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Roundtable: Why we appreciate the Tampa Bay Times

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As more papers struggle to stay afloat, let’s remember why print media matters.

Divisional Series - Houston Astros v Tampa Bay Rays - Game Four Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Times is facing financial constraints, which is the worst news possible to receive from the newspaper of record (and the only one) in Tampa Bay.

We appreciate the work of the Times and its importance to Rays fans near and far. Here’s why:

Ashley MacLennan: No one has been as consistent a part of reporting about the Rays and keeping them relevant to a mass audience as Marc Topkin. The TB Times is integral to keeping sports reporting alive and relevant not only in the Tampa Bay area but to fans of Tampa Bay teams who live outside the area (like me!).

The first time I was at Tropicana to cover a game happened to be a day Marc had off, but his presence was still everywhere, from the massive TB Times advert with his face on it, to the fact that when the press gathered together in the dugout to interview Kevin Cash, Cash himself looked around before starting and asked ‘Are we waiting for Marc?’ It’s obvious the impact of his work, and that of the rest of the Times staff, matters to the team.

Adam Sanford: Without the Tampa Bay Times, following the Tampa Bay Rays would be significantly more difficult. Everything regarding the team, from their ongoing stadium issues to the lowest depths of the organization, are covered by the paper. The Times staff work diligently to provide content that no one else is able to obtain — particularly Marc Topkin, who has worked the past two decades to gain access to the Tampa Bay Rays that most any other writers in the industry are surely envious of.

Mister Lizzie: We’re a Rays blog, so for many of us the Times’ baseball coverage, as well as its coverage of the never ending “stadium saga,” may be our key link to the region’s main daily newspaper.

But I also live in this area, so let me focus on the importance of the Times to our lives beyond sports. The Times keeps tabs on the state and local issues that will never be covered by the national media and is too boring or obscure for television news. Some examples? Times reporting uncovered the shameful erasure of African American cemeteries around Tampa. The Times has shed light on how Baker Act policies have been abused. They revealed corrupt practices in Career Source, the quasi-public agency charged with helping unemployed people find work. These are just a few impressive investigations they have undertaken in the past few years; their reporters keeping us informed about a range of local issues every day. I, for one, am grateful.

The Tampa Bay Times is also unique among newspapers, I believe, in that it is owned by a nonprofit. It’s founder, Nelson Poynter, created a nonprofit journalism education center and handed ownership of the Times to that organization, now called the Poynter Institute. In addition to hosting journalism workshops, the Poynter Institute is also an advocate for a free press all around the world. When you support the Times - and I hope many of you do — you are also supporting the Poynter Institute’s work.

Because so much information comes to us, online, with little effort on our part, it can be easy to forget that behind every news report there are writers, editors and photographers, all highly skilled, busting their butts to keep us informed. Information is not free, and I’m happy to subscribe to the Tampa Bay Times so I can understand my community and make good decisions as a resident and a voter.

Ian Malinowski: I care a lot about journalism. It’s why I moonlight here as a writer and an editor in my free time. That hobby rests easy when there’s a robust, healthy, local news powerhouse like the Tampa Bay Times should be, and I can justify what I do as filling in some gaps, providing the type of coverage that papers like the Times don’t generally do. You won’t see in depth statistical analysis of pitch sequencing or a game recap in the format of a children’s book in a traditional paper, and I think it’s better for those to exist than to not.

But the justifying calculus for my hobby is a lot harder when the Times is shrinking and real reporters and editors are having their time overburdened and their pay cut. Because they do work that people like us can’t, and that is more important than whether Jalen Beeks threw too many changeups in 2019.

Over the years, with a major stadium decision looming, we’ve tried to provide good information to the community, with direct reporting, with in depth explainers, and with creative attempts to help process what the team means to the people of Tampa Bay.

But I’m going to cop to something: we’re out of our depth.

We are smart, earnest people, with varied backgrounds and points of view, and we’re trying our best, but we cannot accomplish what the Tampa Bay Times does. When the decisions are actually important, we need professional local journalists on the beat with the time and resources to do their jobs well.

So for heavens sake people, buy your subscriptions. If we lose the Tampa Bay Times, we’re fucked!

John Ford: I appreciate when Marc is right even when I think the idea is nuts. Like when the Rays traded Longo. And I also enjoy his writing style in the paper, although I don’t think the snark plays well on Twitter... (Also, please unblock me, Marc. I’m sorry!)

Danny Russell: I’m proud to be a subscriber to the Tampa Bay Times. When the paper is able to uncover major stories or to win their many Pulitzer prizes, I feel like (in the smallest way) that I was a part of that process and a contributor within that system.

Through my family’s subscription, I know some of the best journalists in the state of Florida are being empowered to do the difficult work of bringing important facts into the light, of speaking truth to power, and — yes — of keeping all Rays fans up to date on the never ending saga that is baseball in Tampa Bay.

I’m grateful for the work of Marc Topkin, Charlie Frago, Josh Solomon, Tom Bassinger, John Romano, and the various voices that now or in the past have covered the Tampa Bay Rays with intelligence and deft writing. I’m grateful for the photographers and graphic designers who illustrate and build memorable spreads — some of which I’d hung on my wall in my school days. Then again, the Rays 20th anniversary celebratory issue from March 25, 2018 is still here on my desk. Perhaps not much has changed!

We at DRaysBay are hobbyists, and have benefited greatly when various members of the Times have been kind with their time and shown our writers the ropes when covering the team live as media.

As a local institution and as a service to sports fans, the Tampa Bay Times is a necessary part of what it means to be from or connected to Tampa Bay itself, and they deserve our support.

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If you do not already subscribe to the Tampa Bay Times, please consider joining today, and support quality local journalism.