Editor’s Notebook

Photography by Rebecca Baxter By Susan Burns November 30, 2010

December is a good time to count your blessings, and one of mine is writer Molly McCartney. Tall, with a pile of wavy white hair and a thick Texan twang, Molly walked into my office two years ago with a no-nonsense attitude, smart questions and a readiness to work. Since then, she has written about many of the region’s top companies and businesspeople, and they tell me that she conducts the most thorough interviews they’ve ever experienced. She also triple checks every fact, and is wise enough to check on everything I do to her stories, too. 

Born in Goose Creek, Texas, the daughter of an oil refinery worker, Molly began working for her hometown newspaper, the Baytown Sun, when she was still in high school. From there she moved to the Houston Post, the Atlanta Constitution and then the Miami Herald. In 1977, she was accepted as a prestigious Nieman fellow at Harvard—one of 11 winners and one of the very few women back then. She lived in a basement apartment in Harvard Square with her elementary school-age daughter and studied business regulation at Harvard Business School. She also took advantage of the class’s year-end trip to Japan to take a three-month trip by herself through Asia and Europe.

In 1979, Washington Post editor Bob Woodward hired her to report on consumer news, and she covered this and other beats for 14 years. She also met her second husband, Jim McCartney, who was the well-respected senior correspondent for Knight-Ridder’s Washington bureau.

In the last six months, in between writing for Biz941, studying photography at Ringling College of Art and Design, and winding down her position on the board of Forum Truth for a Change (where she and Jim have brought in such journalist friends as Mark Shields, Hedrick Smith and Seymour Hersh), Molly, who is 69, has traveled to Syria, Europe and China, a schedule I find exhausting even to contemplate. She calls as soon as she returns, ready to tackle another assignment.

“Why do you do this?” I asked her.

“This business gets in your blood,” she said. “You get to frame an experience or a person, and then it’s printed for everyone to read. It’s a chance to learn about issues, meet people in a meaningful way. It’s a privilege to be able to ask a question of a real person at the center of whatever the issue is. It’s a gift.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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