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Jamal Thalji, Times Staff Writer

Jamal Thalji

Jamal Thalji has spent two decades covering crime, business, courts and sports for the Tampa Bay Times. Now he's an Assistant Metro Editor in the St. Petersburg newsroom.

He was raised in the Tampa Bay area, attended Osceola High School and is a graduate of the University of South Florida in Tampa.

He worked for the Times while he was in college and interned at the Des Moines Register. He returned to Florida to work for the Times in its Citrus and Pasco County bureaus.

After five years covering criminal and civil court in Pasco County for the Times, in 2008 he became metro police reporter for the city of St. Petersburg.

In June 2012 he joined the Times business staff and covered Tampa International Airport, Port Tampa Bay, the tourism industry and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's $2 billion plan to redevelop downtown Tampa.

Along the way Thalji has also covered NASA, the NFL, the NBA, college football, hurricanes, forest fires, space shuttle launches, criminal trials and lots of high school football.

In June 2015, he became an assistant metro editor in the Tampa newsroom.

Did you know: He filed the last byline in the history of the St. Petersburg Times, which changed its name to the Tampa Bay Times on Jan. 1, 2012.

Phone: (813) 226-3404


Twitter: @jthalji

  1. Goodbye 70s. Hello freeze watch. Cold spell headed for Tampa Bay.


    Did everyone enjoy the cool, sunny weather? Because it's over now.

    It's about to get very chilly, Tampa Bay. A rush of arctic air is headed our way, bringing another cold spell. Daytime temperatures will be in the low 60s on Wednesday, but overnight temperatures will plunge into the 20s and 30s.

    The National Weather Service already declared a freeze watch for the Tampa Bay region through Thursday morning. It's time to bring pets inside, cover up plants and check on those most vulnerable to low temperatures. Shelters were opened in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties....

  2. Hurricane Irma: Evacuations, anxiety as storm edges closer to Tampa Bay


    Hurricane Irma continued its ominous march toward Florida on Friday as residents prepared to escape or survive the most powerful Atlantic storm ever recorded.

    LIVE BLOG: The latest on Hurricane Irma

    In Tampa Bay, the wait grew more anxious: The latest forecasts show the monster storm making landfall near Naples on Sunday before making its expected trek up the state, bringing it closer to the bay area....

    (From left) Heather Alama, her husband Adrian Alama, and her father Victor Waddell cover windows with plywood at LaBelle Auction Company in LaBelle, Fla., on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Victor Waddell is a local carpenter, and his daughter and son-in-law drove over from Fort Myers to help him out with work, preparing for Hurricane Irma.
  3. Epilogue: David Letterman's mom, Dorothy Mengering, leaves behind her own comedic legacy


    Many have battled to become the king of late night television, but there was never any question about who was the mother of late night TV: Dave's mom.

    Dorothy Mengering was the mother of late night host David Letterman and became a famous comedian in her own right. The pie-baking Hoosier was a frequent guest and roving correspondent for her son during his 33-year comedic reign on network television....

    In 1996, late night TV show host David Letterman interviewed the mom he made famous, Dorothy Mengering, about her cookbook "Home Cooking with Dave's Mom." Ms. Mengering died on Tuesday. She was 95.
  4. Tight Tampa Bay area primary races will divide Democrats this summer


    It's looking to be a long, hot summer for a number of mostly Democratic Tampa Bay politicians battling it out in the Aug. 30 primary.

    House District 68, which covers much of St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park, Lealman and Feather Sound, pits two well-funded, well-connected 30-something candidates, Eric Lynn and Ben Diamond, against one another in a race that has local Democrats divided.

    All by himself, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman shows just how split Democrats are. He endorsed Lynn when he was in the Democratic 13th Congressional District primary against Charlie Crist. Kriseman then endorsed Diamond for the House seat before Lynn jumped into the race in early May. ...

    Kevin Beckner, one of the party’s young stars, and Pat Frank, a legendary longtime Democratic politician, are locked in Hillsborough County’s most contentious race, for clerk of the Circuit Court.
  5. Tampa Bay Lightning fall to NBA's Golden State Warriors in bid to be professional sports' best business team


    The Tampa Bay Lightning fell short Wednesday night in its bid to be named the top professional sports business team of the year by SportsBusiness Journal, a national sports business industry publication.

    Instead, the NBA champion Golden State Warriors won the honor, the franchise's second in three years, at the annual Sports Business Awards in New York City.

    "It was an honor to be a finalist in the Sports Team of the Year category," Lightning CEO Steve Griggs said in a statement. "It's a testament to the great work performed by our employees over the past year....

    Steve Griggs represented the team at Wednesday night's Sports Business Awards, held by the SportsBusiness Journal. The Lightning were up for Sports Team of the Year. [Courtesy of Tampa Bay Lightning]
  6. Greater Tampa Chamber offers timely endorsement of Hillsborough's proposed transportation tax

    Local Government

    TAMPA — The proposed half-cent sales tax to fund Hillsborough County's transportation needs finally landed a key endorsement: the business community.

    The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, the largest business chamber in Hillsborough, on Thursday endorsed the half-cent option that is projected to raise $117.5 million a year to pay for hundreds of projects for those who drive, bike, walk and use the bus....

    The view from southbound Interstate 275 of traffic backing up in the northbound lanes through Tampa earlier this year. The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce on Thursday unanimously endorsed a proposed half-cent sales tax to fund transportation improvements. The Hillsborough County Commission will decide next week whether to put it on the November ballot so voters can decide for themselves. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  7. Chamber poll: Hillsborough traffic is bad, but support for transportation tax is split


    TAMPA — Hillsborough County residents agree on this much: Traffic is bad.

    Ninety-seven percent of the 400 residents queried in a recent Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce poll believe the county is either "extremely congested" or "somewhat congested."

    "The overwhelming number of respondents say there's something that needs to be done about transportation," said chamber president and CEO Bob Rohrlack. "That's huge."...

    Backed-up traffic in the northbound lanes of Interstate 275 in Tampa in January supports a recent Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce poll that found 97 percent of the 400 residents queried believe Hillsborough County’s roads are either “extremely congested” or “somewhat congested.”
  8. Sam Rashid resigns from Hillsborough airport board — but doesn't apologize


    TAMPA — Republican activist Sam Rashid resigned from the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority on Friday.

    "Today, I tender my resignation and wish you and your next appointee continued success," Rashid wrote to Gov. Rick Scott.

    But Rashid did not apologize for the misogynistic Facebook slur that led to his resignation: He called public relations consultant Beth Leytham a "tax-payer subsidized slut" on Sept. 2....

  9. Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke steps down to become chief operating officer of the NFL


    TAMPA — Tod Leiweke said that hockey was his first love when Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik lured him away from the NFL's Seattle Seahawks in 2010 to come rebuild the bay area's failing hockey franchise as its new CEO.

    Now pro football has wooed Leiweke back.

    The Lightning CEO resigned Friday to take on one of the top jobs in the National Football League: chief operating officer, a position last held by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell himself in 2006....

    Tod Leiweke, left, will stay in a lesser capacity until August while president Steve Griggs takes over as Lightning CEO.
  10. Tampa Bay tourism aims at cities served by Allegiant, and a new calendar


    The Tampa Bay tourism industry isn't just relying on top feeder markets like Chicago and New York and its stronghold seasons of summer and winter to attract visitors anymore.

    Instead, officials are creating their own hybrid tourism seasons and aiming for secondary markets served by Allegiant Air in cities such as Akron, Ohio; Des Moines, Iowa; and Grand Rapids, Mich.

    "These are good, strong Allegiant markets," said David Downing, CEO of the Pinellas tourism agency Visit St. Pete/Clearwater....

    Clearwater Marine Aquarium CEO David Yates (left) talks tourism with the media while (l to r) David Downing, Executive Director of Visit St. Petersburg Clearwater, Florida Gov Rick Scott and Visit Florida President and CEO J. William Seccombe listen. Florida Governor Rick Scott visited the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Thursday morning 7/23/2015 to highlight funding for VISIT FLORIDA to continue Florida?s record-breaking tourism. He held a press conference in the aquariums theater with area and state wide tourism officials and local leaders before getting a visit with the aquariums movie star dolphins Winter and Hope alongside Dolphin Tale actor Nathan Gamble.
  11. Tampa Bay Lightning's finances on verge of skating into the black


    TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Lightning are back in the Stanley Cup final — and maybe in the black as well.

    The Lightning is close to breaking even for the first time in the Jeff Vinik era and only the second time in its 23-year history.

    Team officials say that the longest postseason run since Vinik bought the team in 2010 has sparked sales of season tickets, suites and sponsorships that will fuel revenues for years to come....

    Pavel Kubina drinks from the Stanley Cup after the Lightning last won it in 2004, also the last profitable year for the team.
  12. Tampa International Airport brings car rental companies under one roof


    TAMPA — One selling point of Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano's $943 million plan to remake the airport is that it would make renting cars there a whole lot easier.

    Instead of looking for deals on or off airport property, customers in the ninth largest rental market in the nation would be able to choose from a range of prices, choices and companies all under one roof.

    That perk will be a reality in two years: The airport said that nine rental companies — representing 16 different brands — have signed agreements to use its new 2.6 million-square-foot rental facility months before its even set to break ground this fall....

    This is an artist's rendering of the interior of the new car rental facility that Tampa International Airport will build by 2017. Airport officials said they've signed contracts with nine companies to bring 16 rental car companies to the new 2.6 million square-foot facility. Tampa has the 9th largest car rental market in the nation, and airport officials say that it will all be under one roof at the airport.
  13. Container architecture starting to have a moment in Tampa Bay


    They are always 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide and 20 or 40 feet long. Millions carry the cargo that keeps the economy going. Millions more are scattered across the globe, unused.

    Shipping containers symbolize our quest to buy things and the excess and waste that result. These corrugated steel boxes may also hold part of the solution.

    Containers are being recycled and reinvented to serve humanity in new ways, as homes and offices, bridges and schools, even a research station in Antarctica....

    Ferg’s Live across from Amalie Arena in Tampa positions shipping containers to form a courtyard. The boxes are used for a bar, bathrooms and outdoor kitchen. Above the corner is a small stage.
  14. Critics take aim at Tampa International Airport's concessions contracts


    TAMPA — The proposals are in. The bids have been ranked. After eight months, the process of choosing what people will eat, drink and buy at Tampa International Airport is almost at an end.

    The airport's overseer, the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, will pick the winning bids on June 4.

    But critics of the process are starting to speak up.

    They question the airport's commitment to minority-owned and locally owned businesses, the diversity of the selection committees and even whether a board member should recuse himself from voting because a bidder donated to his re-election campaign....

    An artist's rendering of the exterior of the interior of a proposed Hard Rock Cafe in the main terminal. Tampa International Airport is revamping all of its concessions and we have a look at some of the proposed bars and restaurants that could open there in 2017. Here are 19 artist renderings submitted by the bidders for what their new concepts might look like if they win the right to open their doors at the airport.
  15. Museum of Science and Industry board interested in Jeff Vinik's downtown Tampa project


    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik was a tad busy Monday — his Tampa Bay Lightning were in New York for that night's NHL playoff game — but he still found time to address a very important group: the Museum of Science and Industry's board of directors.

    Vinik is undertaking a $1 billion redevelopment of downtown Tampa, and he thinks MOSI would be a great addition to the project.

    So on Monday the Lightning owner briefed board members on the idea — and they're definitely interested....

    MOSI’s board is “flattered,” chairman Robert Thomas says.