At some point, between when I showed up at Kellyn Brown’s apartment 14 years ago to live on his couch and now, I became an adult. That personal metamorphosis closely paralleled the evolutionary arc of the publication that Kellyn and I were preparing to launch on that day in May 2007: the Flathead Beacon.
Upon my arrival at Kellyn’s doorstep, he handed me an expertly crafted mojito, a fancy beverage for a cheap apartment dweller to bestow on a 22-year-old couch surfer fresh out of college. That marked the beginning of a personal and professional relationship that remains one of the most important in my life, many years after I moved out of his living room and into my own home.
Kellyn and I were both in our 20s, and we often behaved like it. But we also worked extremely hard, alongside fellow Beacon pioneers Lido Vizzutti, Stephen Templeton, Dan Testa and Keriann Lynch, toiling for long hours and on weekends as we cultivated a flimsy 24-page pamphlet into the state’s largest independent newspaper.
As a tight-knit team, we matured and learned on the job, in front of thousands of people. We improved, and so did the paper. Each week, we absorbed the community’s intricacies a little better. It helped immensely that the Flathead Valley embraced and supported us from day one through reading, advertising and letting us tell its stories.
I’ve been reflecting on those early days now that my long Beacon tenure is coming to an end. Those are hard words to write. But an exciting job opportunity arose over the summer that is allowing me to make my wife’s longtime dream of moving to Oregon come true. This week’s paper is my last.
I’m taking the helm of a nonprofit journalism organization called Underscore, which focuses on Native American issues in the Pacific Northwest from its headquarters in Portland. Buoyed by an enthusiastic core of funders, as well as a partnership with Indian Country Today, the publication is preparing to scale up considerably in the coming months and years, and I’ve been hired to help lead it through that growth.
The Beacon has formed my friend circle and support group for well over a decade, and it will be disorienting not to walk into the office each morning. But with Tristan Scott bringing his supreme journalism gifts to the managing editor position and Kellyn’s steady hand remaining at the wheel, along with a uniquely talented and committed staff, the paper’s future is as bright as it’s ever been. The same goes for Flathead Living, now under the direction of former Beaconite Justin Franz.
I will be eternally grateful to Beacon owners Maury Povich and Connie Chung, who have enabled the happy life I have today. Maury established the paper as a tribute to his father, the legendary sports scribe Shirley Povich, who penned a Washington Post column for more than 70 years. That personal significance is evident in the way Maury has lovingly and patiently nurtured the Beacon. His dad would be proud. I know I am.
Despite the wonders of modern technology, Kellyn and I have primarily communicated over the years by shouting at each other through the wall separating our adjoining offices. If I yell in Oregon, he won’t hear me. But I know he’ll be there. He always has been, and I’m a better man because of it.
The Flathead Valley, too, is better because of Kellyn, benefiting from his fiercely ethical leadership as editor in chief and his unwavering dedication to high-quality local journalism, along with Maury’s enduring commitment. You’re in good hands, just like I was for 14 years.
Farewell, Flathead, and thank you for everything.
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