St. Pete Times Changing Name

St. Petersburg Times President and CEO Paul Tash explained the newspaper’s reasoning for their name change to The Tampa Bay Times in an exclusive interview with AM 820 News reporter Kathy Curtis.

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[audio:820/St_Pete_Times_Interview_11-1-11.mp3|titles=Kathy Curtis Interview with Paul Tash of The St. Pete Times]

In an open letter to the readers published in the Times on Tuesday, November 1, 2011, Paul Tash explained the St. Pete Times position for the name change.

Since I started here as a reporter in 1978, I have answered my phone with some version of “St. Pete Times.” I will need to learn a new habit.

Starting Jan. 1, this newspaper will become the Tampa Bay Times. The new name reflects the growth of our newspaper and our vision for this region.

This change has been a long time coming. For decades, the Times has been reaching north and east from St. Petersburg. Nearly 25 years ago, we launched our Tampa edition; on a typical Sunday, it routinely sells more than 100,000 copies. By a wide margin, the Times is Florida’s favorite newspaper.

With that success, our name no longer fits the newspaper or the audience we serve. Three-fourths of St. Petersburg Times readers live outside St. Petersburg.

The new name does not signal any change in our coverage, our standards or our ownership — which remains local and independent. “Tampa Bay Times” will better describe the newspaper the Times has become already, and we hope it sends a welcoming signal to readers beyond southern Pinellas County.

The Times adopts this new name from our popular daily tabloid, which will continue to be known by its initials — TBT. Both newspapers and our website — tampabay.com — will have names that reinforce their connections to each other, and to our region. Our counterparts at the St. Pete Times Forum, where we bought the naming rights in 2002, will make their own announcement.

We do not make this change lightly. The St. Petersburg Times has built a national reputation on the kind of work that has won eight Pulitzer Prizes.

Nor do we intend any slight to the vibrant city where our principal offices and our production facilities remain. I met and married my wife in St. Petersburg. Our daughters were born here. My mother died here. I am proud to call St. Petersburg my home.

Throughout the Tampa Bay region, people feel such attachment to their own communities, and the Times has responded with robust local coverage and advertising, including sections for specific cities or counties. The Times’ commitment to local communities will not change with the new name.

But like other citizens and civic leaders, we recognize that all our communities have a stronger future as part of a dynamic Tampa Bay region, rather than a constellation of towns and cities jockeying for advantage against each other.

The power of our collective identity is clear. In 1990, when Major League Baseball was preparing to put an expansion team in Florida, forces in Orlando set out to steal the day. A wise-guy promoter put together a “St. Pete Night,” featuring a wheelchair race and Tommy Dorsey tunes. The grand prize was a year’s supply of light bulbs for drivers’ right-turn signals. But Orlando was competing not against St. Petersburg, but all of Tampa Bay. The team came here.

The pro sports teams, starting with the Bucs, took the lead in establishing Tampa Bay as its own brand. The cause has been joined by other organizations and business groups, including the Tampa Bay Partnership, which tries to recruit more companies and jobs here.

Next summer, the Republican Party is bringing its convention to Tampa Bay. Some delegates will arrive on Southwest Airlines, which has more flights here than anybody else. It lists the destination: Tampa Bay.

The Times has long supported our region’s assets — whether they are schools or sports teams or performing arts halls — no matter where we find them. Since 2000, our philanthropic fund has awarded college scholarships to extraordinary young people who have succeeded against all odds. Of those 49 winners, 32 graduated from high schools outside Pinellas County.

Now we are putting our own greatest asset — our good name — toward the future of the Tampa Bay region.

The decision brings the Times full circle. In 1884, this newspaper was born as a scrawny weekly in the back of a drugstore in Dunedin. There was no separate Pinellas County then, so the newspaper was christened the West Hillsborough Times.

Eight years later, a new owner bought the newspaper for $1,200, moved it to St. Petersburg and gave it a new name.

Because of the distance to Tampa and resentment that Hillsborough County officials were neglecting the western peninsula, the Times took up an editorial crusade to create a new, independent county. The Legislature went along, and Pinellas County came into being on Jan. 1, 1912.

History takes remarkable turns.

On the 100th anniversary of Pinellas County, the newspaper that campaigned to create it will become the Tampa Bay Times.

In each direction, first to create a separate local identity and now to reinforce our common regional future, the Times has been guided by the best interests of our community and its citizens. Today, that community is wider, deeper and more dynamic than it was a century ago. So is the newspaper.

As we count down toward the final days of 2011, I expect a few twinges of nostalgia for the banner we have flown for more than a century. When I told a friend who had grown up with the St. Pete Times about the new name, a tear came briefly to her eye.

But mostly, I anticipate great things ahead, both for the Times and Tampa Bay. That is our history, and it will be our future.

St. Petersburg Times – Paul Tash, Chairman & CEO

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