Houston Chronicle names Kelly Ann Scott new executive editor

Tuesday, October 3, 2023 - 9:30am

from the Houston Chronicle

New Houston Chronicle Executive Editor Kelly Ann Scott speaks to the newsroom staff after her hiring was announced on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, in the Chronicle newsroom in Houston

A veteran editor whose team recently won two Pulitzer Prizes in a single year will become the Houston Chronicle’s next executive editor, publisher Nancy Meyer said Thursday. 

Kelly Ann Scott joins the Chronicle from Alabama Media Group, part of Advance Local, where she served as editor-in-chief and vice president of content, leading a team of more than 120 journalists. There, she oversaw the state's largest digital news site, AL.com, and launched several new initiatives, including The Lede, a daily e-edition curated for subscribers in Mobile, Huntsville and Birmingham; the Alabama Education Lab, the state’s first philanthropy-funded journalism initiative; and Reckon, a digital news startup focused on younger readers and those left out of traditional media that has 26 journalists reporting from 15 states. 

Under Scott’s leadership, AL.com won the 2023 Pulitzer Prize in local reporting and commentary. The New York Times described the two wins in one year as an “astounding feat” for a local news organization. Her team also won the 2022 George Polk Award for local reporting and the 2023 Hillman Prize. In 2021, Reckon won a national Murrow Award for best podcast and AL.com won the Pulitzer Prize in national reporting.

“Our mission as journalists is to do work that changes lives, laws and minds. That’s what our work is all about,” Scott said Thursday morning as she greeted the Chronicle staff. “There is no place in America where that’s more consequential than here in Houston, in Texas.” 

After moving to Birmingham in 2018, she found a robust appetite among readers for storytelling formats such as newsletters and podcasts, as well as in-depth and investigative reporting. 

“There’s a real opportunity for journalists to rethink how we cover stories and who we’re covering for,” Scott said. “In general, the industry needs to listen to people more and understand what exactly is the story we’re telling, and how it affects people’s lives.”

Chronicle executives commended Scott’s record of innovation as well as excellence. She is credited with transforming the legacy editorial operation at Alabama Media Group into a portfolio of financially sustainable, all-digital news brands garnering 11 million monthly unique users at AL.com. The Alabama team also developed deep partnerships to amplify its work with new digital audiences, collaborating with the Marshall Project, ProPublica Local Reporting Network, the Lipman Center at Columbia University, Solutions Journalism Network, Report for America and others.

“She has an exceptionally strong record of leadership in local journalism and a track record of successful digital innovation that will serve our Houston community well,” Meyer said. “I look forward to seeing her further the success of our newsroom and collaborating with her.”

“Kelly’s exemplary experience leading nationally recognized newsrooms and driving innovative digital solutions will be invaluable to the Chronicle’s journalistic future,” said Jeff Johnson, president of Hearst Newspapers, owner of the Chronicle. 

Scott succeeds Maria Douglas Reeve, who took on a new role as vice president-editor for content initiatives for Hearst Texas. In that role, Reeve is working to develop topics and content aimed at expanding and deepening Hearst Newspapers’ footprint in Texas. Besides the Houston Chronicle, Hearst owns the San Antonio Express-News, Beaumont Enterprise and other news organizations statewide.

Before joining Alabama Media Group, Scott worked as a reporter, investigative editor and executive with Gannett for nearly 20 years. She was the top editor at the Reno Gazette-Journal, part of the USA Today Network, after starting at that paper in 2005 as assistant city editor and eventually becoming its breaking news editor, projects and investigative editor, and senior editor for news. She also served as the USA Today Network state director for Nevada, Utah and Guam, and oversaw the USA Today marijuana policy team.

Born in North Dakota, Scott received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska and earned a master's degree in criminal justice at St. Cloud State University. She began her career as a reporter in Minnesota.  

Scott’s first day on the job will be Oct. 23. She’s looking forward to exploring Houston, she said, as well as enjoying certain key amenities. 

“I’m so excited to have baseball again,” Scott said.