- By DARRELL EHRLICK [email protected]
Pulitzer Prize winning editor Kathy Best believes now is the perfect time for more women to trust their voices and become active.
And she should know.
The current editor of The Missoulian has been a journalist for some of the largest newspapers in the country, including helping her team take two Pulitzer Prizes in her role as the managing editor and then the editor of the Seattle Times.
She has made a career out of telling other people’s stories and seeking out voices that need to be heard. Best believes that more women need to trust their stories and draw upon their experience to make a difference in their community.
“Stop being quiet about what is exceptional,” Best said. “We need talented women to let their voices be heard. The country needs them. It doesn’t matter what your political party you support, it’s about the need for smart women.”
Best will be the featured speaker at the Exceptional Women Event which will be held at 11:30 a.m., on Sept. 29 at the Northern Hotel in Billings.
Best said the key to becoming exceptional is pursuing a passion. For her, it came unexpectedly.
Though she grew up with her family running the local newspaper in a Central Illinois town, she never thought she’d wind up in the family business, so to speak.
In fact, she can remember her 16th birthday. Her favorite dinner was just being served, her parents and brother gathered around the dinner table. Then,, the town’s fire alarm went off because an inmate had set the local jail on fire. Her parents left to cover the big news and so did her brother, who was shooting photos for the paper.
She was left alone on her 16th birthday, not necessarily surprised because that is just what happens when ink runs in your family blood.
When she went to school at University of Illinois, she wanted to study pre-med.
“After calculus, I realized that I probably didn’t want to become a doctor that badly,” Best said.
She drifted for a bit, wondering what she’d become. She was interested in many things.
“I realized that the conversations around the dinner table were the most interesting I’ve ever heard,” Best said.
So she transferred to Southern Illinois University, which had a better journalism school.
Those conversations ranged from tax policy to politics to agriculture and science.
“I realized that I didn’t have to decide and as a journalist, I could be interested in everything,” Best said.
That interest and that passion has led her to achieve remarkable success. She said she was able to feed those interests, learning state politics in the rough-and-tumble world of Springfield, Illinois. She also moved to the Baltimore Sun to become the Sunday and national editor — because she was curious what that job was like.
“The wonderful thing about journalism is that it lets you learn something new every day,” Best said.
One of her greatest joys is helping to foster that love and curiosity in reporters and editors in her newsroom.
That same mentoring was given to her early in her career while she was a cub reporter in Springfield, Illinois.
Just down the hall from where she worked, a talented environmental journalist from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a paper she’d later work for, awed Best with his work. She wandered down the hall and asked him for help.
“How do I do what you do?” she asked.
That’s the same kind of help she hopes to give.
“When I became an editor, I tried to pay that back,” Best said.
Missoulian and Billings Gazette Publisher Mike Gulledge who asked her to speak at event said she’s a perfect pick for this annual awards ceremony.
“We are so fortunate to have Kathy leading our content efforts in Missoula. She’s engaging, thoughtful, tenacious and has terrific judgement. Her career successes are phenomenal and has already made a huge impact on how we create and deliver content in Montana,” Gulledge said.