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Pandemic prompts change in newspaper delivery at Tampa Bay Times

Advertising drop triggers temporary reduction in print days, but we will keep our journalism strong.

The crisis of the coronavirus is forcing some changes in the way we bring you the news.

Starting next week, we will print and deliver the Tampa Bay Times every Wednesday and Sunday. We will keep producing the Times electronically every day, and subscribers still can read the newspaper on their computers, tablets and phones.

But while we are in the depths of this pandemic, we simply cannot afford to produce the ink-and-paper version every day.

We come to this decision so that we can do two essential things.

First, we must keep our journalism strong at this time when our readers and our community need us most. Our newsroom has been going full-throttle since the crisis arrived here.

Second, we must keep the Times itself going through this time of severe stress, just like every other enterprise.

Newspaper publishing was already a challenging business, even before the pandemic. More than half our revenue comes from advertisers. The screeching halt to the economy has sent sales plummeting for many businesses, and everybody is anxious about the future.

In the last two weeks, retailers have canceled more than $1 million in advertising they had already scheduled. Until ad revenues recover, we must sharply reduce the costs of producing and delivering an edition in print.

I am 65, squarely in the generation accustomed to the feel of the printed page in my fingers every morning, especially with that first cup of coffee. So, to those who will mourn this development, I understand.

I also know that this change will land hard for some of our Times staff members and delivery contractors. With lower ad sales, and fewer newspapers to print and deliver, we are starting furloughs here next week.

Related: 7 questions answered on the Tampa Bay Times home delivery changes

Everyone hopes the epidemic eases soon, and that our lives can start to return to normal. Meanwhile, you can absolutely rely on the Times for honest, thorough and up-to-date coverage. Our journalists have published hundreds of stories, features and photos to help you navigate the crisis. None of these changes we are making will diminish that work.

In huge numbers, readers are turning to our website — tampabay.com — and thousands of you have started using our electronic replica of the physical newspaper. We will publish this edition every day, even on days when we do not run the presses.

The electronic edition looks exactly the same as the one we print, except it has some extra pages of news and features. It is never late. It is never wet. And you can make the type as big as you want.

In an era when national chains are consolidating ownership of newspapers, the Times remains independent, rooted here in Tampa Bay. For more than a century, the Times has been an advocate for this community, in good times and bad. Now this region faces steep new challenges, and we feel them keenly at your newspaper.

Better days lie ahead, and we can get to them together. Thanks very much for your support. Especially now, it makes all the difference.

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