THIS IS NO STAPLES CENTER

By: Lucia Moses

St. Pete Times Sponsors Tampa’s Ice Palace



The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times announced a sponsorship pact with a
regional entertainment center while emphasizing that it won’t
compromise the editorial side or involve revenue sharing.



The St. Pete Times was referring indirectly to the widely criticized
Los Angeles Times -Staples Center deal, which came to stand for the
problems that can occur when a newspaper’s news and business sides get
too cozy. The L.A. Times last year agreed to share profits from a
special Sunday magazine about the Staples Center with the sports arena
itself, a decision the paper later admitted was wrong.



In the sort of deal that’s become common as newspapers try to better
market themselves, the St. Pete Times will pay an undisclosed sum to
Tampa’s Ice Palace in exchange for advertising privileges at the
center.



Ed Cassidy, the St. Pete Times ‘ marketing director, said the contract
contains a clause stating that the paper’s editorial content will not
be affected by the arrangement. ‘It was very clear that Ice Palace
management would respect and maintain our position of editorial
integrity,’ he says. ‘We drew a very definite line between news and
promotion. That was something we asked for right from the start.’



The sponsorship came about last summer as part of the paper’s stepped-

up marketing efforts. It represents the paper’s biggest marketing push
in Hillsborough County, home to its rival, the Tampa Tribune . It was
attractive because it lets the paper reach a wide range of people who
attend business, sports, and entertainment events hosted by the center.



Incidentally, the arrangement doesn’t include sponsorship of the
National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lightning, the Ice Palace’s home
team, already sponsored by the Tampa Tribune .



St. Pete Times Executive Editor Paul Tash says the key difference
between his paper’s deal and the Staples Center situation is the
absence of revenue sharing. ‘It’s simply another form of advertising
for the newspaper,’ he says. ‘We talk about ethical issues, but there’s
been no concern about this deal.’



An ethical lapse would be especially unwelcome at this paper, which
prides itself on being independent of advertiser pressure and doesn’t
wish to be embarrassed, especially after a story it ran two weeks ago
about its competition.



The St. Pete Times reported that special sections published by the
Tribune on the Gasparilla festival, Tampa’s version of Mardi Gras,
were written by its reporters and supported by ads run by festival
organizers.



‘St. Pete’s trying to suggest [the organizers] are paying for the
tabs,’ says Tribune Executive Editor Gil Thelen. ‘They’re offered the
opportunities to buy ads in it, and they did.’



Nevertheless, the Tribune ‘s advertorial department will take over the
sections next year, because they’ve become less important to the
community, Thelen says. ‘The news value has declined,’ he explains.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Lucia Moses (luciam@mediainfo.com) is associate editor for
Editor & Publisher magazine.










(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher

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