By: Nu Yang
When Kathy Best was named editor of the Seattle Times last September, she told the newsroom they needed to stay focused on “producing useful, meaningful, kick-ass journalism that readers can’t get anywhere else.” In an interview with E&P, Best explained journalism should also be “unpredictable and fun.” In an industry that’s anything but predictable, Best may be on to something.
The 56-year-old longtime Seattle journalist grew up in a newspaper family. Her brother still owns a small weekly newspaper in Southern Illinois and her nephew is its managing editor. “Insanity runs in our family,” Best said with a laugh.
Previously, Best served as one of the Times’ managing editors for six years. Her career includes assistant managing editor for Sunday and national news at The Baltimore Sun, and assistant managing editor/metro at the St. Louis Post–Dispatch and at the Seattle Post–Intelligencer.
A few months into her new role, Best is already working on several priorities. “Because our industry is going through a serious disruption, we have to rethink some things. Are we using all our resources in the most effective way? Are we giving our readers the most relevant content? Are we giving them great visuals? Engaging them with digital? Are we giving them something worth paying for on all platforms?”
Best said she also understands the audience’s consumption habits are changing. “We have to understand mobile and create a really efficient mobile design. That might mean changing the content to make the mobile audience a priority. For example, we found younger readers on mobile are soccer fans. Does that mean we need to create a soccer app?”
Best is aware of the challenges the industry is facing, but she views them as “opportunities.” “Our changing readership provides an opportunity to gain new skills and to reach a new audience,” she said.
She also sees opportunities to create revenue by “monetizing (their) content and producing fabulous digital apps and special sections.”
In addition to Best’s promotion, several other newsroom leadership positions were put into place. Best said this new structure will create a more hands-on approach in a newsroom that has won nine Pulitzer Prizes.
With about 200 staff members working under her, Best said her goals include continuing the trend of watchdog and investigative journalism and making sure every journalist is trained with the skills to create good storytelling.
When asked what makes her community special, Best said, “(Seattle) is tucked away on the left side of the country…but we’re connected with the West Coast, we’re connected with Asia…it gives layers to our city so that we’re able to cover local, national and international news.
“And I love the fact that we’re an independent, family-owned paper,” she added. “Our owner (Frank Blethen) lives in town and he’s not in it to make lots of money. He wants us to be stewards of the community.”
The Seattle Times has an average weekday print and digital circulation of 241,283.