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After spiked column, Chris Ingram quits writing for Tampa Bay Times

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Conservative commentator Chris Ingram has penned his last column for the Tampa Bay Times.

Ingram announced on his Irreverent View blog that his most recent submission to the paper — a sharply worded takedown of Hillary Clinton’s behavior in relation to Bill Clinton’s checkered sexual history — was rejected by the Times’ editor of editorials, Tim Nickens, earlier this month. Nickens informed Ingram the piece “does not fit in tone or substance.”

Now Ingram says he’s done writing for the only daily newspaper publishing in the Tampa Bay region.

“The tone? Really? I couldn’t have been any nicer,” Ingram says. “It was polite. It was factual. It was certainly opinion, but it was opinion based on fact.”

Nickens said he reviewed the piece with Perspective editor Jim Verhulst, and they both agreed it didn’t fit the newspaper’s substance or tone. “I just don’t think it added anything new to the discussion,” he said.

Ingram has only been a contributor to the Times since the spring. He was one of several columnists who transitioned to the paper after it bought out the Tampa Tribune, where he penned a column for over five years.

On his website, Ingram blasted the Times decision as “an example of a today’s liberal media.”

“They embrace thought-provoking differences of opinion — so long as those opinions are theirs, and they conform with the propaganda it calls journalism,” he writes.

However, Ingram wrote for several months for the Times and collected paychecks from them, begging the question of what did he exactly think he was getting into?

“Obviously, I’m not a fool and I know that the Tampa Bay Times has a liberal bent,” Ingram says, adding that he thinks the paper should be “embarrassed” that it has never endorsed a Republican for governor or president in its illustrious history. He now charges the paper’s editorial staff with stifling debate about one of the two major candidates for president.

“I just happen to be taking the advocacy position for, in my opinion, the lesser of the two lousy candidates, and for them to take a blind eye and to shut down a fair and honest debate about a legitimate issue that is a fair criticism based on fact on Hillary Clinton’s action’s related to her husband’s actions? It’s just disgraceful that the Tampa Bay Times doesn’t have the balls to let that run in their newspaper.”

“He seems to be arguing that we killed it because we didn’t like the position or because it was critical of Hillary Clinton,” counters Nickens, who says the Times did publish a similar story on Bill Clinton‘s sexual past in the Sunday Perspective section days after rejecting the column. “You can look at other stuff you know we’re running. There’s lots of stuff on the op-ed page that we choose to run that we don’t necessarily agree with editorially, including some of Chris’ own columns,” referring specifically to a piece Nickens described as an attack on unions.

What’s apparent in hearing the two men’s perspectives is that there also appears to be a lack of communication.

Nickens says that with other columnists who contribute once or twice a month to the editorial page such as Bill Maxwell and George LeMieux, he has in the past rejected some of their column ideas — which he admits is easier to handle before they were completed. “I want to emphasize Chris seems to feel he was singled out or treated unfairly but he was treated no differently.”

For his part, Ingram says there were some column ideas he proposed at the Tribune that were shot down by opinion editor Joe Guidry, but never on ideological grounds, which is what he believes happened with the Times.

When the Times purchased the Tribune, publisher Paul Tash wrote, “At the Times, we recently expanded the opinion pages to include more conservative commentary, so that readers can find views from all points of the political spectrum,” a sentiment he has also been expressing in public forums since the acquisition.

Ingram now says that claim is “total bullshit.”

Nickens says Ingram and other readers have been slightly confused about the paper’s intentions with respect to the op-ed page after the acquisition of the Tribune.  He said that the expansion of space in those pages meant the paper was going to “redouble their efforts” at getting new voices into the paper, including conservative voices, but it would not change its general philosophy.

“This paper has historically stood for certain issues and what would be hypocritical is if we said, ‘OK, we bought another newspaper and now we’ve got all of these new readers and we’re going to start changing our editorial position.’ Now THAT would have been hypocritical.”

After Nickens killed the column two weeks ago, he said he didn’t hear back from Ingram until earlier this week, when he informed the Times editor he was no longer going to write for the paper. Nickens says he’s he’ll keep on looking to bring local conservative voices to the op-ed page.

“It’s his initiative that he doesn’t want to write anymore,” Nickens says. “It’s not ours.”

Ingram will continue to get his conservative message out to Tampa Bay area citizens with his regular gig as an analyst on Bay News 9, as well as his weekly Internet radio program, “The Anarchy Show,” that airs on the internet live every Thursday night.


Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at [email protected]

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