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Clay Wirestone: News and fond farewells

  • A Tampa Tribune newspaper box sits on a street on Oct. 11, 2006, in Tampa, Fla. AP


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Tampa Tribune is gone. The 123-year-old Florida newspaper was purchased earlier this month by the Tampa Bay Times, its competitor across the water, and promptly shut down.

It was sad for me because I came to the Monitor a decade ago from the Tribune, which was then a scrappy paper with a big heart and a massively talented staff. It relished competing with the bigger, grander (then St. Petersburg) Times, and beat it regularly in covering local news.

For that matter, Monitor Editor Emeritus and Pulitzer Administrator Mike Pride is also a Tribune veteran, starting his career on the paper’s sports desk.

The travails of the newspaper industry need no lengthy description here, but the last few years weren’t kind to the Tribune, as it endured staff cuts and ownership neglect. Meanwhile, the Times faced its own fiscal struggles but continued to expand, starting the PolitiFact service and winning journalism’s top prizes.

So perhaps the outcome was inevitable. Certainly it’s uncommon for metro areas to support two daily newspapers anymore, what with the high fixed costs of creating, printing and delivering a physical product.

But the loss of a local news source should always be mourned, especially one that rigorously trained generations of journalists. Reporters and editors of the future will have to learn their trade somewhere, and the loss of strong regional papers gives them fewer places to hone their skills.

As for me, I’ve been lucky to call the Monitor – and New Hampshire – my home since departing the Tampa Bay area. I’ve edited, written and drawn. I’ve podcasted and quizzed. Occasionally, on this page more than others, I’ve bloviated a bit.

The 150-plus-year-old Monitor has stayed strong through these years, enduring many of the same challenges as other publications but remaining committed to its mission. We recently unveiled a fresh website and print design, all created with a new software system.

I’ve been proud to be a part of it.

But in this season of change, I’m changing too. Next month, I’ll head back to my home state of Kansas to work at the Topeka Capital-Journal, that state’s capital city paper. I’m excited to be near family and college friends, but sad to leave this exceptional community.

The Tribune’s closing – addressed online by many more talented than I – has driven home just how lucky we are to work in this field. Being part of a newsroom that unites every day to cover a community isn’t just a professional opportunity.

It’s a gift.

For as sad as it is to see a newspaper close, there will be blogs and alternative weeklies and zines and podcasts and goodness knows what else that rise in its wake.

The business, the opportunity, the blessing of reporting the news each and every day doesn’t stop. It changes – and will no doubt continue to do so.

We may be filing news reports in animated hip-hop form in a few years. But answering people’s questions about their towns, about their governments, about themselves is what we do. We tell them stories that illustrate and illuminate. We ask for a bit of their attention every day, and try our utmost to make it worth their while.

That mission never stops.

(Clay Wirestone can be reached at cwirestone@cmonitor.com, 369-3305 or on Twitter @claywires.)