Mary Ellen Klas, veteran Florida statehouse reporter, taking on new challenge

She’s leaving the Miami Herald to become a Bloomberg Opinion columnist.

Mary Ellen Klas

Mary Ellen Klas from her website

“Iconic.” “Fearless.” “A reporter’s reporter.”

That’s how friends and former co-workers describe Mary Ellen Klas, the Miami Herald’s longtime Tallahassee bureau chief who’s departing the newspaper. Her last day is next Friday. 

She posted on social media Wednesday that she’s joining Bloomberg Opinion as its Florida-based “Politics and Policy Columnist.” She starts in November.

Klas said she’ll “still be focused on accountability of FL's power elite,” but added her “new role includes the regional South. Grateful for our team at @MiamiHerald and @TB_Times. Keep reading!” (The Herald and the Tampa Bay Times have operated a combined statehouse bureau since 2008.)

Miami Herald Executive Editor Alex Mena first broke the news in a memo to Herald staff on Monday. Klas started at the Herald in 2004. 

“Mary Ellen challenged governors and powerful politicians, she wrote about the circumstances of Floridians with passion and empathy, she exposed corruption and gave voice to those whose voices were stifled or silenced,” wrote Mena, also the Florida regional editor for McClatchy, which owns the Herald. “Her contribution to the Herald and to the citizens of Florida has been consequential.”  

Reporters who worked with her in recent years agreed. 

Samantha Gross, now a politics reporter for the Boston Globe, got her start at the Herald as a temporary reporter filling in for Klas when she took a leave of absence in 2018-19 for a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard. Her project: “Studying the relationship between declining journalism resources and corruption in state and local government, and what happens to government integrity when watchdog reporting declines.”

“At the time, everyone told me how iconic she was, and how her reporting shone a light on some of the state's darkest deeds,” Gross told City & State. “When she came back to Florida after her fellowship and I had the honor of working alongside her, I got to see what everyone meant. She's thorough and tough and perhaps the best role model I could have had…. She always inspired me to hold my own, especially in male-dominated spaces. 

“And, of course, she was crucial to our efforts in creating One Herald Guild (the newsroom’s union) and negotiating the first contract, work that will help protect (guild) members and their journalism for years to come,” Gross added. “Above all, she is a gracious colleague and friend. I can't wait to see what she does with a national platform at Bloomberg.”

Klas, at right in the background, listens in as then-Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford talks with reporters. Notably, the other reporters pictured here all have either retired or left the Capitol Press Corps. (Photo by Bill Cotterell/Florida Memory)

Elizabeth Koh, also now at the Globe as an investigative reporter for its “quick strike” team, also passed through the Herald’s capital bureau. 

“Like so many other journalists in Florida, I knew Mary Ellen’s name and work long before I ever came to Tallahassee,” Koh said. “She’s a reporter’s reporter: Fearless, thorough, unshakeable in pursuit of not only the best story but the right one. 

“Working alongside her for two years made even more clear how deeply Mary Ellen cares about this work, and how much her reporting has shaped more than two decades of coverage in the Capitol,” she added. “There are few reporters who have broken as many stories, or as much ground for women in the press corps. There are certainly even fewer who have done it with as much grace and poise.”

And Carol Marbin Miller, the Herald's award-winning deputy investigations editor and Klas' longtime friend, called her leaving the paper "a bittersweet moment": "In the wake of decades of layoffs and attrition, there are few journalists left here of Mary Ellen's stature, with her knowledge, accomplishments, talent and seasoning. As departures go, this one hurts more than most.

"The troubles in journalism have hit local news extremely hard, but they've really savaged state government reporting, which made Mary Ellen all the more valuable," Marbin Miller told City & State. "She doesn't just understand how government and politics work – she's been dogged, incredibly brave and relentless in her pursuit of transparency and accountability.

"Some of the most significant disclosures out of Tallahassee in recent memory never see the light of day without Mary Ellen's persistence. Her sources rightly trust her. And if officeholders or bureaucrats fear her, their fear is tempered by the knowledge that she'll get the story right and present it fairly."

In his memo, Mena reminded staffers of the work Klas did just in recent years that set her apart:

— “Less than three weeks before the 2016 general election, she obtained a recording from an energy industry meeting in which a consultant described in great detail how an amendment that appeared on its face to be encouraging solar energy development in Florida actually did the opposite and would keep the powerful electric utilities in control of generating electricity. The amendment was expected to pass easily. It failed instead.”

— “After intern Adiel Kaplan wrote an interesting story about the high salary earned by the CEO of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence in the summer of 2018, Mary Ellen, Elizabeth Koh and Samantha Gross did more digging. 

“It took more than 18 months, but Mary Ellen’s sources delivered the goods in the form of documents and first-hand accounts of how Tiffany Carr had pilfered millions of dollars from the organization that oversaw the funding of local groups all over Florida that aided the victims of domestic violence.  Last week, more than five years after Adiel’s original story and more than three years after Mary Ellen and Sam’s story blew the lid off with details of $5 million in unlawful compensation, Tiffany Carr was arrested.”

— “When Tallahassee had its ‘Me Too’ moment, women in state government, elected office and lobbying firms, told their stories to Mary Ellen. In particular, some of those women told how they were victimized by a powerful state senator named Jack Latvala. Latvala resigned from the Senate.”  

And she was on the team that won a Polk Award for political reporting this year for “uncovering the secrecy and cost of the migrant relocation flights authorized by Gov. Ron DeSantis and documenting their political impact.”

According to the biography on her website, Klas “began her career as a business reporter for the Palm Beach Post and moved to Tallahassee as the Post's Capitol bureau chief. She was Tallahassee Editor for Florida Trend magazine and worked part-time for the Palm Beach Post for 12 years while her (two) daughters were young.” 

She graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York and St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is married to John Kennedy, a state government and politics reporter for the USA TODAY Network-Florida. They live in Tallahassee. 

Contact Jim Rosica at and follow him on X: @JimRosicaFL

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