ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Times today named Mark Katches, a veteran journalist who has led his teams to Pulitzer-Prize-winning work, as the next executive editor of Florida’s largest newspaper.
Katches, 55, now the editor and vice president of content at The Oregonian in Portland, Ore., will guide all news operations at the Times and its website, tampabay.com. He previously was editorial director at the Center for Investigative Reporting in California. He also led the investigative team at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, where his reporters won two Pulitzer Prizes in three years.
The announcement capped nearly a year-long search for an executive editor to replace Neil Brown, who became president of the Poynter Institute, the journalism school that owns the Times.
"It takes a lot of work to find somebody worthy of this newsroom," Paul Tash, Times’ CEO and chairman, said in introducing Katches to the staff today. "His record will help in building on some of our historic strengths" — enterprise and investigative journalism — "and expanding our digital efforts and audience."
Katches, who will start Aug. 20, said he felt like "the luckiest guy in journalism" to be taking on his new role.
"I know you’ve been through some tough times," he said, acknowledging the challenges facing all newspapers, "but this is our calling, and I’m convinced tremendous opportunities lie ahead for the newsroom. Our community needs us more than ever."
Katches and the Times have worked together before when he was in charge of the Center for Investigative Reporting. The Times, the center and CNN teamed up to produce a project on "America’s Worst Charities" in 2013.
While at the Oregonian, Katches also worked with former Times staff writer and editor Kelley Benham French, whom he hired to edit an award-winning series called "The Loneliest Polar Bear."
"He brings a tremendous amount of ambition and enthusiasm to his work and inspires people to do the best work of their careers," said French, now a professor of journalism at Indiana University. "He has really deep investigative chops, but also cares about great writing and storytelling."
In addition to building on the Times’ reporting and writing strengths, Katches said a priority will be improving the paper’s website, tampabay.com
"We need to be faster and a little bit more nimble," he said. To help increase the digital audience, he wants to add more short videos, noting that the Oregonian has seen a nearly 700 percent boost in video views since he joined that paper.
As another way of increasing revenues, Katches said, the Times could follow the Oregonian’s lead in producing "heirloom coffee table books" on such subjects as history and local events.
At the Center for Investigative Reporting, Katches’ newsroom produced watchdog journalism across multiple platforms including print, online, broadcast, radio and data news apps. He has also done enterprise and investigative work at the Los Angeles Daily News and the Orange County Register. As an assistant managing editor and later deputy managing editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he built a 10-person investigative team that won Pulitzers for stories about county pension fund abuse and fraud in a child-care program.
"I just think this is a perfect fit," George Stanley, the Journal Sentinel’s editor, said of Katches’ joining the Times. "You’re getting a great investigative and enterprise editor for one of the best investigative and enterprise teams in the country."
Katches said he is renting in Tampa’s West Shore area. On Sunday, he visited open houses and was amazed at all of the new construction.
Has Portland seen a similar boom? "Not like this," Katches said.