I am not Peter Callaghan.
This fact — which I, at least, find obvious — hasn’t stopped a constant string of comparisons this week, and reminders that I have taken Callaghan’s job. I guess that’s to be expected. It’s what happens when the guy you’re replacing is a local institution. I’m pretty sure Callaghan penned one of his first columns when Job Carr’s canoe hit dry ground in Old Town.
As far as the reminders go, it doesn’t get much more in-your-face than where they’ve stuck me in my new job. I sit at Callaghan’s old desk, next to Callaghan’s old, giant Rolodex, looking out The News Tribune’s windows at a puddle of stormwater that I’m told is lovingly referred to as the “Peter Callaghan Memorial Pond.”
It’s a sizeable body of water. And these are sizeable shoes to fill. I get it.
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But it hasn’t just been in the newsroom. Over and over this week, as I’ve made the rounds, met with policymakers and consumed way more cups of coffee than any human being should, the introductions I’ve received have sounded painfully similar:
“This is Matt Driscoll … the new Peter Callaghan.”
I’m flattered, but this has to stop. For better or worse, I am not Peter Callaghan or even the new Peter Callaghan.
Sure, we share similarities. There’s the undeniable: We’re both white males and have benefited from all the privilege that entails. We both went into journalism, instead of, you know, finding a real job. And we both have a soft spot for Tacoma, something Callaghan made abundantly clear over his lengthy career at The News Tribune, and something I hope becomes clear as I embark on the tall order of following him.
That’s where most of the similarities stop, however. Callaghan and I are different people, different writers and reporters, with differing viewpoints. I arrive at The News Tribune after spending more than a decade working for alt-weeklies. I’ve built a career out of covering issues of social justice and inequity. I went to The Evergreen State College, for the love of Howard Zinn. Has Callaghan ever played hacky sack or joined an impromptu drum circle? It seems unlikely.
What’s it all mean? Well, first off, there’s a good chance that readers who staunchly agreed with Callaghan won’t always see eye to eye with me. Apparently, that’s a risk my bosses here at The News Tribune are willing to take. I applaud their vision and forward thinking. We’ll see how long my keycard continues to work.
Moreover, I hope what it will mean is a robust exchange of ideas and perspectives in this space. I hope what it will mean is a new voice, pushing buttons that need to be pushed, both in the community and here at the paper. I hope what it will mean is a respectful examination of the things Tacoma is getting right, and the things we’re getting wrong.
I hope what it will mean is an enjoyable read, three times a week.
On my first day here at The News Tribune, as new co-workers filed by to say hello, I reached out to the guy who manned this desk for so many years before me. I sought guidance, I suppose, and probably even a little reassurance that I was up to the task.
Callaghan’s advice was simple and straightforward.
“For starters,” he told me, “I would suggest that you beat with a stick any suggestions that you are the new Peter Callaghan.”
Consider this my stick. And consider any notion that I’m the new Peter Callaghan officially beat.
Now on to the important stuff.