[Author's note: Timing had a lot to do with the events that led to this article, though coverage form Sunday's events at the Amalie were not filed until 5 p.m., just after the Bucs and Rays games had completed. My concern remains about media weight for the Lightning despite what the club has achieved on and off the ice. -- J.F ]
Sunday, Sept. 21, 2015 front page of TBO.com
This is a screenshot of the Tampa Tribune website at approximately 6:30 PM EDT on September 20th, 2015. It gives you a little glimpse of what the local newspaper is focused on this Sunday.
Now ask yourself what's wrong with this photo that it worked its way on to Raw Charge.
That question was sort of loaded, wasn't it? The fact a web site representing Tampa Bay Lightning fans asked what's wrong with a picture that promotes two of the three local sports franchises in prominent fashion, all while the Bolts concluded a very public event this afternoon with its Launch Weekend Fan Fest at Amalie Arena.
Before I go any further, let me say this right now: This is not aimed at individual writers at the Tampa Tribune who covered Fan Fest today, especially not Lightning beat reporter Erik Erlendsson who has done fantastic coverage for years at the Tribune. The media people on the ground at Amalie Arena aren't the ones calling the shots on content prominence on a web site. They're just the ones providing the content.
So why is a team event for the 2015 Eastern Conference Champion missing from a prominent media web site?
The Bucs have an excuse getting top tier coverage - by way of the Tribune investing dollars in advertising in Raymond James Stadium and with the Buccaneers. The Bucs do have tenure in pro sports here in Tampa too...
The Rays are a different story as the Tribune will give props to the New York Yankees a little too easily with thanks to the late George Steinbrenner's influence on the city of Tampa and the fact the A-level minor league club plays within the city limits. With the season nearing its completion and the Rays outside of playoff contention, it's not wrong for the Rays to get some type of notice on the front page in one area or another.
This shouldn't come off like a sports war, that's also not my intention in voicing a level of disgust... I mean, come on, Team Tampa Bay and a Sunday - the biggest day in pro sports? All three teams should be on the site.
Explore the columns though: Breaking news, trending topics, Video... If you scroll way down the page on the site you will find Sports coverage by itself, it's there you'll find links to broader team coverage and the top sports stories of the moment and... Oh there's nothing there too? Bucs, Rays, "deep grass flats"...
As the guy who has a duty to curate content, I can tell you it's not an easy task. In fact, I'm routinely a little uncomfortable with our own layout and lost in the notion certain stories should get more prominence on the header or in the stream of stories below it. That being said, Raw Charge isn't a major business in the community that invests and is invested in by local businesses. Our site has the responsibility of covering one topic in general (the Lightning) and not a multitude of stories.
(Sidenote: you can get on us for lack of content this weekend too, but doing this as a hobby and not a full-time job ... well, sometimes things take precedence. Like day-to-day life.)
While the Tribune has a responsibility to cover a glut of topics and make sure they're both visible and sharable, they also have a social responsibility in their coverage of the area and how well it's shared with the masses. The fact that the Lightning - a team that fell just short of a title, whose owner has invested countless millions in the area and has a prominent hand in business development and future fortunes of the city of Tampa - are treated as forgettable compared to too many inane pieces of content shows a disconnect. A high profile weekend of events, and it's deemed irrelevant by whoever calls the shots editorially.