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From the Napa Valley Register Editor

From the Napa Valley Register editor: The time of my life

Editor Sean Scully

Editor Sean Scully working from his home office during the pandemic.

Just a few months into my first reporting job, my editor had a serious car wreck and was sidelined for months.

Although I barely knew how to be a reporter, much less an editor, I suddenly found myself responsible for producing our small weekly newspaper all by myself. It was a two-person operation, and there was nobody else to do it.

Turns out I really enjoyed it, and I was kind of good at it.

Within a year I found myself promoted from the reporter at the smallest weekly in our chain to the editor of the largest weekly.

It was great fun and suited my talents nicely.

Problem was that I was all of 23 years old, and I was supervising a staff that was older than me. My oldest employee, our sports editor, was then in his mid-60s and had himself been editor of the paper for many years when his family had owned it.

What could a little punk like me teach a guy like that?

So I decided to go off into the wide world to gain experience as a reporter, but always with the intention of coming back to being a newspaper editor someday.

As I passed through my 30s and drifted into my 40s, however, that looked increasingly improbable. The kind of newspaper I wanted to lead — a small daily or a weekly — didn’t pay very well, and the older I got, the more the needs of paying the mortgage and caring for kids got in the way of going back to that way of life.

At the same time, newspapers of all sizes were feeling the effects of the internet revolution and staffs were being slashed everywhere. The people who kept their jobs were hanging onto them fiercely, and no new editor jobs were being created.

I had pretty much given up on ever being a newspaper editor again. Or even remaining in journalism at all.

Then a happy accident. My wife got a plum job in the Napa Valley and brought me along for the adventure. And it just happened that the editor of the weekly newspaper in Calistoga retired exactly at the moment I moved in. I convinced Publisher Doug Ernst to hire me as editor (and sole employee) of the Weekly Calistogan.

I hadn’t had that much fun since my earliest days in journalism. Then I got a call from the Press Democrat that lured me back into reporting for a while, for better pay at a legendarily good newspaper.

A little over a year later, I got a call back to Lee Enterprises, the owner of both the Register and Weekly Calistogan. This time, they needed me to take over as editor of the Register.

It was a dream job — one I could not possible turn down.

Every day since I started at the Weekly Calistogan has been an unexpected gift. I lucked back into journalism at a time when that simply seemed impossible.

Even on my worst days as editor, I have been grateful for the chance to do what I love and what I thought I had lost forever.

But sometimes, it’s time for a change.

After almost eight years at the Register, I’ll be leaving at the end of the month for an attractive new job.

I’ll still be in journalism, as western national editor for States Newsroom, a non-profit collective of newsrooms across the country focusing on statehouse coverage. And I will still be part of Napa County, since this is a job that I can do mostly remotely.

But no longer will I be leading the outstanding team at the Register and its weeklies. No longer will I be in the thick of local politics and culture. And no longer will I be dealing with you, our faithful readers.

While I am excited about my new job, I know I will miss all of you every day. I love my team, and I love my readers – even the ones who don’t love me back.

Leading the Register has been an honor and a privilege. Telling your stories and being a part of building and maintaining our collective sense of community is something I will always treasure.

In my first column as editor back in 2014, I invited you to contact me, to be part of the newspaper.

“Let’s have some fun together,” I concluded.

And fun it has been. Thanks for letting me be part of your lives.

​You can reach Sean Scully at 256-2246 or sscully@napanews.com.

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Editor

Sean has been editor of the Napa Valley Register since April of 2014. His previous credits include the Press Democrat, The Weekly Calistogan, The Washington Times and Time and People magazines.

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