Staccato chimes descended in rapid fire upon my email inbox. All week long.
Ching. Ching. Ching.
Roughly 2,000 of them. At peak times, they arrived one after another, pounding like a racing heart.
Each signaled more passionate reader feedback. Some as curt as “I don’t like change.” Others landed as fully formed essays.
People called and sent handwritten notes, too. Everyone, it seemed, had something to say about the changes to their beloved Tampa Bay Times.
The vast majority of grievances focused on puzzles and comics.
Thank you for your feedback. We have heard you. And we’re making some adjustments.
The Thomas Joseph crossword puzzle – which by far was the biggest sore spot for readers –returns today to the BayLink section, where it will run Monday through Saturday.
Also starting Friday, we’re bringing back Blondie, the iconic comic strip penned by Clearwater resident Dean Young. Dagwood, Blondie and the rest of the cast return to the comics pages where the strip will appear daily. (Although this Sunday’s Fun & Games section was printed before we announced our latest moves.)
Among the changes we made last week, we moved Blondie and several other comics to our e-Newspaper, where we now have 18 comics featured exclusively in the electronic replica version of the Times. And we eliminated a few strips that had grown stale.
We also dropped some other puzzles and games. We had been publishing at least three crossword puzzles a day in the newspaper. With the return of the Thomas Joseph puzzle, we’ll have at least two crosswords every day, and more on Friday and Sunday.
Any change can be tough. Some readers have asked why we did any of this. Let me take a moment to explain our thinking: These are challenging times for local news operations. We’ve been spending roughly $250,000 every year just on comics, games and puzzles.
Clearly, these features mean a lot to our readers, and we are continuing to publish a lot of them. But the priority of our news operation has to be great local journalism – the kind that locates a missing cemetery, or that exposes tragic child deaths at a venerable hospital, or that shows how Scientology has swallowed up downtown Clearwater.
Local reporting is the lifeblood of the Tampa Bay Times. That is what sets the Times apart, and what you won’t find anywhere else.
A few readers have speculated that moving some features to the e-Newspaper signals that we’re walking away from print. Not even close. We publish one of the best newspapers in America, with substantial reach in the Tampa Bay region and influence that goes far beyond.
We’ve just chosen to devote more of our resources to delivering reliable, credible and authoritative local journalism that only we can provide. In our view, that’s the best way to serve our readers and our community.
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