Articles about "Tampa Bay Times"


Career Beat: Loren Mayor named chief operating officer for NPR

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • David Gillen is now executive editor of news enterprise at Bloomberg News. Previously, he was deputy business editor of enterprise at The New York Times. (Politico)
  • Loren Mayor is now chief operating officer for NPR. Previously, she was senior vice president of strategy there. (Poynter)
  • Weston Phippen is now a reporter for the National Journal. Previously, he was a staff writer at the Tampa Bay Times. Lauren Fox will be a Congress reporter at the National Journal. Previously, she was a political reporter at U.S. News and World Report. (Email)
  • Mark Brackenbury has been named executive editor for the Connecticut Group at Digital First Media. He is managing editor for the New Haven Register. (New Haven Register)
  • Colleen Noonan has been named vice president of marketing and creative service for the New York Daily News. Previously, she was a digital media and marketing consultant at Pitney Bowes. Melanie Schnuriger is now vice president of product development for the New York Daily News. Previously, she was general manager of fashion and beauty for Hearst Digital Media. Kristen Lee is director of digital development for the New York Daily News. Previously, she was digital integration editor there. Brad Gerick is now director of social media for the New York Daily News. He has been social media manager and regional editor for Patch.com. Zach Haberman is now deputy managing editor for digital at the New York Daily News. Previously, he was digital news editor there. Cristina Everett is now deputy managing editor for digital entertainment at the New York Daily News. Previously, she was senior digital entertainment editor there. Andy Clayton is now deputy managing editor for digital sports at the New York Daily News. Previously, he was senior online sports editor there. Christine Roberts is mobile and emerging products editor at the New York Daily News. Previously, she was an associate homepage editor there. (Email)

Job of the day: BuzzFeed is looking for a National LGBT Reporter. Get your résumés in! (BuzzFeed)

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Why did the CDC try to embargo Ebola news?

mediawiremorningGood morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. Why did the CDC place an embargo on Ebola news? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the first case of Ebola in the U.S. Tuesday. (CDC) | The rollout didn’t follow the CDC’s schedule, though. As AP put it, “The CDC initially embargoed the announcement of the diagnosis until 4:30 p.m. CDT, but then lifted the embargo after several news organizations broke that restriction.” | NBC’s story, for instance, was first published at 4:52 p.m. ET. “Which means, by the way, unless NBC’s standards have changed dramatically recently, which I doubt, that someone at the CDC went on the record about this before the ‘embargo’ lifted,” Ivan Oransky writes. He also notes another problem with the press release: “When you put ‘For Immediate Release’ and ‘Embargoed’ on the same press release about @#$% Ebola, you get the blame for the broken embargo.” (Embargo Watch) | In 2007, Washington Post reporter Craig Timberg got a scoop based on info he got independently and other news orgs had agreed to embargo. (Slate)
  2. Gary Shelton leaves the Tampa Bay Times: The longtime sports columnist “has been the Times’ voice throughout Tampa Bay’s greatest Sports generation.” (Tampa Bay Times) | Peter Schorsch has other names of people who he says are taking buyouts at the newspaper, which Poynter owns. (SaintPetersBlog) | The newspaper announced a cut in staff pay and hinted that layoffs may follow a round of planned buyouts. (Poynter)
  3. Feds settle with Washington Times: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will reimburse the newspaper and former Times reporter Audrey Hudson for some of their legal costs after an agent from the Coast Guard Investigative Service seized her notes while searching her house for “registered firearms and a potato launcher supposedly belonging to Ms. Hudson’s husband.” (The Washington Times) | Alex Pappas wrote about the raid last year. (The Daily Caller)
  4. Graham era officially ends at Washington Post: Katharine Weymouth‘s last day as Post publisher was yesterday. (WP) | Her last masthead. (@jfdulac) | Welcome to work, Fred Ryan! Here’s an article in the publication you used to run that says Jeff Bezos has no discernible plan for the paper. Also, Jack Shafer calls you a “Washington spearchucker who will throw the spears Bezos hands him.” (Politico)
  5. Chinese censors can’t keep up with pro-democracy gestures online: But “Most analysts agree that China’s government will most likely succeed in keeping most of its citizens in the dark, and early signs suggest there will be little tolerance for those who defy the censors.” (NYT)
  6. St. Louis indie journalist’s car robbed after his arrest: When cops arrested Bassem Masri for traffic warrants, they didn’t lock his car. “[M]y clothes, my iPad, my equipment, everything got stolen,” Masri tells Ray Downs. He used the equipment to live-stream from Ferguson protests and is trying to raise money to replace his stuff. (Riverfront Times)
  7. Back when racism was OK in sportswriting: Richard Horgan digs up a lede from a 1954 Daily News World Series gamer by Dick Young about a “Chinese homer.” Ugh: “Ming Toy Rhodes, sometimes called Dusty by his Occidental friends, was the honorable person who, as pinch hitter, delivered a miserable bundle of wet wash to the first row in right field in Polo Grounds some 258 1/2 feet down the block from the laundry.” (FishbowlNY)
  8. Does freelancers’ insurance have a place in a post-Obamacare world?: Sarah Laskow looks at how New York’s Freelancers Union has evolved, from a source of health insurance, to its own insurance company, to the proprietor of clinics. (Capital)
  9. Front page of the day, curated by Kristen Hare: Berlin’s Die Tageszeitung fronts a poignant illustration about the Hong Kong protests. (Courtesy the Newseum.)

    DieTageszeitung_10012014 

  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin: Tamar Adler is now a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine. Previously, she was an editor at Harper’s. (The New York Times) | Joanna Coles is now editorial director of Seventeen magazine. She is editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan. (AdWeek) | Kris Van Cleave is now a correspondent for CBS Newspath. Previously, he was a reporter and anchor at WJLA. (CBS News) | Chris Cristi is now an evening helicopter reporter at KNBC in Los Angeles. Previously, he was a freelance helicopter reporter for KCB. (TV Spy) | Nerina Rammairone is now deputy editor at TV Guide Magazine. Previously, she was a senior editor there. (Mediabistro) | Michael Fabiano will be director of local broadcast markets for The Associated Press. Previously, he was chief operating officer at Locate Real Estate. (Associated Press) | Job of the day: Gawker is hiring a “Growth Hacker.” Get your résumés in! (Gawker) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org

Suggestions? Criticisms? Would like me to send you this roundup each morning? Please email me: abeaujon@poynter.org. Read more

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HAMMERHEAD SHARK ON DISPLAY AT MANDALAY BAY RESORT IN LAS VEGAS

Shark-hunting for ‘Old Hitler’ reveals storytelling tips

When I arrived at the St. Petersburg Times in 1977, the first writer I bonded with was Jeff Klinkenberg. We were the same age. Our desks were side by side. We both had young families. Our oldest daughters became best friends. We played in a rock band together. You get the idea.

On Tuesday, Klinkenberg took a buyout from what is now the Tampa Bay Times. His announcement on his Facebook page inspired more than 500 likes and almost 400 comments. These fervent expressions of admiration and respect from readers and other writers did not surprise me.

There is pride in knowing that a great newspaper could sustain the work of such a talented feature writer for almost four decades, especially one who is so identified with a place and a culture and the odd and interesting Floridians who have created it. There is also some sadness attached to the realization that newspapers, weakened economically, find it so hard to retain and sustain such talent until they’re ready to leave.

But today I am focused on the pride, not the sadness.

It turns out that Klinkenberg was the first writer whose work I studied at the Times, and the first of many that I interviewed to learn their habits, values and best practices. Here’s an example. On July 21, 1977, this story appeared on the front page of the sports section of the Times. Here is the top:

Ron Swint moaned in the dark about the shark called Old Hitler, the largest shark in Tampa Bay, as traffic roared by on the Skyway Bridge. Somebody in a car shouted and Swint automatically winced. He has been hit by beer cans thrown from passing cars. A huge truck rumbled by so fast the bridge shook. Diesel fumes hung in the air.

The first shark to come along was not Old Hitler, but it was a big one, a shark Swint later estimated at 500 pounds, a shark that swallowed a three-pound live ladyfish bait and swam toward the lights of Tampa. The shark almost killed Swint.

Swint was pulling on the shark rod with all his strength when the line snapped. His own momentum carried him into the lane of traffic. The truck never slowed down, but Swint was quick enough to scramble back onto the sidewalk with his expensive rod and reel. Shaken, he said: “That’s why I never drink when I’m out here. You need all your faculties to fish for sharks. If I’d had a few beers tonight, I may not have been quick enough to get out of the way. I’ve almost been pulled in the water by sharks, but this was the first one that almost got me killed by traffic.

“And that wasn’t even Old Hitler.”

Four times Ron Swint has hooked the shark he calls Old Hitler and four times it has escaped. “Last year I wasn’t even a challenge,” Swint said. “Old Hitler ripped me off.” Last time Swint was ready. “Old Hitler took 1,500 yards of line and I turned him. I thought I had him. Then my line broke.”

Swint is obsessed by Old Hitler, the most intimidating shark in the bay. Old Hitler, Swint says, is a 22-foot hammerhead. Its head is 5 feet wide. Old Hitler, Swint says, weighs 1,500 pounds, easy. If Old Hitler is indeed that large, it is twice the size of the biggest hammerhead ever taken on rod and reel. The world record, captured off Jacksonville in 1975, weighed 703 pounds and was 14 feet long. Swint intends to catch Old Hitler and break the record. “That SOB is mine,” Swint said, voice rising in the night. “I’m gonna get him.”

I republished Klinkenberg’s story in a newsroom newsletter I named “The Wind Bag,” and introduced an interview with this text:

In this excellent story about shark fisherman Ron Swint, Jeff gives us a character sketch about a modern day Captain Ahab. Ron Swint engages in an obsessive hunt for a shark called Old Hitler. Jeff captures Swint’s peculiarities with effective description, interesting anecdotes, and lively quotes.

The lead paragraph reveals the power of active verbs to give prose precision and vitality. And Jeff makes his prose readable by varying the length and structure of his sentences. In the following conversation, Jeff discusses this particular article. He also touches on his “method” for organizing his stories and for making “specialized” topics accessible to all his readers.

[Note: Howell Raines, mentioned in the interview, was political editor of the St. Petersburg Times in 1977. He eventually became executive editor of the New York Times.]

RPC: Under what circumstances did you meet and interview Ron Swint?

JK: Howell Raines and I went fishing one afternoon on the Skyway. And while we were standing there on the bridge catching nothing, this guy came walking by with about 60 pounds of equipment. He looked at my puny stuff and said “You’ll never catch anything with that.”

Then he just launched into a monologue about how he was going to catch this shark “Old Hitler.” For a few minutes he talked about catching Old Hitler as if I should know who Old Hitler was.

I called him up about two weeks later, and I went back out there with him. We went out to the bridge about 6 p.m. and stayed until about 2 a.m., fooling around with sharks and ladyfish. I hoped that he wouldn’t be pulled off the bridge and leave me out there.

The next day I came into the office and wrote out my notes. I had three pages of single-spaced notes. I typed them out, underlined my best quotes, and organized my story from there. I started writing it that day and finished it up the next.

RPC: Is it a general method of yours to organize your story around the quotes you’ve collected?

JK: One of the things I’ve done when I’ve had the time: I’ll type them, and then I’ll assign different values to different quotes. My best quotes I’ll try to get up high in the story and then proceed in kind of a descending order. I’ll try to save a couple of good ones for the end. I think it’s a good way to organize a story.

RPC: What about the structure of the story? It’s blocked off into section by checkmarks [design elements]. Is that your doing?

JK: Sometimes I think it’s a good way to structure a story. It’s easier for the reader to handle. When you break up a story into anecdotes like this it gives each littler story more impact. They’re not lost 15 paragraphs down. You can use the checkmarks to introduce a new littler story.

RPC: Why did you choose to end with a short section…two or three short sentences? [“Last summer Swint says he lived four days on the Skyway. He slept during the day on the sidewalk. Old Hitler never touched his baits.”]

JK: I thought it was kind of a dramatic way to end it. And to punch home the fact that this guy was fanatical about the thing to spend four days on the bridge to track down a shark. I have some misgivings after I did it. Someone asked me if the story had just been chopped off at that point.

RPC: I notice at various points in the story you are careful to attribute statements he has made about what he can do with the sharks once he has caught them. Fishermen are notorious BS artists….Do you often encounter problems of credibility in the people you interview?

JK: No, but in this instance, some of the stuff he was telling me was so remarkable I had to protect myself a little bit. Many of the things he told me I double-checked and found them to be true. Things I couldn’t check I went with an attribution. And there are quite a few in this story.

RPC: Did you try to balance the dramatic story with news about fishing equipment and fishing techniques that might be of interesting to shark fishermen?

JK: The story needed some hard information. Some of the things he was saying were so sensational…you needed some hard facts about exactly what this guy does and how he does it. I think the secret, if there is a secret, to writing about any kind of special interest is to make it accessible to people who ordinarily wouldn’t give a damn about it. But at the same time you have to satisfy certain number of people who are looking for information. How do I improve my own fishing or whatever. But general that type of ‘how to’ information in my stories is incidental to the rest.

RPC: What techniques do you use to make the story accessible?

JK: Well I begin with some kind of personality sketch. Try to find a person to build the story around and kind of sneak in the facts…maybe after a quote. What makes outdoors writing bad in many newspapers is that the writer is writing for other experts in the field. The average reader finds it incomprehensible. Anyone who has done any fishing or hunting has a lot of personal experiences that he can’t wait to tell and embellish in many instances.

RPC: How about your lead? What were you trying to do there?

JK: I was trying to set the whole picture in three paragraphs. I also wanted to set the scene of the area that he fishes from. All of his problems: the cars going by, this Old Hitler that threatens to drag him into the bay. It establishes him as a character right off…This is what I call a can’t-miss story. You’ve got a shark. You’ve got Hitler in the same story. All I needed was a retiree and a dog and it would have been the perfect story.

It surprises and delights me how many of the themes and strategies raised in this interview 37 years ago continue to capture my attention: reporting and storytelling; developing characters; being on the scene; getting the voices of people in stories, beginnings, endings, and other structural elements; writing for multiple audiences; attracting non-specialists to a text and so much more.

It reminds me that I owe a debt to reporters and editors at the then St. Petersburg Times, who not only tolerated my presence in their newsroom as one of the first writing coaches, but who were willing to talk with me endlessly about the craft and about their sense of mission and purpose as journalists. Klinkenberg will have to stand in for all of them as I say, “Thanks, brother. Keep writing, man. And let’s keep talking.” Read more

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3 Journalists killed while covering Ebola crisis

mediawiremorningGood morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. Journalists killed while covering Ebola crisis: A delegation including government officials, doctors and journalists was attacked in a Guinean village Tuesday. Eight people were killed. (LAT) | Three journalists are among the dead. (Reuters) | “Many residents of rural villages have reacted with fear and panic when outsiders have come to conduct awareness campaigns and have even attacked health clinics.” (AP) | “How journalists covering the Ebola outbreak try to stay safe” (Poynter) | “While reporting on Ebola, the smell of chlorine ‘is one of the most comforting smells in the world’” (Poynter) | Kristen Hare‘s Twitter list of reporters covering the Ebola outbreak.
  2. Turkey tussles with the Times: The NYT published a correction on a Sept. 16 story about ISIS getting recruits from Turkey: “A picture with an earlier version of this article, which showed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu leaving a mosque in August, was published in error. Neither that mosque nor the president’s visit were related to the recruiting of ISIS fighters described in the article.” (NYT) | Erdogan has also fired back at credit-rating firms. “The sustained offensive begun by Erdogan against Moody’s, Fitch and the Times is partly due to Erdogan’s deeply rooted conviction that certain quarters in the Western world — particularly the influential financial ones — are committed to bring him down and to scuttle Turkey’s unstoppable ascent to be among the most powerful nations in the world.” (Al Monitor) | Dean Baquet: “Despite this published correction, some Turkish authorities and media outlets have mounted a coordinated campaign to intimidate and to impugn the motives of the reporter who wrote the story. She has been sent thousands of messages that threaten her safety. It is unacceptable for one of our journalists to be targeted in this way.” (NYT Co.)
  3. No victory: Scotland will remain part of the U.K. following last night’s independence referendum. | Philip Boucher Hayes, a journalist for RTE, was mugged while reporting in Niddrie, near Edinburgh. The thief took his recording equipment then charged him £200 to return it. (RTE) | Some early front pages. (Poynter) | How U.K. newspapers reported the vote. (The Guardian) | Media alert: My wife, who is from a slightly less sporting part of Edinburgh, took in the results from a D.C. bar and was interviewed by a couple of reporters for local outlets. Here she is on WNEW-FM.
  4. Obama less transparent than Bush, says AP D.C. bureau chief: “The (Obama) administration is significantly worse than previous administrations,” Sally Buzbee said at ASNE-APME. (AP)
  5. Trouble at the Tampa Bay Times: The newspaper, which Poynter owns, cut staff pay 5 percent. CEO Paul Tash’s letter strongly hints layoffs may follow if it doesn’t get enough voluntary resignations. “If you are uncertain about your standing with the Times, this is a good time for a frank conversation with your supervisor,” Tash writes. “If this long, difficult stretch has tested your commitment to the Times or the newspaper business, this is a good time to consider your options.” (Poynter) | It also sold the Tramor Cafeteria, a nonworking restaurant where employees used to bring bag lunches. (Tampa Bay Times) | In the comments, Jim Romenesko predicts Poynter will “eventually merge with American Press Institute, which merged with the Newspaper Association of America Foundation in 2012.” (Romenesko)
  6. Fewer broadcasters use the word “Redskins”: In the first two weeks of the 2013 football season, “‘Redskins’ was said 186 times and ‘Washington’ was said 156 times. In 2014, ‘Redskins’ was said 67 times and “Washington” was said 169 times.” (Deadspin) | Tara Huber, a high-school adviser in Pennsylvania, was suspended, as was school newspaper editor Gillian McGoldrick, after the paper refused to use the term. (SPLC, via Poynter) | My running list of outlets and journalists that won’t use the term. (Poynter)
  7. AFP won’t use freelancers in Syria: “Freelancers have paid a high price in the Syrian conflict,” Michèle Léridon writes. “High enough. We will not encourage people to take that kind of risk.” (AFP) | AP photography director Santiago Lyon: Media orgs must ask whether they’re employing journalists or “thrill seekers.” (AP)
  8. A new boss at The Fader: Naomi Zeichner leaves BuzzFeed for the music publication. (Capital) |
  9. How Politico knows Susan Glasser is on board: Unlike Rick Berke, she writes the publication’s name in all caps. “Glasser mentioned ‘POLITICO’ 16 times in her Thursday memo to staff and even expanded upon the news organization’s “win the morning” mantra by writing that Politico should aim to win the “afternoon and evening too with smart, authoritative, impactful, independent and original journalism.” (HuffPost)
  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin: Kirstine Stewart is now vice president of North America media partnerships at Twitter. Previously, she was head of Twitter’s presence in Canada. (Recode) | George Rodrigue is now assistant news director at WFAA in Dallas. Previously, he was managing editor at The Dallas Morning News. (Romenesko) | Keith Jenkins is now general manager at National Geographic Digital. Previously, he was National Geographic’s director of digital photography and executive editor for digital content. (National Geographic) | Julianne Escobedo Shepherd will be culture editor at Jezebel. She is an instructor at Tisch School of the Arts and a contributor to Rookie. Jia Tolentino is now features editor at Jezebel. Previously, she was a contributing editor at The Hairpin. Clover Hope is now a staff writer at Jezebel. Previously, she was a deputy editor at Vibe. (Jezebel) | Robert Jordan is now a journalist-in-residence at the University of Chicago. He is a reporter and anchor at WGN in Chicago. (Robert Feder) | Sam Schlinkert will be associate social media editor at BuzzFeed. Previously, he was deputy social media editor at The Daily Beast. (@sts10) | Job of the day: The Idaho Mountain Express is looking for an arts and events editor. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org

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Tampa Bay Times cuts staff pay, hints at layoffs

The Tampa Bay Times will cut staff pay 5 percent, Times Publishing Company CEO Paul Tash tells staffers in a letter Thursday.

The company will also cap severance payments to employees who leave voluntarily at eight weeks’ pay, unless they resign by Oct. 1, in which case the maximum severance is 13 weeks’ pay. The letter hints at layoffs: “After these voluntary departures, we will take stock of the company’s ongoing staff patterns and needs,” Tash writes.

He continues:

If you are uncertain about your standing with the Times, this is a good time for a frank conversation with your supervisor. If this long, difficult stretch has tested your commitment to the Times or the newspaper business, this is a good time to consider your options.

Poynter owns the Tampa Bay Times.

The Times said in March it planned buyouts in advance of job reductions. The paper cut pay 5 percent in 2009, when it was known as the St. Petersburg Times. It also cut staff pay 5 percent in 2011 and laid off staff the next month. It ended the second 5 percent cut in March 2012.

The Times also announced Thursday it had sold the Tramor Cafeteria to a company that plans to make it into a beer garden. While it was no longer an active cafeteria, “Times employees have used it as a place to eat lunch brought from home and for meetings,” Katherine Snow Smith reports.

“Staffers are welcome to use the break room on the 2nd floor, where other vending machines are located,” a memo to staffers about the Tramor sale says.

The Times also recently gave up the naming rights to an arena in Tampa.

According to the Alliance for Audited Media, average Sunday circulation at the Tampa Bay Times in March 2014 was down 1 percent over the same month the year before, to 397,996. Average Monday-Friday circulation was down nearly 7 percent, to 317,270.

Full memo:

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

Newspaper publishing remains a tough business, especially this summer, and we are taking some tough measures to adapt our company’s operations to the reality of tight revenue.

First, starting with the week of September 29, there will once again be a 5 percent wage reduction for all fulltime Times staffers. (This will show up in paychecks on Friday, October 10.) We regret the necessity and will endeavor to restore full pay when conditions permit, as we did before. While the pay reduction is in place, staffers will receive one extra day of paid leave per quarter.

Second, we are capping the maximum paid severance at eight weeks, rather than the current 13. This change anticipates that as we lower expenses, there will be further job reductions.

In light of these changes, we will offer severance — under the current policy and based on their current pay — to staffers who resign by October 1 and leave the staff by October 10. (Note: This offer does not extend to advertising sales representatives or sales managers, because we do not anticipate job reductions in those ranks.)

After these voluntary departures, we will take stock of the company’s ongoing staff patterns and needs. If you are uncertain about your standing with the Times, this is a good time for a frank conversation with your supervisor. If this long, difficult stretch has tested your commitment to the Times or the newspaper business, this is a good time to consider your options.

It hurts my heart that for all the fine work we have done this year, and indeed over the last several years, there is more hard work ahead, including some disruption or hardship for people I care about. Against that disappointment, I draw encouragement from our extraordinary work and the great difference it makes every day in the lives of our readers, advertisers and communities.

Yes, this work is difficult, but it is also vital — not just for the Times, but for Tampa Bay. So for me there is only one option: to see it through.

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Tampa Bay Times gives up naming rights to hockey arena

Tampa Bay Times

The Tampa Bay Times Forum, home of the region’s professional hockey team, will be renamed the Amalie Arena.

The Poynter-owned newspaper — previously called The St. Petersburg Times — has had naming rights since 2002, when it agreed to a 12-year deal for about $30 million. The agreement was later extended until 2018, but the Tampa Bay Lighting approached the Times about Amalie Motor Oil taking over, Jeff Harrington reports.

“Putting our name on the Forum helped the St. Pete Times connect with new customers, and then helped establish the Tampa Bay Times as our new name. Those business goals have been met,” said Paul Tash, the Times chairman and CEO.

For example, the paper’s Sunday circulation for Hillsborough and suburban Pasco more than tripled between 2002 and 2013, he noted. The Times also received a strong dose of brand recognition — including more than $1.3 million in media exposure — when the Republican National Convention was held at the Forum in August 2012.

The Times will still be a sponsor of the arena “through a continued presence on the inside LED digital board, behind the coaches’ bench and on the radio,” Harrington writes.

In March, the Times said it would offer buyouts to employees in advance of “job reductions around the company.”

“Revenue at the Times and its sister publications is half what it was five years ago, and the paper has been selling assets around the region,” The Tampa Tribune reported earlier this year.


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Career Beat: Former assistant director of Pew journalism project buys newspaper

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • John Batter will be CEO of Gracenote. Previously, he was CEO of M-GO. (Tech Crunch)
  • Mark Jurkowitz is the owner of the Outer Banks Sentinel in Nags Head, North Carolina. Previously, he was the associate director of Pew Research Center’s journalism project. (Romenesko)
  • Jon Ward is a senior political correspondent with Yahoo News. Previously, he was a political reporter for the Huffington Post. (Politico)
  • Shauna Rempel is now a social media strategist for Global News. Previously, she was social media and technology editor at the Toronto Star. (Muck Rack)
  • Chris Tisch is now business editor for the Tampa Bay Times. Previously, he was assistant metro editor there. (Tampa Bay Times)
  • Nathan Lump is now editor of Travel and Leisure. Previously, he was director of branded content at Condé Nast. (Time Inc.)

Job of the day: The San Antonio Express-News is looking for a web producer. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs)

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Jennifer Orsi named new managing editor of Tampa Bay Times

On Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Times named Jennifer Orsi as the new managing editor, Stephen Nohlgren reported for the Times. Orsi is the first woman “in the newspaper’s 130 year history to take complete charge of the daily report, both in print and on the web,” Nohlgren wrote.

Orsi rose through the ranks of the news operation since her first internship in 1986, most recently overseeing the metro and business report. She succeeds Mike Wilson, who left in December.

The Times, which Poynter owns, is part of a shifting marketplace, as is the rest of the industry, Nohlgren wrote.

Orsi’s grounding in local news, plus her adaptability, were key factors in her promotion, said Editor Neil Brown, whose announcement Thursday in the St. Petersburg newsroom brought rousing cheers from the staff.

“Even as the Tampa Bay Times evolves to be more digitally minded, we rely on journalists who are rock solid in the fundamentals,” Brown said. “Jennifer straddles those worlds beautifully. This reflects our commitment to local news around Tampa Bay.”

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How the Tampa Bay Times reported on a transgender kid’s prom bid

In mid-April, Tampa Bay Times education reporter Lisa Gartner received a tip that Sebastian Rollins, a student running for prom king at a fundamental school in Seminole, Florida, was transgender.

Sebastian Rollins (Photograph by Cherie Diez/Tampa Bay Times)

Fundamental schools, Gartner said in an interview, tout a “back-to-basics” approach with stricter dress codes, a demerit system and heavy homework loads. “It’s like a charter school in which they can make mandates that other schools don’t have,” Garter said. “If you’re a parent, you have to attend eight meetings a year, so it’s really about ‘all-in’ on the child’s education.”

Gartner decided the story, which the paper published last week, was worth doing: Not only would it tell the story of how such a school would respond to this student’s bid for prom king, it would touch on a recent Title IX rule change aimed at protecting transgender students. And, of course, it would show the significant steps an 18-year-old would have to take in order to do something essentially ordinary.

Next, Gartner had to figure out how to interview Sebastian. She followed her normal process of going through the school and district procedure for contacting students, but the school denied her requests that they be involved in the story. Eventually, Gartner chose to contact Sebastian through Facebook because she “got the sense” that the school hadn’t involved Sebastian in the decision about whether to participate in the story. They met for an interview.

Interviewing people who are members of vulnerable populations, including minors and high school students, including transgender people, comes with special challenges. “I told him at the beginning of the interview, if there was anything that he felt was off-limits, or if I asked a question that he felt was too personal, that he did not have to answer me,” Gartner said. “Sometimes people who aren’t media-savvy, who are not regularly interacting with journalists, think it’s like the police, that they have to answer.”

Sebastian seemed very open, Gartner said, and when writing the article she chose carefully which details to include and which to leave out.

Sebastian and and his girlfriend Samantha “Sammy” Blazejack shopping for her prom dress at a mall in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photograph by Cherie Diez/Tampa Bay Times)

Gartner did choose to include details that stick out as especially personal, though – for instance, in talking about his body going through puberty, she says “When his breasts came in, they felt wrong” and then goes on to describe that he binds his breasts now with an Ace bandage.  Gartner included this detail, she said in an email, because “It shows Sebastian wasn’t afraid to be who he was in school, as he started binding at Osceola a year ago. You can’t get a referral [disciplinary action] for binding, after all! But he wouldn’t ask to use the girls’ bathroom or to be called Sebastian. So I felt like that was an important piece, and one that he was comfortable sharing.”

This last part is key. Gartner explained what was on the record, what wasn’t, and Sebastian was comfortable with that detail being in the story.

There is no absolute rule about what to include or omit in stories about transgender people. “People are free to represent themselves however they want and it’s a problem when we police other trans folks,” Jos Truitt of Feministing.com told me last November when I interviewed her for a story about how journalists could write better stories about transgender people.

It is important, though, to remember that stories about transgender people don’t always have to be stories about bodies, about genitals and breasts. Taking that one step further, unless the story is explicitly about body parts, there is no reason to ask questions about them.

While writing and editing the story, Gartner and her editor, Tom Tobin, tried to treat the story carefully and with sensitivity. Gartner said she had observed the fallout from the Grantland story “Dr. V’s Magical Putter,” which a garnered a ton of negative publicity and elicited an apology from Grantland Editor-in-Chief Bill Simmons. “I definitely knew that I wanted to avoid very real mistakes that people can make without knowing they’re making them,” Gartner said.

Tobin encouraged her to check with the National Center for Transgender Equality. “One of the best pieces of advice that they gave me, and one that I think is common sense on some level, but I’m glad that it was at the front of my mind–if you’re unsure, to ask the source,” she said.

That advice helped when she had a question about names and pronouns. Up until a year ago, Sebastian went by his birth name. So Gartner wasn’t sure how to handle it in the story when she wrote about things that had happened in the past. “Should I be calling you Sebastian? Should I be using the female pronoun, should I be using the male pronoun?” Gartner asked him. If possible, he said, he’d prefer that she use his name and male pronouns throughout the story.  “He’s a him, and he’s Sebastian, so it wasn’t really an issue,” Gartner said.

As he worked with Gartner to shape the story, Tobin said, he did have to work out some of the language issues. “I’ve been a reporter for many years, but I am only 16 months into my first editing job,” he wrote in an email. “In neither capacity had I ever been so intimately involved in a story about a transgender person. So this was new territory for me. I know of no formal guidelines our paper has for handling such stories.” (Poynter owns the Tampa Bay Times.)

Tobin said he was “guided mostly by a desire to inform, enlighten and treat Sebastian, and everyone else in the story, with the utmost respect.”

To do that, he said, he reasoned out how the story should refer to Sebastian in the present and Sebastian in the past. “My thought process was that, since Sebastian was biologically female, and we are in the business of reporting facts, wasn’t it a fact that Sebastian was female? I (we) very quickly came to the decision to refer to Sebastian just as he would wish. My own thinking was that this was something a person gets to decide, similar to the way our society gives us great leeway to decide what constitutes religious practice.” However, he said, once they’d decided to defer to how Sebastian wanted to be represented, they were able to turn to issues more integral to the story. “As Lisa worked the story, other issues, such as how much access the school would give us, loomed much larger,” Tobin said.

Using Sebastian’s name and the pronouns he uses to describe himself may seem like common sense, but the importance of affording a transgender person this basic dignity should not be underestimated. “For me, the most surprising — and compelling — moment comes at the end of the story when Sebastian realizes that, for the first time, an adult at the school – the principal no less — has called him by his male name,” Tobin said. “I was surprised by the depth of Sebastian’s gratitude over that simple act.”

As transgender people gain more acceptance and visibility, more and more reporters and editors will face decisions about how to cover them. One good question to ask yourself in such situations is whether to do the story at all.

What’s the news value of the story? Is it only interesting because of a sensationalized or prurient perspective about transgender people?

Fortunately, there are resources available. GLAAD, CJR and Poynter have all produced guides to reporting on trans people, and newsrooms might think of creating guidelines or educating reporters before these issues come up and deadlines loom.

Though it does include some transgender reporting clichés – describing what puberty was like and what bathroom Sebastian uses — this story largely stays away from a typical or sensationalized narrative.

Gartner was especially sensitive to not making Sebastian’s transgender status seem like a crazy twist in the story. She said the story’s beginning took longer to write than everything that followed because everything she tried out sounded sensational. Eventually, she decided to lead with a description of the school: “Concrete, coveted Osceola High, with its demerit system and monthly parent meetings and ban on flip-flops, is the only fundamental high school in the state of Florida.”

Ultimately, Gartner said, she knew this wasn’t a story about a prom king candidate whose transgender status upped the news value–it was a story about a student trying to live authentically and a rigid school bending to allow that. Read more

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Tampa Bay Times plans buyouts in advance of job reductions

The Tampa Bay Times will announce Wednesday it plans to offer buyouts to employees, according to a memo from Human Resources Director Sebastian Dortch. Staffers who take them will get up to 13 weeks’ severance plus two weeks’ pay. The buyouts precede planned “job reductions around the company,” Dortch writes.

“We are finding some ways to improve our results without compromising our quality. We want to support the colleagues whose jobs will be affected,” Tampa Bay Times Communications Director Jounice Nealy-Brown says in an email to Poynter.

Here’s the memo: Read more

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