Vandal Takes Top Newsroom Post at Seattle Times
Alumnus Don Shelton says his time at UI shaped his career as a reporter and editor
The Internet and social media are prompting newspapers to change the way they deliver content, and the new executive editor of The Seattle Times is up for the challenge.
“I’ve never been more excited to call myself a journalist, and a University of Idaho journalist, too,” said Don Shelton, who was promoted to the newsroom leadership role in July after 29 years with the Times. Shelton is a 1976 UI graduate from the School of Journalism and Mass Media in the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences.
Shelton said it’s an ideal time to become a journalist because multimedia tools are enabling reporters and photographers to tell stories and interact with readers in diverse ways.
While the delivery method may change, he said there will always be a need “to have people out there asking questions, looking into corruption and people that are abusing their power.”
A self-proclaimed “small-town kid” from Fruitland, Idaho, Shelton said a variety of classes and real-world experiences during his time at UI helped prepare him for his 40-year career in journalism.
“Even the stuff that I took that I didn’t think was useful at the time. … When you look back, you learn from everything,” he said.
By the time he graduated, Shelton had gained a wealth of experience as an editor for The Argonaut, a sports writer for the Idahonian (now the Moscow-Pullman Daily News) and The Lewiston Tribune.
“I don’t think I’d be the person that I am without the University of Idaho, and I definitely wouldn’t be the same person without the fraternity I was in,” he said. Shelton was a member of Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji) at UI. “It taught me about leadership, getting along with people and that kind of thing. So I have great memories, and I think the University of Idaho is a really special place.”
After graduation, Shelton worked at newspapers in Yakima, Washington; Bellevue, Washington; and Santa Rosa, California, before becoming assistant sports editor at The Seattle Times in 1987. When he moved to the top sports editor position, he said, he made a point to embrace multimedia journalism. In his latest role as executive editor, his “Digital Now” philosophy aims to prioritize online delivery of news content while maintaining a quality print product.
“Don became Seattle Times sports editor in 2009,” Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen said in an email to staff in July. “That was one of the most challenging years ever for The Seattle Times and the newspaper industry. How Don transformed our sports department from 2009 to today is remarkable. It’s a model for what we must do throughout the newsroom.”
Although the journalists of tomorrow will still need basic storytelling and writing abilities, Shelton said, it’s important for students to also learn multimedia skills like presenting in front of a camera, editing video, participating in podcasts, hosting live chats and developing a following on social media websites.
Shelton said that kind of diversification makes him optimistic about the future of the news industry. He is confident that future generations will ensure the financial sustainability of digital journalism.
“Whether it’s a website or it’s a podcast or a video, or a newspaper or magazine or TV broadcast,” he said, “It’s still journalism, and it needs to be valued.”
Shelton said he typically returns to Moscow a few times a year to meet with journalism students, check in on the Fiji house and watch the Vandals take to the field in football.
“You don’t realize how special it is until you leave,” he said.
Shelton lives in Bothell, Washington, with his wife, Deanna, and their two beagles. His three children live in the Seattle area.
Article written by Holly Bowen, a 2009 graduate of the School of Journalism and Mass Media. Bowen is a former staff member of The Argonaut and Moscow-Pullman Daily News and currently works as a retail copy editor in Seattle.