Kari Howard, editor at the Los Angeles Times, Reuters and Nieman Storyboard, has died. She was 59.

Kari Howard at the Nieman Foundation's Lippmann House on the Harvard campus in 2016. Howard, who was beloved as an editor, mentor and inspiration by writers at The Los Angeles Times, Reuters and Nieman Storyboard, died this week. She was 59.

“I’d told a few friends but asked them to keep it under their hats,” Kari emailed me in the spring of 2016. She had just been appointed editor of Nieman Storyboard, and we weren’t quite ready to make the news public. (“Hmm, where did that saying get its start?” she wondered about the expression ‘Keep it under your hat.’ “Did people hide things under their hats?”)

I found that in a batch of email exchanges I read through after I learned of Kari Howard’s death on Jan. 10. These simple lines struck me as so representative of her character as a person and as an editor — tremendous personal warmth, a whimsical curiosity and a fine eye for the nuances of phrase and meaning.

Kari was a longtime editor at the Los Angeles Times, including of Column One, the paper’s signature narrative journalism feature, and most recently was the storytelling editor at Reuters in London. I knew her as the editor of Storyboard, where she was characteristically generous with her warmth and whimsy and where lovers of literary journalism learned so much from all the nuances her fine eye picked up.

Kari produced a weekly ‘playlist’ newsletter for readers — Storyboard and other distinctive pieces paired with her recommendations for music to read by. “Story soundtracks,” she called them. To honor Kari’s own gift of phrase and meaning, here’s a playlist of my favorite Kari soundtracks…

Back in June of 2016, Kari wrote her introductory note as editor of Storyboard from her beloved Maine farmhouse. From her porch she could see — and smell — what she described as possibly the biggest lilac bush in Waldo County: “In the space of just two weeks, I’ve watched the buds go from deep purple to lilac to blush with an edging of brown. But somehow their impermanence makes them that much more beautiful.”

Kari imagined Storyboard “as a community center with a bit of a coffeehouse vibe, where people can hang out and, most importantly, have a great conversation.” The conversations Kari started are still ongoing, made that much more beautiful by her storytelling.


James Geary is deputy curator of the Nieman Foundation, and editor of Nieman Reports.

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