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 statewide issues.
The joint effort, announced Monday, is aimed at expanding the number and depth of stories, online and in print, with particular emphasis on enterprise reporting. The newspapers' editors said they hope the combined bureau will build on the traditions of Florida journalism and enable new approaches to covering important issues and holding those in power accountable.
Members of the two Tallahassee bureaus, the newspapers' state staffs 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 stand by 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 ways to expand coverage despite staff reductions. The more they talked, the more they were intrigued by the possibilities of a 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 responsibilities, in consultation with the editors from each newsroom. 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 newspapers on statehouse news, they believe the advantages are extensive. They said the papers are complementary 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.