Veteran Sun-Sentinel reporter Mark Hollis is leaving the newspaper at the end of the month to take a job as communications director for the Florida House Democratic Office.
Before being transferred to the Sentinel's Palm Beach County office last year, Hollis had covered state politics in Tallahassee since 1994. He will begin his new job with the Democrats on December 1. He said he was approached by Barry Kling, staff director for the House Democratic Office, about the job and only formalized the hiring yesterday. During the process, he interviewed with House Minority Leader designate Franklin Sands, a rep from Weston. His salary will be $75,000.
Hollis, 43, said his decision was based on both his desire to be closer to his daughter, who lives in Tallahassee, and uncertainty in the newspaper business.
"I think everyone in the news industry today needs to be vigilant and be aware of the changing industry and changes that can mean less job security," said Hollis, who worked for the Ocala Star-Banner, Gainesville Sun, and New York Times Regional News Group before joining the Sentinel in 1999. "Like a lot of people I thought I might be in it my entire career."
He said he informed his editors about the position and asked that he not be asked to cover anything that would give an "appearance of impropriety." A number of South Florida reporters have taken jobs in government recently, including former Miami Herald county hall reporter Matthew Pinzur, who took a $115,000 job with the county he had been covering last month. Pinzur's move caused controversy in Miami and I asked Hollis if he felt his taking the partisan government job presented a conflict of interest.
"I hope my journalistic integrity stands for itself," he said. "I’ve had a career of covering government in politics hopefully with balance and fairness and as along as I’m a journalist I will continue to do so."
The reporting corps Hollis will be answering to has shrunk in recent months due to industry job cuts, including long-time Sun-Sentinel State Capitol Bureau Chief Linda Kleindienst and the Miami Herald's Gary Fineout, who both took buyouts. Just last week, the Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times announced they were merging their Tallahassee bureaus.