Don Smith, a long-serving InvestigateWest board member, who spent more than 40 years editing and mentoring journalists, including stints as city editor and business editor at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, died last week in Seattle. He was 75.
His wife, Deeann Glamser, said he was receiving radiation treatment and succumbed to an infection on Sept. 7.
Don’s newspaper career took him from Washington to Texas, where he worked at the Dallas Morning News, and to Seattle, where he spent 20 years at the P-I. until the paper stopped printing in 2009. He later worked in communications for Boeing, retiring in 2014.
Even in retirement, Don remained a passionate evangelist for journalism and for investigative reporting that exposes injustice and holds power to account. He applauded the creation of InvestigateWest — founded in 2009 by a handful of former P-I colleagues — and joined the nonprofit organization’s board of directors in 2017, serving as treasurer and later president. Having watched newsrooms across America slash reporters, he was outspoken about the critical moment facing news and democracy.
“Our goal is no less … than to safeguard the truth in an atmosphere both financial and political that increasingly challenges it,” Don told InvestigateWest supporters at a gathering in 2019 to mark the organization’s 10th anniversary. “Our fight really has only just begun.”
“Don was an excellent leader during major transitions at InvestigateWest that resulted in an organization stronger than ever,” said Brant Houston, board president. “He was a wonderful person to work with. He had a wry sense of humor and he made decisions thoughtfully and with sensitivity. And he was a great mentor to so many.”
In recognition of Don’s lifelong commitment to lifting up the next generation of journalists, InvestigateWest is pleased to announce the creation of the Don Smith Mentorship Fund. Donations in Don’s name will be used to support InvestigateWest’s interns and early-career journalists. (Consider making a donation here.)
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for Don, for his skills as an editor, his generosity as a colleague, his ethics as a leader, his laugh, his love of speed and adventure,” Executive Director Jacob Fries said. “Personally, I always admired his ability to cut through the noise and keep us focused on the things that really mattered: telling stories that could make a difference in the world.”
The remembrances continue to roll in:
Paul Joseph Brown, vice president of InvestigateWest’s board: I worked with Don for three years at the Dallas Morning News, 25 years at the P-I, and he recruited me to InvestigateWest’s board 4 years ago. His leadership on the board was strong and true in some very hard times. He was a helluva journalist, and a very fine man.
Robert McClure, co-founder of InvestigateWest: Don Smith was instrumental in elevating InvestigateWest from a start-up to a crucial provider of in-depth public-affairs journalism for the Pacific Northwest. A longtime financial and moral supporter of InvestigateWest, Don stepped up to join the board at a time when our finances were still emerging from a rough patch. He enthusiastically embraced the challenge as treasurer and later president of the board, playing a pivotal role to boost the organization to a secure and successful footing.
Don offered a practiced hand on the tiller, a deep knowledge of journalism and business, and a seemingly innate understanding of how to treat those around him with respect and kindness even as he guided us through difficult times. All through it, he maintained a sense of humor and fostered an esprit de corps.
Joshua Trujillo, current InvestigateWest board member: Don was an incredible human and masterful at seeing people, helping them and connecting dots for others. He’s always held a special place in my heart as he helped me land my current job after I left the P-I. I saw Don a few months ago via InvestigateWest work and was reminded how thoughtful he was and what an important part of the journalism community Don was.
Beverley Wyse, colleague at Boeing and current InvestigateWest board member: Don was the kind of person everyone was drawn to, trusted and respected. I met him first at Boeing where he became the director of communications for the 737 program and Renton site. He was kind and so wonderful to work with but also really strong in his principles and approach. After we both retired, Don became a friend and introduced me to InvestigateWest and taught me so much about the risks of not supporting journalism. This world is better for having had Don in it. He will be so missed.
Kristen Young, co-founder of InvestigateWest: Don believed in the world. He wanted us all to be better to each other. For each other. He wasn’t afraid to say what no one wanted to hear. He was relentless in his pursuit of excellence. He was a nimble conversationalist. And wry. I liked this about him. That he was kinder in action than in affect, that he wrangled with the ones who, like him, really cared. Thoughtful, strategic, ethical. Hard working and adventurous. A good man. I am sorry that he is gone.
Perhaps I should be more specific. Don hired me into my first job at the P-I, where he mentored me into passing my own muster. Don continued to care about my contributions long after it was his assigned role to do so. He joined and later led the board of InvestigateWest with the kind of forward thinking, actionable, and researched opinions that deserve implementation. Throughout, he found reasons to laugh, and to road trip, and to lift an eyebrow when it was called for. I wish more people cared like Don did. With everything they’ve got, and then some.
FEATURED IMAGE: “He remained a news junkie to the end,” said his wife, Deeann Glamser. (Photos courtesy of Deeann Glamser)