ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — For more than 50 years the local Tampa Bay Times newspaper was printed in St. Petersburg.
That era has come to an end.
The paper on your doorstep Sunday morning is the final one to be printed at the Tampa Bay Times plant.
What You Need To Know
- Tampa Bay Times to no longer print in St. Petersburg
- Printing will be shifted to Gannett plant in Lakeland
- About 150 Times employees losing their jobs
Since 1958, the 34th Street North plant has been a place where employees have seen history unfold and friendships, lasting decades, were formed in the wee-hours of the morning all while bringing the public their daily news.
“I started 45 years ago in what was called the mailroom back then stacking bundles,” said Director of Operations Ben Hayes.
Ben Hayes started when he was 19.
“I started at 20 years, 1980 and I started as an apprentice press operator,” said Press Room Manager Lannis Thomas.
And this was the only full time job Lannis Thomas ever had.
The presses at the Times’ 34th Street North facility printed daily papers since 1958. (Alese Underwood, staff)
Inside the plant, you don’t have to look very far to find people who have dedicated their life’s work to getting the news to people.
“I’ve been here, walking in and out of these doors for 41 years so when you work on a job for 41 years it becomes a part of you,” Thomas said.
The team works like a well-oiled machine with a constant commitment to quality.
They can run 50,000 copies an hour per press.
“During the busy times we’d see more of each other than our families on a lot of weeks. And so there’s a real friendship so it’s sad in that regard, but the people have just been first rate throughout,” Hayes said.
Some of those busy times were historic and they got a front row seat to the coverage…quickly.
“I remember when they captured Bin Laden for example, and that happened kind of late. And we got it in the paper that morning,” Thomas said.
“We got the chance to see all the major events, presidential elections, certainly 911, all the major news that’s come through and then the daily news that comes in about school board elections and various things that get covered every day,” Hayes said.
It’s a desire to play their part in getting the news out that kept them going.
“I was blessed to have this platform to do everything I wanted to do in life,” said Thomas.,
It was a platform of privilege to read the paper before the sun comes up.
About 150 employees will lose their jobs from the plant closure.
From here printing operations will be outsourced to Lakeland.