Paul Tash, the chairman and CEO of The Tampa Bay Times, comes away as just another cold-hearted executive in a New York Times story about the sale and shuttering of the Tampa Tribune.
“Bad things have to happen for good things to happen,” Tash says in response to criticism that the Poynter Institute-owned newspaper was “avaricious” regarding its dealing with the Trib.
It’s sad that Tash holds such a Rumsfeldian worldview. Where is it written that bad things have to happen for good things to happen? Good things can follow good things, too. Maybe not in Tash’s world of legacy journalism, but for the rest of us, bad things happening tends to lead to more bad things happening. And from good usually springs more good.
Tash’s cynicism aside, it’s also clear from reading this New York Times piece that the Tampa Bay Times has been lying about how many Tribune employees it would absorb.
Tash told his reporters he expected there to be at least 100 layoffs as a result of the Tribune purchase. A week after the sale, Tampa Media Group, the former owners of the Trib filed a notice with the state of Florida announcing it would lay off 300 employees. In the NYT story, Tash admits to offering jobs to just “10 writers, a dozen or so of its advertising sales representatives, and others in finance, technology and The Tribune’s three affiliated publications.”
Talk about a lack of transparency.
(By the way, that five month timeline makes former Tribune managing partner Robert Loring Jr. look absolutely clueless or just a liar. He twice told 10 News Noah Pransky in April that rumors of the Trib’s demise were “bs.” For the record, Tash is quoted by Pransky in that same story saying about a Trib sale to the Times is “speculation (that) arises periodically. We never indulge it or contribute to it.”)
What you won’t find in the New York Times story, nor anywhere in the Tampa Bay Times, is that Tash’s business blunder is what is responsible for the financial problems at his newspaper — problems he believes will be best solved by the shuttering of the Tribune.
It was Tash’s decision in 2002 to acquire the naming rights for Tampa’s Ice Palace. Originally, that deal was to cost the Times $33 million over 12 years. But the Times was forced to relinquish the naming rights four years early because of its precarious financial situation. Still, the money the Times paid to the hockey team it covered so that it could plant a flag in the Tribune’s backyard is about the same amount of money it had to borrow from Crystal Financial, a Boston-based firm that lent the Times $28 million last year.
So when Tash makes monopolistic statements like “the continued competition between the newspapers was threatening to both,” remember that it was Tash himself who raised the level of competition to its highest level.
“This naming rights deal can be seen as a bold business move by one of the country’s most respected, independently-owned newspapers,” wrote Bob Steele of the Poynter Institute in 2002. “This investment, if managed wisely, demonstrates aggressive and creative strategic marketing and daring, competitive chutzpah. The Times unloaded a big-time slap shot into the belly of The Tampa Tribune.”
Fourteen years later, the impact of that slap shot is still being felt. No longer by the now defunct Tribune, but by the man who fired it off: the cold-hearted, transparency-averse chairman and CEO of the Tampa Bay Times.