SRQ Magazine | January 2017
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune in recent years published a number of headlines about itself. Between a change in ownership, the departure of an executive editor and the formation of a union, change has come in waves for the Sarasota publication. And early this year, the newspaper will relocate out of an iconic building downtown into three stories of space in the SunTrust building next door. “The media landscape, the way we work, everything has changed,” Herald-Tribune Publisher Patrick Dorsey told readers in an article in August.
The New York Times company, then owner of the Herald-Tribune, bought the Main Street property where it now sits in 2003 and built a $28-million building on the 1700 block of Main Street. In order to ensure the paper stayed in city limits, the city offered more than $768,000 in redevelopment funds as an incentive to operate downtown. Over the years, though, the paper saw its workforce shrink instead of growing into the space. Today, SNN, once a part of the company, has spun off as independent entity and subleases space, but may move to different location after the paper moves to SunTrust.
There have been been positive headlines as well; the newspaper last year shared a Pulitzer Prize with the Tampa Bay Times. But most often, major changes in operations have been what drove the newspaper into the news. In early 2015, Halifax Media announced it would sell all its newspapers, including the Herald-Tribune, to GateHouse Media, and a number of those papers saw employees unionize in 2016. While the process went without much comment at some publications like the Lakeland Ledger, in Sarasota, it ultimately was reportedly contentious. Last September, employees voted 22-16 to unionize. “We thought it was a good chance for us to have an opportunity to have a say in how things are handled for the corporation,” says investigative reporter Elizabeth Johnson, one of the chief organizers for the union. Also striking was the number of votes; the newspaper in the past year saw 16 positions eliminated through various layoffs and attrition. In September, the newspaper’s executive editor Bill Church was promoted to a corporate position at GateHouse, which required a move to Austin, TX. The paper right now is holding a search for a new executive editor.