Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Beginning of a new era: The St. Petersburg Times becomes the Tampa Bay Times

times_logo_stacked_blk_url.jpgSometimes, the best thing you can say about the end of an era, it that is also marks the start of a new one.

I will certainly admit twinges of odd feelings as the newspaper went about the business of officially changing its name from the St. Petersburg Times to the Tampa Bay Times -- a transition which became official on the front page today. We had an internal sale of promotional items with the old logos last month which felt a bit like a wake, and the day the signs were replaced on our downtown headquarters, you felt the sense of something momentous clicking into place.

But, I also felt a bit of excitement when my new business cards arrived with the new name. And, though there are plenty of critics who will say I'm just trying to prop up my employer, I truly believe this name change makes a lot of sense.

20120101tampabaytimes.jpgWhat it reflects, more than anything, is the changing nature of the not-so local newspaper. As much as I love serving the people of St. Petersburg in my work, I've become Exhibit A for the multiple levels on which a writer's stories can reach the world. Many of the local media outlets I cover are based in Tampa, of course, and my stories on NPR and appearances on CNN and PBS spread what I do to a national audience.

Through social media and this blog, I've developed several different audiences in different places. And for many of them, Tampa Bay has a higher name recognition than St. Petersburg; it gives them a better idea of where we are and more importantly, the mighty size of the community which we serve.

Over the years, it has been tough to educate publicists for media companies based in New York or Los Angeles on the status of this newspaper as the biggest in the state and its location. People who think the Tampa Bay area is a quick car ride from Miami, sometimes decide on the basis of a name that our competition across the river must be the biggest newspaper in town -- deserving of better interview opportunities or better access.

None of which lessens the sting of changing a name with as much history and local pride as The St. Petersburg Times, I know. Still, there's a final reason why this makes sense which might put it all in perspective.

I think the newspaper industry has reached a point where the outlets which still have resources and quality need to make big moves to innovate and change the game. Facing the twin challenges of a crushing media recession and a rapidly changing media landscape, newspapers across the country must overturn decades of resistance to change and habit to push themselves toward innovative changes.

If I have had to work in educating publicists in far away cities about our newspaper, I can only imagine how advertising salespeople have had to work in communicating to companies buying national advertising. Perhaps a name which better reflects the region we cover can help in that mission, which helps bring more resources to the news coverage we all value.

But at a time when our business needs to make big moves to reach toward a better future, I'm glad to see the Times is willing to make a major change aimed at improving our reach and goals.

And I hope readers who may be most angered by the change today, at least know that its rooted in the desire to maintain the newspaper as a vital resource for us all.

Check out the front page story on the change here; click here for a FAQ on the changes. 

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