Journalist Scott McCartney faces loss thanks to books and libraries
Photography by Kathy Tran
Why do airline stuff fascinate you?
Airlines are extremely complicated, and it’s a difficult and challenging business, and it’s an area that readers care about passionately. And there are so many aspects to it – operations, storms, fares, loyalty programs, food. You name it. It is also a big part of the history of the pandemic.
What has the pandemic meant for industry subplots?
When there is war, when there are virus outbreaks, when there are storms and disasters, travel is always a big part of the story. I almost had to become a medical journalist, looking at the ventilation, the airplane cabins, the virus transmission, the rights of travelers – it’s all part of what I write about. Business travelers don’t travel as much now, and that has huge implications. One of my concerns is that flying is a very stressful activity, and the changes related to the pandemic have led to angry travelers, confrontations, and I’m afraid that a long term result will be that this will become more stressful and difficult.
You are also a pilot. Personally or professionally, what is your interest in space travel?
I got my pilot’s license and love to fly, but I don’t feel the urge to go to space, personally.
So you raised your daughters in Lake Highlands. Have you ever missed Boston or considered something closer to Wall Street?
We moved to Lake Highlands from East Dallas in 1994 and love it very much – the strong community spirit, diversity, great schools, good friends and the neighborhood feel like the heart of the big city. We had several opportunities to go to New York. We just didn’t want to raise our kids there. The two went to Moss Haven Elementary and Forest Meadow Junior High and then to Hockaday. Their second home was the Janie Christy School of Dance in Lake Highlands, and they remain close to Ms. Janie.
And I hear, like their parents, that your daughters are making names for themselves.
Our youngest, Jen McCartney, is a writer in Los Angeles, working as a screenwriter on a Hulu animated show called Solar Opposites. She has worked on several shows – a Netflix comedy called The Big Show, the Fox LA to Vegas sitcom, and The Soup with Joel McHale on E !.
Her sister Abby McCartney is Senator Elizabeth Warren’s legislative assistant, working on education and child care policy issues. Prior to that, she was the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the non-profit Camden Enrollment.
Photography by Kathy Tran
Your wife once wrote your Middle Seat column for the Wall Street Journal. Why is this, and how did it happen?
Journal editor Matt Murray we both know him well. He once said, “You write about other people’s travels all the time. I would really love to read how you travel, and I would like Karen to write it down. So I told her, and once she stopped laughing, it turned out she had been keeping anecdotes, gathering strings, and had a lifetime of material ready to go.
And she did it beautifully. She exposed all my quirk, whatever. And I am very grateful because it was a wonderful experience. And for a while, every interview I had with a travel agent or an airline executive, and they’d say, “Your business is good, but we loved his. Another aspect of that was that we went to Love Field with a photographer from The Journal and he took these great pictures of us, and I’m so grateful to have them as she passed away nine months later. I had this crazy collection of hotel pens from my travels, and she had whispered to me that she was going to expose my hotel pen fetish, and I just fell in love, so there’s this pic where I got that huge laugh on my face. Really nice photo.
Karen has written books for young people on Roe v. Wade, Hillary Clinton, Steve Jobs, and Bonnie and Clyde, to name a few, and she was also a Dallas Libraries champion. What is his heritage?
The most important thing for her was to help young people understand this very complicated world. And she did it in her books, and she did it with her library work, with her teaching and mentoring – she tutored kids in Moss Haven and Forest Meadow – that was really what that motivated her the most. Her daughters – a lot of what’s important to them, they got it from her. Abby’s expertise is in early childhood education. Jenny is on the creative writing side, and I’m biased, but I’m just so proud that they are both making a difference in the world.
How are you, Jenny and Abby?
We are heartbroken, heartbroken, but there has been a lot of work to be done to complete everything Karen has started like the Forest Green Library in Lake Highlands. She had that first fundraising meeting at our dining table, trying to raise $ 85,000, and then she passed away, so the girls and I thought, “We’ve got to finish this for her.” His friends came together – Moss Haven Moms, the book clubs, and they formed this committee and they raised $ 108,000. And it’s an amazing library with all of these technological innovations – the only library with virtual reality glasses.
It helped us, helped us feel Karen’s presence. It was bittersweet because she wasn’t there to see it, but it was sweeter than bitter because it was truly beyond what she dreamed and hoped for.