Editor's note: This story was modified to reflect a change of wording.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Kathy Best has been named editor of the Missoulian and the Ravalli Republic, Publisher Mark Heintzelman announced Wednesday.
Best is currently the editor and vice president for news at the Seattle Times. In that role, she has helped lead the newsroom to three Pulitzer prizes and multiple national print and digital journalism awards, including for video and multimedia presentations. She’s known for her commitment to significant watchdog and investigative journalism, innovative explanatory reporting and engaging storytelling that illuminates the heart and soul of a community. She has spent the last nine years in Seattle helping the newsroom learn to do all of those things well on multiple platforms – from desktops to mobile and from social media to Sunday print.
“The opportunity to lead the Missoulian and Ravalli Republic allows me to return to my first and deepest love – great community journalism,’’ Best said. “I can’t wait to help these talented newsrooms take their work to the next level, giving print and digital readers in western Montana relevant and engaging news they can’t get anywhere else. We’re going to have some fun.’’
Newspapering is part of a family tradition for Best. She worked for her family’s newspaper in central Illinois, the News-Progress in Sullivan. It was there that she learned the basics of newspapering, from taking photos to selling ads. She continues to be a co-owner of the newspaper with her brother.
Best started her career with the Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa. From there, she moved to Springfield, Illinois, to cover state government and politics for the Lee Enterprises Capitol Bureau. She also covered local, state and national news for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and was an editor for the Baltimore Sun, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Best received her bachelor's degree in journalism from Southern Illinois University and her master's in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield.
Heintzelman said hiring Best was a unique opportunity to get a journalist with first-class talent who also knows how to help a newsroom develop the skills and mindset to meet the needs and expectations of digital, as well as print, readers. Heintzelman said he also looks forward to her outreach into the community.
Best plans to start at the Missoulian on June 27, and inherits an award-winning staff of around 30. She will appoint the paper’s next city editor and will focus, in filling all vacancies, on high ethical standards, a commitment to accuracy and compelling writing – from tweets to full-blown stories.
Best is no stranger to Montana. She has been a guest lecturer at the University of Montana journalism school and has hired its graduates. She also has been a regular visitor to Missoula and western Montana.
She is married to Andrew Schneider, winner of two Pulitzer Prizes for investigative reporting. Schneider brought national attention to of one of the nation’s worst environmental disasters in Libby, where a vermiculite mine contaminated with asbestos poisoned and killed hundreds of miners and their families and sent toxic minerals across the U.S. and Canada. He and David McCumber, now the editor of the Montana Standard, eventually wrote a critically acclaimed book documenting the failure of government at all levels to protect Libby’s miners and the heroism of two Libby residents and three EPA investigators who tried to bring justice to northwest Montana.
Best and Schneider own two unruly Labrador retrievers that are eager to become Montana dogs.