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  1. Opinion

Henderson: Tribune lives on in scrapbooks, camaraderie, and now a documentary

Last year on May 3, Ken Koehn and I were having lunch at our usual spot inside the Tampa Tribune's snack room, which we had laughingly named Chez Trib. Ken was the managing editor and I was the metro columnist.

Normally, we chatted about sports, or our kids, our wives, or how we wished they would take Fox News off the TV in that room. There was a sign posted that said we couldn't change the channel.

We tried not to talk much about shop but we didn't always keep that rule — especially that day.

We knew there was a meeting scheduled for 3 p.m. in the auditorium. That's where we always went to hear big news affecting our newspaper and our lives.

We had a pretty good idea it meant our paper — our employer — had been sold. We hoped it would be to a local group that wanted to keep us in business, or maybe an established chain. The truth is, though, we didn't know. One of the company's top financial officers came by and she didn't know either.

Looking back, it's remarkable how tight a lid had been kept on the news that the venerable Trib would be out of business in just a few hours, sold to our rival the Tampa Bay Times. We had already published the last edition of a newspaper that opened shop in 1895. We just didn't know that at the time.

Wednesday will mark one year since that happened. The building we moved into in 1977 has been demolished. A few Tribune employees found work with the Times. As best I can tell from Facebook and other outlets, most of the people affected that day have new jobs.

Time marches on.

People tell me about stories from the Trib that they saved in scrapbooks, or how they liked to read us over breakfast. I'm glad people remember us, but my memories are more about the people I worked with.

I stayed at the Trib for nearly 42 years, which officially makes me a dinosaur. I'm grateful the Times offered me this weekly column, but I have to admit something.

Even a year later, it's weird to tell someone on the other end of the phone that I'm calling to do a column for the Tribune section of the Tampa Bay Times.

I'm working on it. It helps that people from the Times have been extremely gracious.

I must admit I enjoy the 10-foot commute every morning from the living room to the back bedroom where I set up an office, but I try get out as much as possible.

One of those times will be Wednesday night at Tampa Theatre to watch a documentary painstakingly put together by Debbie Kerr on the closing of the Trib. It's called Stop The Presses and knowing the work she has put into this, it should be something special.

There will be laughs. There will be more than a few tears.

People often say the community loses an important voice when a newspaper goes out of business. Yeah, well, there are plenty of voices out there, most of them shouting at the top of their lungs.

This community lost more than a distinctive voice last May. It lost a watchdog that found out stuff and shared it with readers. As the last newspaper standing, that left the Times with an enormous responsibility.

We live in an era where fiction is presented as fact for political gain and deception is masked as truth. It is imperative to know the difference. The best newspapers — and the Times certainly is one — embrace this job as a mission.

The Trib may be gone, but the need for real reporting will never stop. Trust me on this. You don't want to imagine life without it.

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