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Pinellas News calls it quits, so does ‘It’s Your Times’

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

It wasn’t a banner week for St. Petersburg’s journalism community.  As Becky Bowers reports, the Pinellas News is calling it quits….the Pinellas News, which (Robert) Potter bought 17 years ago, will simply cease to be.

He spent Wednesday writing its obituary.

The world has been changing, he notes. AOL and the modem reshaped our lives. The dwindling legal notices business reshaped his.

Potter has been down this path before: the time-to-change-careers path. A week before his wedding in the 1980s, his job running an Air Force Aero Club abruptly ended. He became a commuter airline pilot.

He watched his employer suffer through bankruptcy, and by the ’90s knew another life was in order. He figured newspapers would be around a while.

He moved the Pinellas Park News to St. Petersburg, dropped the Park and focused on legal notices. The law requires certain legal action be published in a newspaper. Potter was your guy.

Notice of foreclosure, $150. Notice of adoption, $200. Public hearing, $10.75 per column inch.

The recession hit. Legal work plummeted.

Plus a Sarasota publication, Gulf Coast Business Review, had started to publish the notices cheaper for seven counties. You could spend $25 instead of $35 to print a notice that you’re doing business under a name that’s not your own or your corporation’s.

At its height, Potter published 12,000 copies of the Pinellas News. At the end, he published 1,000. Some weeks, he sold 250 at 25 cents a copy. Some weeks, say, when it rained, he sold none.

I don’t have much sympathy for Potter.  His publication was basically a fish wrapper and wasted whatever opportunity it had to report interesting news about the community.

Speaking of good riddance, the St. Petersburg Times suffered an embarrassment of sorts earlier this month when it shut down its lackluster It’s Your Times section. Here’s Tommy Duncan’s take on the issue: Sticks of Fire began publishing in February of 2004. In response, the St. Pete Times cranked up “It’s Your Times” in September of 2005 as an “example of Citizen Journalism, in which readers submit content to a news organization.”

The introduction sounded good, but those in charge of “It’s Your Times” never used the site to its fullest potential. I don’t recall ever hearing anything come from the effort over the past four and a half years. It seems they put the site up, and expected all of us to get them started on their next Pulitzer.

Trouble is that they didn’t cultivate it. Hell, I’m not sure anyone from the Times even read it. It felt as if they simply ignored it, and stood idly by watching as It’s Your Times became a breeding ground for hate speech, wackos, and even worse – SPAM.

So, while Sticks of Fire continues to publish online, the St. Pete Times has finally officially killed ItsYourTimes.com.

At least one guy will miss it. Mr. Allan Greene visited early and often, and apparently put all of his best work there and is very upset that it is gone:

It’s immoral, unethical, wrong… to simply destroy everything that has been posted there over the past 5 years.

I’m not sure about that. Any stuff that is important to me is saved on my own computer and backed up often. And should I want to share my thoughts with people the world over, I would seriously consider using a website with a stronger track record than some newspaper’s half-ass afterthought.

Like Saint Petersblog or Sticks of Fire.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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.

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