For those who care about newspapers and the vital role they play in civic life, this is an important day.
The purchase of the Tampa Tribune puts the Times on solid financial footing and gives the Tampa Bay region an independent, locally owned newspaper that can keep serving customers and communities for the long term.
Without this move, the continued competition between the Times and Tribune was putting both in peril. In today's economy, you can count on one hand the number of cities that can sustain more than one daily newspaper, and the Tampa Bay region is no longer among them.
To the Tribune's readers and advertisers, we say welcome. From today forward, we will deliver the Times to all the subscribers for both newspapers, and it will include the advertising that has been booked for either one.
Tribune readers will find some familiar faces and features in the Tampa Bay Times, as we introduce some journalists, columns and comics from the Tribune. At the Times, we recently expanded the opinion pages to include more conservative commentary, so that readers can find views from all points of the political spectrum.
We want to make the Times a better newspaper for all our readers, including those who have been with us right along.
In Hillsborough County, the Times will expand our local news sections and give them a new name. Starting Friday, those sections will become the Tampa Tribune, just as the comparable section in South Pinellas is now called the St. Pete Times. We raise these banners to honor the history of both newspapers and their hometowns, now part of the larger region and the newspaper that reaches throughout.
Each newspaper has built its own website, and we will keep both. All Times (and former Tribune) subscribers have unlimited access to tampabay.com and the related digital products. The Tribune website, tbo.com, will remain entirely free, without limits on usage. We are planning steps to enhance both websites.
We recognize that the purchase of the Tribune comes with some cost. After 121 years, the Tribune will no longer be a daily newspaper, and the people who work for it will be moving on, either to the Times or somewhere else. That process started in February, when the Tribune moved its printing to the Times, and will continue over the next two months.
The Times launched its Tampa edition in 1987, recognizing that the region was not only growing, but that its parts were growing together. To survive, a newspaper would have to serve readers and advertisers throughout Tampa Bay.
Starting from a small base in Hillsborough County, the Times has worked to build a network of customers and friends, to become a truly local newspaper throughout the entire region. Four years ago, we even changed our name to embrace all of Tampa Bay.
The work was never easy, but we stuck with it. Over the years, the Times has won 12 Pulitzer Prizes. Four were for stories that started in Hillsborough County. Readers took notice of our commitment. On a typical Sunday, more than 100,000 people buy the Times in Hillsborough County and the suburban communities in Pasco.
As a business, we support dozens of local institutions, including the University of South Florida, the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, International Plaza, the Florida Strawberry Festival and the Gasparilla Distance Classic. The Times has long sponsored the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Rays. With this acquisition, we add the Buccaneers.
One of our favorite causes is education. In 2000, our charitable foundation started giving college scholarships to talented high school seniors who have overcome severe hardships. So far there have been 69 winners; 31 have been from Hillsborough, more than any other county.
It's fair to say that we have seen this day coming for a very long time. Now that it is here, we can look toward many more days ahead. To all our readers and advertisers, no matter where you are, no matter how long you have been buying the Times, we are honored to have you with us. We call ourselves "Florida's Best Newspaper" not to brag, but as our commitment to you.
Until 1978, this newspaper was owned by a man, Nelson Poynter. He believed deeply in newspapers as a foundation of democracy, and when he died, he left the Times to a school so that it could remain independent and rooted here in Tampa Bay. Mr. Poynter regarded newspaper ownership as "a sacred trust."
For all that has changed in the last four decades, it still seems so today.