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When I started working for Tampa Bay Newspapers in November, my boss, publisher Dan Autrey, indicated that he would like to start a community newspaper in Pinellas Park.
Community leaders, he said, had been making overtures to him about the need for the city to have its own paper.
Dan wasn’t exaggerating. Never in the 30 years that I have been in the newspaper business have I seen so much enthusiasm among city officials over our plans to start a newspaper. Their confidence in Tampa Bay Newspapers, which now publishes six weeklies, is gratifying, to say the least.
That doesn’t mean we’re going to be just a newsletter for city government. It is our philosophy to cover the news – good or bad – about what’s happening in the city. I don’t ever want to be accused of covering up a wrongdoing to appease some city official. I also don’t want us to be referred to as that cute little newspaper.
However, having been associated with weeklies and small dailies through most of my career, I know what kind of an impact they can have on a city. Good papers, if you will, are invaluable as community bulletins.
One of the greatest joys of being an editor over the years has been knowing that newspapers where I worked have made a difference in people’s lives. Whether it’s promoting fundraising events and blood drives or publicizing a school play, a newspaper helps bring people together.
I can’t count how many stories I’ve written or edited about some unfortunate individual or family needing money, food or shelter after a fire or other natural disaster that tore their lives apart. After reading about people in need of help, the community usually is there for them.
We also will provide space in our “Viewpoints” pages for readers to express their opinions about issues in their city, pro or con. Letters to the editor, along with columns, can help shape public policy. Dissension is healthy in a free society.
We will cover City Council meetings, school activities, health matters, and sporting events. We will include announcements about weddings, engagements and anniversaries.
We also will keep you informed about festivals and events that occur in the area. Look for entertainment news in our “In the Mood” section. We hope to keep you informed about business and real estate activities and run an ongoing calendar of Pinellas Park events.
Besides reporting on what’s happening in Pinellas Park, we will bring you news about county government and the School Board – issues that affect your quality of life and your pocketbooks.
I’m told that some other newspapers that were started in Pinellas Park failed, for a variety of reasons.
The advantage we have over these papers is that we have a track record of success; our six papers have a combined circulation of about 122,000, we have loyal readers and advertisers. We have a terrific staff and great resources. We’ve added personnel to prepare for this move.
The newspaper business has meant so much to me. The memories of the people I have met and the events that I’ve covered over the years are still vivid.
As executive editor of Tampa Bay Newspapers, though, nothing would give me greater satisfaction in my career knowing that I’ve helped start a successful community newspaper from scratch. I’m confident that all of us will do our best to make it happen.
If you have any questions about the editorial content of the Pinellas Park Beacon, please call me at (727) 397-5563, ext. 330.