Stepping up in the family business: ‘The first column—and a promise’

Kelli Scott
Kelli Scott

With this April 7 column, Kelli Scott, a member of the Woods family owners of The Wenatchee World, introduced herself to readers as the Washington state paper’s new editorial page editor. It is reprinted with permission.

After 40 years at The World, more than half of them as editorial page editor, Tracy Warner has retired. And while I may be taking on Tracy’s job title, I am not replacing him. I could not.

Tracy is a uniquely gifted writer. His columns reflected his experience and sharp, analytical mind. They were written in a clear voice and built on logic and reason. And even when his columns were completely at odds with a reader’s opinion, they did not insult or dismiss.

I will try my best to carry on Tracy’s legacy of thoughtful writing. I may also carry on his annual post-Lake Chelan vacation rant about Jet Skis. Sorry, I mean personal watercraft. In many ways, though, Tracy and I are very different people.

Tracy loves baseball, jazz and newspapering. He is like a walking, talking Ken Burns documentary. I am a 35-year-old woman with the musical taste of a tween girl and the shopping habit of a Cathy comic.

Politically, too, there are some differences.

Tracy’s politics are hard to pin down, but I have found him to be a principled, intellectual conservative. In recent years, and especially after writing critically of President Trump, some readers complained that he had moved too far to the left. Please. Tracy and his politics have not moved. The Republican Party, however, slides ever rightward.

I consider myself a moderate Democrat. After college and a stint as a cub reporter at The World, I went to work for Democratic Congressman Norm Dicks (WA-06) in his Washington, D.C., office. 

Back then, just 13 years ago, there was bi-partisan cooperation and respect between the parties. Particularly within our state delegation, it could be downright pleasant working with our Republican counterparts. We’d get together after work, drink beer and talk policy, civilly. (We were political dorks. This is what we did for fun.)

I appreciate that kind of open, spirited conversation and enjoy engaging in friendly political debate. Heck, I married a Republican.

Most days this column will be about local issues, with a focus on the good stuff happening around here. I love telling stories, and you can expect to hear the personal stories of people from all over the valley on this page. (Have a story you’d like to share? Call me! My number and email address are below. Let’s chat, hopefully with big cups of coffee in front of us.) But, like Tracy, I will weigh in on national topics when they affect North Central Washington. Trade, agriculture, immigration and health care are all on my radar for that reason.

I am opposed to and, frankly, dumbfounded by much of President Trump’s rhetoric and agenda, but I believe in the power of the Constitution to preserve our core values through times like these, and I am rooting for my country. I know where I live and I know the political leanings of the majority of my neighbors. And so, to my conservative friends reading this: I promise you I will be reasonable and open-minded. In return, when I criticize something Trump has said or something Congress has done, please do not call me un-American. Please do not call me fake news. Instead, write a letter laying out your substantive opposition and I will publish it.

Longtime readers of The World may remember my late grandfather, Bob Woods. He was the editorial page editor here for 30 years until semi-retirement in 1979. For several years after that, he continued to write his “Editor’s Notebook” column, a running conversation with readers about politics, Husky football and his travels around the world with my grandmother, Kathie. 

A soft-spoken man in his real life, Grandpa could be ferocious on the page, and his hard-hitting, often progressive stands on the issues meant there was never a shortage of Safety Valve letters (to the editor).

Grandpa used to tell me not to go into the newspaper business. It was a tough, thankless job, he said, and the critics could wear you down if you let them. And that was before we became the enemy of the American people. Well, here I am. I can’t help it. I love this newspaper. I love this newsroom and the talented, sarcastic, caffeinated journalists who work here. I am humbled by the opportunity to write this column and will always keep in mind what I have learned from my grandfather, from Tracy, and from all the other true blue, old-school newspapermen and women I have known.

You and I will get to know each other more over the next few months. For now, I’d like to share with you an excerpt from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ Code of Conduct, which will be my guide on this new adventure:

“As a newspaper columnist, I will strive to inform, educate and entertain my readers. I will work hard to provoke them to think — whether they agree or disagree with my efforts to depict truth as I see it. I will offer my opinions and the reasons I hold them as clearly and as fairly as I can. … I will never make up a quote, a source or a story when depicting true events. But I will reserve the right to engage in parody and satire. I will work hard to earn and keep the trust my readers and editors place in me. I will never plagiarize. Whenever possible, when I make a mistake, I will correct it. I will listen to my critics and, in person, treat them with dignity and respect because they pay me the high honor of reading me, even if they disagree. … I will always remember that my job is a privilege and honor because being a columnist represents the basic American rights of free speech and open discussion.”

I will.