Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



Degree Granting Department

College of Arts and Sciences

Major Professor

Daniel Lende, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

S. Elizabeth Bird, Ph.D.


Tampa Bay Times, St. Petersburg Times, social media, legacy media, journalism


This thesis seeks solutions to vexing problems facing media institutions today by exploring media narratives n the context of established anthropological theory. It is based in one local newsroom, the Tampa Bay Times, where I have worked for 22 years. The ethnography is a personal journey that draws on those decades of newsroom experience, social science theory, participant observation, interviews with journalists, and personal reflections. It examines dangerous historic periods of social dehumanization to put the political nature of today’s local print media crisis in context, and concludes that the greatest modern challenges to legacy journalism’s broken business model are ultimately not about technology. The real challenges boil down to culture, power, social narrative, political manipulation and identity. Drawing on a range of social theory, this thesis helps explain how legacy media simply cannot embed news into social media fields without profoundly changing cultural perception of their content, mission and brand identity. It also explores how and why participation in those media fields dissolves the historically well-defined and well-understood narrative of what legacy media values. It examines the impact of that narrative dissolution on an industry level, as well as heartbreaking implications on the individual lives of working-class journalists. The sum of the cultural factors considered in this thesis have a profound impact on legacy journalism’s business struggles, to the personal lives of people working in newsrooms and to democracy. The study concludes with recommendations to improve legacy print business models.