The newspaper traces its origins to the West Hillsborough Times, a weekly newspaper established in Dunedin, Florida on the Pinellas peninsula in 1884. At the time, neither St. Petersburg nor Pinellas County existed; the peninsula was part of Hillsborough County. The paper was published weekly in the back of a pharmacy and had a circulation of 480. It subsequently changed ownership six times in seventeen years. In December 1884 it was bought by A.C. Turner, who moved it to Clear Water Harbor (modern Clearwater, Florida). In 1892 it moved to St. Petersburg, and by 1898 it was officially renamed the St. Petersburg Times.
The Times became bi-weekly in 1907, and began publication six days a week in 1912. Paul Poynter, a publisher originally from Indiana, bought the paper in September 1912 and converted to a seven-day paper, though it was rarely financially stable. Paul's son, Nelson Poynter, became editor in 1939 and took majority control of the paper in 1947, and set about improving the paper's finances and prestige. Nelson Poynter controlled the paper until his death in 1978, when he willed the majority of the stock to the non-profit Poynter Institute. In November 1986, the Evening Independent was merged into the Times. Poynter was succeeded by Eugene Patterson (1978 to 1988), Andrew Barnes (1988 to 2004) and Paul C. Tash (2004 to present).
On January 1, 2012, the St. Petersburg Times was renamed the Tampa Bay Times; this stemmed from a 2006 decision of a lawsuit with Media General, the publishers of The Tampa Tribune, which allowed that paper to keep its exclusive right to use the name of its defunct sister paper, The Tampa Times, for five years after the decision.
As the newly rechristened Tampa Bay Times, the paper's weekday tabloid tbt*, a free daily publication and which used "(* Tampa Bay Times)" as its subtitle, became just tbt when the name change took place. The St. Pete Times name was repurposed as a new name for the Times' neighborhood news sections in southern Pinellas County (formerly Neighborhood Times), serving communities from Largo southward.
In 2010, the Times published an investigative report questioning the validity of the United States Navy Veterans Association, leading to significant reaction and official investigations into the group nationwide.
The newspaper operates PolitiFact.com, a project in which its reporters and editors "fact-check statements by members of Congress, the White House, lobbyists and interest groups...." They publish original statements and their evaluations on the PolitiFact.com website, and assign each a "Truth-O-Meter" rating, with ratings ranging from "True" to completely true statements to "Pants on Fire" (from the taunt "Liar, liar, pants on fire") for false and ridiculous statements. The site also includes an "Obameter", tracking U.S. PresidentBarack Obama's performance with regard to his campaign promises.
PolitiFact.com was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2009 for "its fact-checking initiative during the 2008 presidential campaign that used probing reporters and the power of the World Wide Web to examine more than 750 political claims, separating rhetoric from truth to enlighten voters."
^Staff (June 18, 2010). "FSNE Gold Medal for Public Service". FSNE 2010 Journalism Awards (Florida: Florida Society of News Editors). Retrieved June 18, 2010. Inside Scientology – The St. Petersburg Times reporting on the Church of Scientology is in the finest traditions of American journalism. The reporting by Joseph Childs and Thomas Tobin stands out for the ways in which it held accountable the powerful.
^Staff (April 19, 1995). "Prizes honor wide range of stories; Winners of the 1995 Pulitzer Prizes in Journalism included stories of natural disaster, human tragedy and courage". Associated Press (via the Portland Press Herald. p. 7A.Missing or empty |url= (help)