At least three more key reporters — Emily Nipps, Rita Farlow, Ron Matus — leave Tampa Bay Times

By on March 6, 2012

The question I did not ask Adam Smith today at Tiger Bay was related by his article on Sunday in which he writes Florida Democrats have hit “rock-bottom.”

When someone in the newspaper industry says you’ve hit “rock-bottom” isn’t that a case of the pot calling the kettle black?

The Tampa Bay Times certainly has not hit rock-bottom.  In fact, the newspaper’s circulation continues to grow.  Its reporters continue to produce an excellent, valuable news product.

However, what does it say when good reporters continue to leave the newspaper at an increasingly alarming rate? And why is it that this news is broken by other media outlets rather than the newspaper itself? How hard would it be for media critic Eric Deggans, always eager to air out other media outlets’ laundry, for him to post something on his blog?

Instead, it’s left to Creative Loafing‘s Mitch Perry to report that Emily Nipps, a 10-year-plus veteran at the paper, became the latest staffer to announce she is leaving the industry to go into public relations — in her case, working for Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg.  In Nipps’ case, it sounds like it was a matter of limited professional and financial growth at the Times.

In addition to Nipps, two other key reporters have recently left the Times, without so much as a Tweet goodbye from First Avenue South. Rita Farlow, who covered the Pinellas Sheriff’s office and Ron Matus, a statewide education reporter, are both no longer with the Times — developments I found out only by reading an obscure media-centric blog. Mitch Perry also reported that travel reporter Steve Huettel exited of his own accord recently. All of this on top of other major personnel losses over the course of the last year, including departures by Sydney Freedman, Tom Scherberger, and Janet Zink.

The loss of Farlow is particularly worrisome, not just because they were solid reporters, but because the Times was silent about their leaving.  Yet, these were reporters were depended on to cover beats which require keen judgment and vigilance.

Again, Farlow was covering the Sheriff’s Office during an especially difficult time as it transitions from the retired Jim Coats to the appointed Bob Gualtieri.  She was also helping cover the must-watch campaign for Sheriff.  These are two big storylines in local news and now the reporter who was covering them has moved on.

This is neither good for the newspaper, nor the local community.

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