Welcome to a semi-regular column we’re launching called “Inside the Newsroom.”
I planned to write sooner, but it’s been a busy transition since I arrived in August from Portland, Ore.
I’ve spent the first couple of months getting to know the exceptional journalists that make up the Tampa Bay Times and planning for our future. We’ve been hiring investigative reporters and adding to our enterprise reporting team. We’re adapting our reporting beats to include coverage of transportation and vulnerable communities.
We plan to use this column space to offer a window into our world. We’ll talk about tougher journalistic decisions and the challenges we face. We’ll take you behind the scenes as our reporters, editors and visual journalists grapple with complex issues and matters of ethics and fairness.
As an industry, we haven’t always been great at explaining what we do. This column will be an attempt to forge a deeper bond with the community and to do a better job of sharing how we go about our jobs. We are committed to being accessible. We want to engage with you more often — whether it be on our website, in these newspaper pages or at community events. And we’ll try to let you know what you can expect from us down the road.
Let’s start with our website. A team of developers and designers at the Times has been immersed for the past several months in a project to improve tampabay.com.
We’re revamping the site to be a faster, more robust experience. We think it’s a big upgrade and long overdue. When we go live later this month, it will be an enhanced way to get news about our region and the state of Florida in real time.
That will be an important step forward for us. We have one of the best and largest newspapers in America. But we haven’t moved with enough urgency to meet readers in the digital space. We intend to change that.
The operative word is “easier.” Our streamlined navigation and search bar will make it easier to find what you’re looking for. It’s going to be easier to load stories on any device. And our enhanced commenting platform will make it easier to interact and engage with our journalism, with our journalists and with other readers.
We hope our new commenting platform will lead to more civil conversations. At their best, commenting threads can be constructive, positive and respectful places to interact. But too often they are the exact opposite — devolving into vile cesspools of anger, profanity and hate.
News sites have long grappled with this challenge, especially now at a time of increased divisiveness. Some have opted to turn off comments altogether. With “Talk,” our new commenting platform powered by the Coral Project, readers can award points to reasoned and thoughtful commenters and bring those comments to the surface. Artificial Intelligence will help us weed out toxic language. I can’t guarantee it will always work. But we are going to try to create a forum for better dialogue.
We’re excited about all the website changes you’ll soon see, but we still have plenty of work ahead of us. The minute we launch the redesigned site, we’ll go straight to work on the next round of improvements — all designed to serve you better in the digital space.
Hope to see you there.
Mark Katches is the executive editor of the Tampa Bay Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 727-893-8441. Follow @markkatches.