Tampa Editor, Now Exiting, Had Stayed On To Help Amid Staff Cuts

By: Joe Strupp Tampa Tribune Editor Janet Coats, who announced Monday she would leave her job of four years, says she actually thought of exiting more than a year ago, but wanted to stay to help the paper through a string of difficult cuts.

"I had to stay for at least another year because I knew it was going to get bad," Coats said. "I could not foresee how many people we were going to lose, but I knew it would be a rough ride and I felt a responsibility to try to help us get through what was coming."

Coats is referring to August 2008, when her husband Rusty, then editor of the Tribune's Web site, TBO.com, took a job in Knoxville, Tenn., with E.W. Scripps. He has since served as Scripps vice president for news and marketing.

Coats said she would have left the Tribune then to join him in Knoxville, but wanted to help the paper get through what turned out to be three rounds of layoffs in 2008 and another round last spring in which 20 news staffers were let go. The Tribune's news staff is now at about 185.

"We have weathered what I think is the worst of the economic storm," Coats said Tuesday. "I think the worst of the cutting is done."

Coats, 46, has held top editing posts in Tampa and at the Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune, while having served as a managing editor at The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk. But she says her newspaper days are likely over.

"I feel like I want to do something different," says Coats. "There are so many different models of journalism everywhere, I might be able to use my skills in a different way. I don't know that going back to work in a major news company is what I want to do."

She said that running a newsroom "requires a tremendous commitment of time and emotional resources that, at this point in my life, I would like to devote to other things. But I think I still have a lot to contribute in other ways."

Coats' last day will be Dec. 18. She will likely not be replaced, with Publisher Denise Palmer and other editors taking over much of her duties.


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