In classic Friday news dump, Poynter Institute announces $3.5 million loss for 2013

in Uncategorized by

Bad news keeps rolling out of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

In an announcement, the St. Petersburg-based nonprofit school for journalism and the owner of the Tampa Bay Times, reported a loss of nearly $3.5 million last year.

One hint of just how bad the news was is the timing — a Friday dump – the day when companies traditionally want to keep things as quiet as possible.

Recently released financial disclosures show Poynter posting $3.8 million in revenue – much of it coming from tuition and sales of assets — as well as nearly $7.3 million in expense and salaries.

All told, Poynter lost $3,475,919 in 2013, but still has more than $40 million in net assets or fund balances.

“This year has been a time of transition,” said the release accompanying the filing. The loss “reflects the continuing challenges of the news industry and the institute’s investments in its own transformation.”

Poynter also claims to have made “significant progress” to regain its footing, as money from its Times ownership has diminished. The last dividend received from the Times was in 2010. That year, Poynter found itself in the red by only $109,206. In 2011, the loss was $3,815,144. In 2012, it was $1.748 million.

Friday’s release also announced a letter of intent with the University of South Florida to sell nearly four acres of undeveloped land in downtown St. Petersburg. Poynter acquired the property in parts beginning in 1999. The asking price is $6.2 million, and the sale should be completed within the next few months.

Currently, there are no plans to sell the institute building, or adjoining waterfront property.

Financial data came from Poynter’s Form 990 Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax, which shows the pattern of bleeding money over the past four years. Filings for previous years are at GuideStar, a publicly available online source for philanthropic and nonprofit financial reporting. The most recent form, which outlines the year 2013, was prepared November 12, 2014.

In the past few months, the Times began a program of employee buyouts, with the aim of trimming nearly 10 percent of its overall workforce. More than two dozen copy desk staffers — columnists, reporters, editors and support staff — accepted buyouts. Those leaving included Florida culture writer Jeff Klinkenberg, sports journalist Gary Shelton, city editor Heather Urquides, and reporter Joe Childs.

As of this October, the paper began forced layoffs.

Although the Times cut loose a number of its longtime employees, those at the top of Poynter’s hierarchy are still pulling in big paychecks. Listed in the report were compensation numbers for the highest-paid staff, including:

  • Chair Paul Tash: $516,040
  • Treasurer Jana Jones: $300,604
  • Former president Karen Dunlap: $261,186
  • Poynter Foundation president Christine Martin: $237,932
  • Faculty member Butch Ward: $173,735
  • Vice president Roy Peter Clark: $139,154
  • Faculty member Al Tompkins: $126,001
  • Faculty member Kenny Irby: $124,308
  • Faculty member Jill Geisler: $123,229
  • Faculty member Howard Finberg: $117,166

“It’s been a challenging financial environment for Poynter and all media organizations nationally over the past five years, especially, because of tectonic changes in how news and advertising are delivered,” said Poynter President Tim Franklin, in what can be considered the understatement of the year. Franklin was named president in February.

Poynter 2013 Form 990 – U.S. Exempt Organization Tax Return – Public-2 – Copy

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.