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St. Pete Times and Miami Herald to develop a combined Tallahassee bureau in December



Just heard about this today, so I'm still digging up details. In the meantime, here's our executive editor's memo to the staff and the press release on it all.

Combined Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau

Author: Neil Brown

Body: To: Staff

November 3, 2008

Re: St. Pete Times and Miami Herald to launch combined Tallahassee bureau

I am pleased to announce a unique partnership between the St. Petersburg Times and The Miami Herald that will merge our Tallahassee-based staffs into a single statehouse bureau in order to provide a new level of depth, enterprise and aggressive coverage of the Capitol.

Over the summer we began conversations with the Herald about some combination of efforts to expand state coverage at a time when the Capitol press corps was shrinking because of the financial downturn. Our own circumstances have seen our bureau go from four full-time journalists to three. The Herald, faced with its own cost-cutting, took its staff from three to two.

We discussed how the two strongest newsrooms in Florida might work together in an area that has long been a focus of both newspapers. The more we talked the more sense it made to pursue a complete merger that would allow us to increase coverage in ways that neither organization could manage separately.

The plans call for our new operation to start in early December and to develop a simple decision-making arrangement (we know that will be the tricky part) that coordinates our daily and enterprise coverage. Eventually we hope to launch a joint state news website that will be the leading journalistic source on Florida politics and power.

The Times and Herald are compatible in their commitment to journalistic excellence and both have a long history of holding Florida officials to account.  In our talks, which involved our Tallahassee staffs and editors from both papers, we concluded that giving up journalistic competition with each other (there’s little competition on the business-side between the two companies) was an acceptable tradeoff for giving Florida residents more high quality journalism, particularly enterprise and investigative work. *

Click below for the release:

Nov. 3, 2008
St. Petersburg Times and The Miami Herald will join forces in Tallahassee
        In a collaboration believed to be the first of its kind, the Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times will combine their Tallahassee staffs into a single bureau to expand news and enterprise coverage of Florida government, politics and issues of statewide importance.
           The joint effort is aimed at expanding the number and depth of stories, online and in print, with particular emphasis on enterprise reporting. The papers’ editors said they hope the combined bureau will build on the rich traditions of Florida journalism and also enable some new approaches to covering important issues and holding those in power accountable.
        Members of the two Tallahassee bureaus, the papers’ state staff and newsroom leadership developed the plans over the past three months in a series of meetings in St. Petersburg and Miami. The collaboration will begin in early December.
       “By joining the forces of the Miami Herald and the St. Petersburg Times we believe we can create a journalistic powerhouse to cover state issues and Florida government,” said Times Executive Editor Neil Brown. “Rather than standby as the Capitol Press corps shrinks and merely lament that there is less being written about the offices of power in Florida, we wanted to try a fresh, even bold, approach.” 
           “For years, The St. Petersburg Times and The Herald have watched one another across the state to see who was doing the best statehouse coverage,’ said Herald Executive Editor Anders Gyllenhaal. “We are very excited about seeing what can be done when we put our resources together.’’
        The editors began talks this summer, looking for new ways to expand coverage despite recent staff reductions. The more they talked, the more they were intrigued by the possibilities of such a robust partnership.
        The combined bureau will include six staff members. The bureau chiefs from each paper -- Mary Ellen Klas of the Herald and Steve Bousquet of the Times -- will alternate leadership responsibility, in consultation with the editors from each newsroom. Meanwhile the bureau will also include three other reporters ( Marc Caputo of the Herald and Alex Leary and Jennifer Liberto of the Times) and a full-time clerk will be hired by year’s end.
        The editors said that while the merger will mean an end to competition between the papers on statehouse news, they believe the advantages are extensive. They said the papers are complimentary on many fronts: Their primary focuses are on different parts of the state; they share a tradition of strong political coverage, explanatory work and investigative reporting; and they both have placed emphasis on statehouse coverage over many years.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:52pm]


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