BEST OF GATEHOUSE WINNER: Wareham’s Shott wasn’t afraid of new challenges
There wasn’t a curveball the journalism world threw at Chris Shott that he couldn’t handle.
A former athlete and a founding member of the Swansea (Massachusetts) Independent Baseball League, Shott returned to the weekly Wareham Courier in 2014 after a long hiatus, and picked up like he’d never left. Essentially working as a one-man outfit, Shott took it upon himself to pump out an average of more than a dozen stories a week, making the Courier a must read for area citizens. And with newer and more ambitious digital demands, the 63-year-old Shott become a prolific videographer, often winning contests for posting the most videos each month.
When he died suddenly on April, 11, 2017, Shott did so without telling anyone he’d been feeling ill, even though he had cancer and heart issues on his medical history.
The community mourned, including a moment of silence at a local meeting of the town’s selectmen.
And while he’d long been decorated as a reporter — in 2016, Shott won a New England Press Association award for a column he wrote on the impact new technology was having on public waste disposal — the honors didn’t stop coming after his death. Shott’s keen reporting lifted the Courier to another award, the Best of GateHouse 2017 newspaper of the year in the weekly division.
“It’s really neat, the only thing is it’s bittersweet, for sure,” said Frank Mulligan, who worked with Shott in nearby Taunton before teaming up with him at the Courier. “I never have a feeling about these things, but this year I did when it came to the contest. These papers we were getting ready to send out were just packed with great stuff.”
Judges agreed. In fact, the official judges’ comments applauded Shott’s intimate style of communicating with the community:
“This newspaper has a strong local, local presence. Photos are included with nearly every story; headlines are engaging. This paper also interacts with readers in print and online. In this judging period, third-grade students had submitted letters to the editor on a local matter related to their school. This is a creative use for content and reader engagement. The digital presence is equally strong, with videos and photos. The Facebook page is an intimate snapshot of life in Wareham. Reporter Chris Shott, whose byline is all over this paper, shows heart in his writing and storytelling across platforms.”
Mulligan, who penned this column about Shott, said he wasn’t surprised the veteran reporter had melded quickly with the community. Mulligan describes Wareham — which is just west off Cape Cod — as such:
“It’s an old Yankee-ish town, with miles of coast. It’s a gateway to the cape, just before you get to the cape. It’s also down to earth, with a strong blue collar thing going, and a nice swimming bay.”
But Mulligan added that the setting wouldn’t have mattered.
“With Chris’ work ethic, you put him anywhere, and he would have done fine,” Mulligan said.
Shott had previously worked with the Fall River Herald News, the Warwick Beacon and the Cranston Herald, so journalism had long been in his blood. So was coaching, however, as he was a longtime basketball coach, along with starting the Swansea Independent Baseball League in 1977.
Mulligan said that helped Shott jump right into the fray when he had to assume sportswriting duties at the paper. But it also helped with other contacts in and around Wareham.
“With his coaching, he rubbed a lot of elbows,” Mulligan said. “So he knew a number of people. He wasn’t totally alien to what was going on before he started in Wareham. So after he started, with the connections he made, people let him in and spilled the beans.”
A good example, according to Mulligan, was a local police chief, who had been skeptical of working with the paper in the past. But that changed one Shott came to the Courier.
“The chief was not overly enamored with the press,” Mulligan joked. “He told me that Chris had won him over. It really is a testament to Chris.”