and growing revenue stream for its award-winning journalism is donations.

“We have two funds that go straight to the hiring and retention of our journalists: a journalism fund and an investigative fund. The dollars that were contributed last year to that investigative fund helped produce the work that won the Pulitzer Prize this year,” Conan Gallaty, who’ll step in as chairman of Times Publishing Co. this summer told the Tampa Bay Tiger Club, alluding to the “Poisoned” series about a Tampa lead smelter.
Gallaty, who succeeds the paper’s outgoing and longest-running chairman Paul Tash, added that “We are finding people that are saying we believe in what you do. We're willing to help fund that, and so I believe that that kind of fundraising for donations will really help keep journalism on solid footing.”

Times spokesperson Sherri Day told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay that since October 2019, those funds have raised more than $560,000 from 5,700 donors. Earlier this month, the Times reported that the sum of the costs for “Poisoned”—which earned the paper its 14th Pulitzer—is at about $750,000.

One Tiger Bay member asked, “In this age of unbridled disinformation, why does the Times continue to print letters to the editor that are based on false premises?”

Tash said he’d have to see the specific letter, but said that the Times does edit letters for clarity, brevity and accuracy.

“But we try to be generous in our boundaries that we set because after all, we know we are one of the few voices around these days. And so we try to give people a chance to say what's on their mind, in their words, even if it doesn't conform to our view—especially if they don't conform to our view,” Tash added. “I’d have to see that letter to see if we missed something or needed to set those boundaries a little tighter, but we do try to be generous in setting those boundaries.”

Also notable was Tash taking a question about the Times’ inclusion and diversity standards. He did not dance around the fact that he, a white man who came after two white, male chairmen, was making way for Gallaty, another white man.

In a previous interview with CL, Tash only said, “Through the years, women and Black people have been very prominent among my considerations” when it came to his successor. But in front of Tiger Bay, he said he did consider a Black man and a white woman to succeed him, adding that the candidates, “through their own decisions and actions, took themselves out of consideration.”

Outside of that, however, there weren’t a lot of specific, groundbreaking answers about the Times’ plans in the wake the last five years which have seen the paper endure not just the pandemic, but also staff buyouts, printing plant closure, layoffs, pay cuts, furloughs, print reduction, federal and private loans, plus the federal takeover of the Times’ pension fund.

Last fall, many remaining staff members were asked to put their name on a public media style fundraiser that the Washington Post compared to Yelp. On Monday, the Times will launch another round of “#itsyourtimes” that hopes to raise $50,000 over the span of a week.

Only Tiger Bay Club members were allowed to ask questions during the session, but none pressed Tash and Gallaty about the Times’ relationship with investors who bailed the paper out with a $15 million loan—although Tash mentioned Darryl Shaw, one of those investors who now also owns many properties near the Cuban Club.
Also not breached in the Tiger Bay session was a new pattern of the paper's bright stars leaving for other papers or PR (the Times’ longtime Deputy Editor of Photography, along with three reporters who participated in investigations which earned the Times’ last two Pulitzers, have recently left for ProPublica).

Instead, members wanted to know if the paper—which says it has over 401,000 daily readers across its e-newspaper and print edition—would ditch its Wednesday and Sunday print schedule and move back to a seven-day print schedule (TLDR: Not likely anytime soon, but the Times does publish an e-edition of its newspaper seven days a week).

And in the end, Tash was clear that he sees what’s happening at Times as a “season of renewal.” In his final comments, he pointed to Gallaty and said, “clearly the new guy is way more capable and credentialed than the old one.”