Misfortune at Florida’s largest newspaper means new business for The Ledger in Lakeland. The publisher of the Tampa Bay Times announced today it will close its St. Petersburg production facility, eliminate 150 jobs there, reduce salaries for remaining workers and transfer printing to the Lakeland newspaper’s presses.
Times Publishing Co. signed a three-year production contract with Gannett, The Ledger’s owner, The Times reported. The Ledger already prints several other newspapers: Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and other Gannett publications.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article reported incorrectly that the extra printing load has forced The Ledger to produce its local product much earlier. The Ledger’s director of commercial printing has since told us that The Ledger is the last publication printed nightly and the local newspaper’s shift to earlier deadlines is unrelated to additional printing business.
As a long slide in newspaper advertising revenues was deepened by the pandemic, The Times in April reduced its print edition to twice a week — on Sundays and Wednesdays — and will likely maintain that schedule, according to a writer for The Poynter Institute, the non-profit journalism research organization that owns The Times.
Times employees whose jobs are being eliminated have been given a required 60-day notice, the newspaper reported. In the interim, Gannett will expand its Lakeland operation and some jobs here could go to Times employees, the newspaper said.
In an irony, The Ledger and Times Publishing Co. in 2016 competed for a contract to print the now-defunct Tampa Tribune. Tribune executives said they were on the verge of signing a deal with The Ledger when it was called off by the newspaper’s owners.
The owners later announced that they were selling The Tribune to Times Publishing Co., which promptly closed their long-time competitor. The Tampa Bay Times became the last remaining newspaper in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, a territory that was home to five daily newspapers in the 1970s.