What’s in a name? Maybe the fortunes of a newspaper and the region it represents.
At midnight Tuesday, the St. Petersburg Times announced it will become the Tampa Bay Times to ring in the new year, 2012.
The column attributed to CEO Paul Tash offers a lengthy defense of the change. As Tash explains it, the new name was needed because most readers of the paper reside outside of the St. Petersburg area. While acknowledging the significance of messing with a respected brand that has been established for over 110 years, Tash offers a few justifications, among them the common denominator of “Tampa Bay” among the area’s professional sports teams, “Tampa Bay” as the listed destination for flights to Tampa International Airport, and the newspaper’s history of philanthropy throughout the region.
He even provides a cute, nostalgic anecdote about Orlando ridiculing St. Pete while competing with the area for a Major League Baseball team over 20 years ago.
My initial thought was that money is the driving force behind the change, and perhaps it is. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this is about nothing more than getting more eyeballs in order to move businesses to spend their advertising dollars with the Times (assuming enough is out there to be made in this economically distressed period we’re suffering through). Tash noted the St. Petersburg Times is already the region’s most-read newspaper, so I’m not sure swapping out a name will have that much of an impact in the short term. Most likely the upper brass isn’t expecting it to, and this could be just part of a larger overhaul of the paper’s infrastructure. As recently as this month, the Times has been dealing with its financial hardships through layoffs and furloughs.
It was another passage, however, that got me to thinking the Times could be trying to change more than just its fortunes by swapping “St. Pete” for “Tampa Bay”:
But like other citizens and civic leaders, we recognize that all our communities have a stronger future as part of a dynamic Tampa Bay region, rather than a constellation of towns and cities jockeying for advantage against each other.
This sure sounds like Tash editorializing about the alleged rivalry between Pinellas and Hillsborough (not without significance regarding the paper’s financial interests). While I’m not convinced that dynamism and competition among municipalities are at odds with one another, the point Tash is making about the benefits of cooperation comes through. Personally, I’m looking forward to the Tampa Bay Times, and to see whether something as simple as a name change could be the catalyst to something far more important — an area’s revival and growth as it alters its self-perception.
What’s in a name? We’ll see.