Coats grew up in Ooltewah, Tennessee. A 1984 graduate of the University of Missouri with a bachelor of journalism degree, Coats began her career as a reporter at the Irving (Texas) Daily News, later working as a reporter or editor at the Stuart (Fla.) News, The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Wichita (Kansas) Eagle and Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune, finishing at that paper as executive editor.
She was briefly dean of the faculty of the Poynter Institute before joining the Tribune in 2005. She advanced there, finishing as executive editor and vice president of the news operation at Florida Communications Group in 2009.
She joined the Patterson Foundation in 2010.
She has three children.
- Patterson Foundation New Media Journalism Facebook page
- The Tampa Tribune, "Tampa Tribune executive editor Coats leaving post," published December 19, 2009
- ASNE site
- Poynter site
- Pulitzer site