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Times remains committed to Hernando even as we go to five-day publishing

When you pick up your St. Petersburg Times a week from Monday, you're going to notice something different.

The paper will not include the Hernando Times — a first in my nearly 20 years as the Times' Hernando County editor.

Starting Oct. 19, we will publish the Hernando section five days a week — Wednesday through Sunday.

This doesn't mean we've reduced our commitment to Hernando County. You will just have to look elsewhere in the paper to find your local news on Mondays and Tuesdays.

You probably won't be surprised to hear the reason for this move: a recession that has lasted longer and cut deeper than any of us could have imagined.

It has been particularly bad in a county like Hernando, where home building, the engine that has propelled us since Spring Hill sprouted in the late 1960s, has stalled.

It has affected everyone, from mom-and-pop restaurants that have closed, to golf courses that have struggled to survive, to people who build, paint and roof houses and are now out of work.

I see it even in an organization like the Hernando Symphony Orchestra, in which I play clarinet. People in the arts are having a difficult time selling tickets and the work of their hands.

Many businesses have had to cut back how often they advertise in the newspaper, and that's where this economic downturn affects us. Advertising revenue is the lifeblood of any news operation.

I am confident, however, that we can make this transition and maintain our commitment to you.

We will still cover news in Hernando seven days a week. There will still be a place in the Times for the news that now appears in the Monday or Tuesday Hernando sections. It will shift to Tampa Bay, or Section B of the paper, where we moved local obituaries a couple of years ago.

Special features that have been inside the Monday and Tuesday sections — Business Digest, Events and Pet of the Week on Monday, Clubs and Health & Support on Tuesday — will move to other days.

We will continue to publish the popular Hometown Hernando pages, the Top of the Class school news page, the Diversions entertainment page, religion news, features about community sports, and milestones such as births and anniversaries.

Dan DeWitt's column will continue to run three days a week.

As we do now, we will post significant breaking news to our Web site, tampabay.com, as it happens.

The Times has the largest news-gathering staff in Hernando County. Nowhere else do you get the thorough, analytical news coverage and deft storytelling that is the hallmark of the Times. And that will not change.

No doubt there will be those who will try to convince you that this is yet another sign of the imminent demise of newspapers. Do not believe them.

The Times — which demonstrated its commitment to this county in 2003 when we built and opened a big, new office on Cortez Boulevard — has thrived in Hernando because we've been the newspaper that has asked the tough questions, tackled the big stories and held public officials accountable. In good economies and bad, a community needs a credible news source, and we have been that source.

In fact, our combined print and Web audience is bigger than ever. A recent survey showed us that fully 92 percent of our local readers pick up the Hernando section "every day or usually."

The message behind that number: There is a huge appetite for local news. We will be here for a long time to feed it.

One of my chief responsibilities as the editor of this section is to look out for the interests of Hernando County at the Times. And you have my pledge that my commitment has never been stronger.

Better days, we all anticipate, lie ahead.

If you have questions, concerns or suggestions, please contact me. I can be reached by e-mail at konrad@sptimes.com, by traditional mail at 15365 Cortez Blvd., Brooksville, FL 34613, or by phone at (352) 754-6119.

Times remains committed to Hernando even as we go to five-day publishing 10/10/09 [Last modified: Saturday, October 10, 2009 4:31am]
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