Kris Gilroy Higginson oversees the A.M. news desk, an energetic team that edits local stories and curates the Nation & World news report at seattletimes.com. She also writes the Morning Brief email newsletter and, as a copy desk chief, helps uphold ethics and publishing standards in the newsroom.
What originally drew you to journalism?
I’ve always loved newspapers and good writing. The Seattle Times was a part of family life as I grew up in Issaquah, and I loved learning something new every day from the paper. I loved the comics, too. My high school didn’t have its own newspaper, so I started one, and I began to understand how important it is for people to have a trustworthy source of information to make decisions that affect their daily lives.
I always wanted to work at The Times, and I landed on the copy desk here in 1999. The morning role, the one I’m in now, is my favorite. My colleagues are wonderfully dedicated, and no two days are ever the same.
How has the pandemic impacted your work?
We’ve focused intensely on equipping readers with the information they need to navigate COVID-19 risks, masks, vaccines, all those daily pandemic decisions. The morning team is always asking, “What do readers need to know today? How can we be useful to them?” So, the pandemic permeates everything.
Meanwhile, The Times’ entire news staff has been working from home for about a year now. That’s had its ups and downs. I miss seeing my colleagues in person, but it’s still impressive to see the quality of collaborative work they do — with the extra challenge of not being able to walk over to each other’s desks.
As one of the leaders of the news team that “wakes up” seattletimes.com every weekday, what do your mornings look like?
The morning team hits the ground running. I start around 4:30 a.m. to get a sense of the day’s most important and interesting stories. Then I pack the Morning Brief full of news and other goodies and help shape our digital news report through conversations with our homepage producer, morning editor, morning reporter and copy editors. We publish lots of fresh stories early each morning. Those are often local breaking news stories that directly affect readers – like weather and traffic – but morning reporter Christine Clarridge also writes stories that deal with what it means to be living in the
Seattle area these days, and the occasional spot of comic relief. Many of these stories go in the Morning Brief, so after we hit that deadline, we take a deep breath and look at what else the day should hold.
Tell us about the Morning Brief you write. How does this email newsletter help our readers keep on top of the news?
The Morning Brief’s central purpose is to help you navigate your day. We’ll catch you up on what’s happening, often in bite-size pieces, like key takeaways from a major news event because we know mornings are hectic for many people. We’ll sort fact from fiction. We’ll tell you about whatever wild weather is headed our way. And, if we’re doing our job well, we’ll also make you smile with some nice diversions from grim news: flashes of humor and humanity, new adventures for this weird era, recipes to try. And it’s free! You can subscribe to it here.
When you provide ethics training to new employees, what values do you want to instill when they come aboard The Seattle Times?
Ethics are at the core of what we do. We know we have to keep earning readers’ trust every day, and that’s never been more crucial in this era where misinformation goes viral so quickly. We focus on fairness, accuracy, transparency, helping instead of hurting, and including voices and faces that have historically been pushed to the side by traditional media.
The training aims to equip everyone on our staff to deal with ethical dilemmas – whether that’s the information they include in a deadline story or the decisions they make in their lives outside work. Our ethics code reads, “We inform and protect the public without fear or favor, and must guard against the appearance of fear or favor.” Every new employee in the newsroom goes through the training, whether they’re a homepage producer, metro editor, intern … you name it.