Kari Howard, a longtime Los Angeles Times editor who championed ambitious narrative journalism and helped edit the 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning series about the California drought, died Monday of cancer. she was 59
A lover of music and writing, Howard often quoted favorite songs and stories, Howard worked as an assistant foreign editor before becoming editor of Column One, the newspaper’s front-page showcase. She sent out weekly emails picking up on the musical associations of recent stories. For example, a 2015 story about the effects of drought on giant sequoias reminded her of Jake Bugg’s Pine Trees.
“She exuded a love of language and had an incredible ability to help writers tell the stories they wanted to tell,” said Scott Kraft, editor-in-chief of The Times. “Authors loved working with her because she made them so much better. She loved stories and had an innate sense of how to turn an outline of a story into something really special.”
Howard was one of the editors of Diana Marcum’s series on the human consequences of the prolonged drought in California, which won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing the following year.
“We were like a brain on this show,” Marcum said. “We would finish each other’s sentences. She never saw any of the drought in those stories. She saw these stories as stories about people showing hope, resilience and character during a difficult time.”
For Christmas that year, she bought Marcum a first edition of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes, one of many books she gave her.
“She did everything with that sense of passion, integrity and whimsy,” Marcum said. “She had such a mix of steely determination and humor.”
At The Times, Howard met her future husband, journalist Geoffrey Kelly, who died unexpectedly of a heart attack in Hong Kong in 2007.
Reporters sought out Howard to help them improve their work and coach them through complicated stories. When she was honored with a Times Editors’ Choice Award in 2015, the judges noted, “She’s sprinkled her pixie dust on more than 100 column ones and showcased talent, with writers across the building knocking on their doors with ideas or simply asking for their storytelling advice to have. ”
When she left the Times in 2015, Howard wrote a farewell note to staff: “For those of you who don’t know why I’m leaving, I bought a farmhouse in a town called Liberty six years ago, and it’s time I finally got started.” a new life and a new adventure in Maine.”
She chopped her own firewood, happily renovated the farmhouse, and regularly posted Instagram crushes with pictures of wild lilies, lighthouses, and America’s oldest shoe store.
In one post, she shared a photo of her home office with vibrant foliage visible through the windows: “Globe. Books. Typewriter. Cat. Leaves. What else do you need?”
Howard edited Storyboard, the narrative website for the Nieman Foundation, and in early 2018 became storytelling editor at Reuters, based in London. She described her journalistic mantra as “Investigate closely. Connect with people. No rush.”
Their new home sparked the characteristic buzz. “I’m about to bore everyone on Instagram with my new obsession: the signs, shutters and shiny doors of Spitalfields,” she wrote. “I live in this little corner of early 18th century Georgian houses and it’s like a movie set. (Apparently it’s literally, because this is where period films like anything Austen are made.)”
Howard was born in Manchester, NH, and her father’s work as a telecommunications engineer took her from Arkansas to Scotland as a girl. She herself briefly studied engineering at Clemson University in South Carolina.
“After one semester, she realized that wasn’t her calling,” said her sister Alison Howard, a Seattle attorney.
Howard studied literature at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, and journalism at Northwestern University, where she earned a master’s degree. She worked as an editor for the Houston Chronicle and the Abilene Reporter-News before joining The Times in 1992.
Howard was diagnosed with cancer in 2018, with the disease already in an advanced stage. She returned to Maine from London late last year and until recently worked for Reuters.
“As you can see from my Instagram, I’m not focused on the disease,” she recently wrote to a friend. “I try to find joy in the smallest things. And it’s everywhere, isn’t it? I’m amazed at the world and I’m so happy and grateful for everything.”
Along with her sister, Howard is survived by her Phoenix mother, Diane.
https://www.latimes.com/obituaries/story/2022-01-10/kari-howard-times-editor-who-championed-narrative-writing-dead-at-59 Kari Howard, the Times editor who championed narrative writing, died at the age of 59