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‘Catalyst Sessions’ recap: Ray Roa, Creative Loafing Tampa

Bill DeYoung



Friday on The Catalyst Sessions, Creative Loafing editor-in-chief Ray Roa was asked about the future of Tampa Bay’s feisty alt-weekly, which like all print newspapers has taken a mighty pandemic hit through a mass defection of advertisers. Roa, who joined the staff as music editor in 2016, also talked about the necessity of alt-weeklies in cities with large populations and a venerable newspaper of record.

“Alt-weeklies have had to evolve as well,” he said, “but also have had to maintain a really strict identity. And now, as people become more polarized and everything becomes more divisive … when alt-weeklies started, and they took these kind of left-leaning or harder stances on things, I don’t think anybody imagined media would be the way it is now. Alt-weeklies are almost tame! They’re not like some of these extreme things. Although some of our readers might disagree.”

The alternative media voice, it was agreed, is necessary in any free society.

In March, Creative Loafing Tampa’s parent company, Euclid Media Group, laid off seven of the paper’s 12 employees. Roa and the others who remained took a pay cut.

“I don’t know that the paper is on its last leg; I don’t sense that,” Roa explained. “But I don’t know that it’s going to be around for a year. There’s an uncertainty, right?”

Roa has reached out to CL readers by establishing the Press Club, a method of offering financial support to the struggling periodical.

“The purpose of it is to bring back an editorial person, hoping that the money that we make there – we have a goal of $50,000 – can bring a staffer back.”

Although the well-loved Best of the Bay issue is “still a go,” many of the other annual special issues are “on hold right now.” To the best of Roa’s knowledge, there have been no company discussions about going online-only.

“Stuff goes online, we figure out how it works in print,” he said. “And we make it work. I love putting the print issue together because there’s nothing better than planning covers and writing print headlines. Web headlines are boring. They’re straightforward and informative. Our paper is … we have fun.

“We’re offensive sometimes – sometimes to a fault – but there’s nothing more fun than working at an alt-weekly. And one of the best parts of that is the print.”

Monday (June 8) on The Catalyst Sessions: Tiffany Razzano from Wordier Than Thou.

Streaming weeknights at 7 on the Catalyst Facebook page. All episodes are archived on the Catalyst YouTube page.





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