“We’re looking for our next Metro columnist to lend insight and personality to the local news pages.”
So began our help-wanted ad, posted a few months ago, as we set out on our search for the right person to fill one of the most important positions at our newspaper.
Matt Driscoll, a man with equal parts strong convictions, subtle wit and hometown humility, starts Monday in that position as The News Tribune’s newest columnist.
If you’ve read the TNT for any time at all, you know we lost a fine, long-time columnist last year when Peter Callaghan moved out of state. (We’re happy to report that Callaghan is a working journalist again in Minneapolis.)
We didn’t set out to find another Callaghan. But we did want someone with his sensibilities.
Someone who knows Tacoma and Pierce County, and enjoys living here. Someone who understands local issues. Someone who will praise what is right and constructively criticize what needs work.
Driscoll grew up in Puyallup. He and his wife are raising their young family on Tacoma’s Hilltop.
He spent a decade covering the city for the Tacoma Reporter and the Weekly Volcano. Most recently, he’s been an award-winning writer for the Seattle Weekly, covering topics ranging from state politics to suburban homelessness.
“Matt knows Tacoma as a native and has a genuine affection for this place, but he’s not blind to its imperfections,” said Kim Bradford, TNT politics editor, who led our search. “His time at the Weekly has given him something of an outside perspective that we think will be a valuable addition to debates about our community and its future.
“We like that he feels connected both to this area’s blue-collar roots and to the up-and-coming generation of Tacomans who have chosen to live here.”
Driscoll is a quiet guy with an easy smile, someone you’d enjoy having coffee with. He knows his own mind, but is a good listener. He says he’s at a point in his life where he finds himself challenging his assumptions.
One of our editors said after meeting with him: “I want to know what he’s going to say next.”
What does Driscoll say readers can expect from him?
“While the entry point of my column will often be public policy,” he said, “what I really want to do is start a conversation about Tacoma, Pierce County, and the way we all live and interact here.
“I want to shine a light on the inequalities that go unnoticed, call out the status quo, and give space to the viewpoints that too often get drowned out ... I’ll write for the everyman and everywoman.”
Expect Driscoll to tell as many stories as he offers opinions. His reporter’s bent, and his eagerness to work more from outside this building than from behind a desk, will serve him well.
We also expect that he’ll sometimes challenge us. Good columnists do. He promises honesty and new ideas.
Driscoll stopped by the office last week to get his picture taken for the column, which will begin appearing in a week or so.
“I grew up reading The News Tribune,” he said, “and getting to work here feels like coming home. I couldn’t be more excited.
“Even in Seattle, during my three years at the Weekly, I was known around the office as “a Tacoma guy.” Being back feels fantastic.
“More importantly, it has lit a fire in me. I’m ready to get to work.”
COMING THURSDAY: NORTHWEST GETAWAYS
TNT home subscribers on Thursday will receive a special section — Northwest Getaways — brought back by popular demand. (Last year we got thank-you notes from readers.) It’s an extension of the Explore travel stories that run in our Friday GO section.
Northwest Getaways expands beyond day trips to destinations that are farther flung and would take a weekend — or in a couple of cases, longer than that.
For this year’s section, we sent reporters: north to Vancouver Island, Whistler, LaConner, Vashon Island and the Marine Island Trail; south to Manzanita and Portland; east to Cle Elum, Osoyoos, Yellowstone and Craters of the Moon; and west to the Pacific Ocean beaches.
We hope our adventures inspire the travel bug in all of you.