The San Quentin News managing editor, Nathan McKinney, paroled just before the Omicron variant placed the prison on a 60- day lockdown.
McKinney was hired when the first COVID-19 lockdown ended, after 416 days. During that time the newspaper’s previous managing editor paroled, leaving that vital position open and the paper on the brink of panic.
“This seems like déjà vu,” said Marcus Henderson, the SQNews editor-in-chief. During the first lockdown, seven staff members paroled. Most were serving life sentences but were found suitable for release by the Board of Parole Hearings. “I think this speaks volumes to the work and the people we have at San Quentin News.”
Henderson said McKinney and other staff “helped us transition coming off our COVID lockdown.” McKinney was a writer and a member of the SQNews editorial board.
“[He] was more than a coworker,” said Henderson. “[He’s] a friend that I believe will give back to society.”
McKinney’s time at the newspaper was short, lasting about six months from his start date to the day he paroled. Still, he impacted the staff in many ways, hired from the outside as a stopgap to fill a top management position. Without question, he had a steep learning curve to overcome for himself and the newspaper, and he did it in the face of high staff turnover and other adversity.
“Nate was an excellent writer and he’ll be missed,” said Charles Crowe, who took over as managing editor when McKinney paroled. “I liked Nate,” he said.
As managing editor, McKinney was tasked with controlling the newspaper’s content and story flow between the edit and proofing stages. He tracked stories from assignment to placement in the paper. To do that he had to work closely with staff and the many volunteers who come into the newsroom. It was a daunting task, but he did it under less-than-ideal circumstances.
“I enjoyed working with Nate,” said David Ditto, SQNews’ associate editor. “And I wish him all the best in his new life.”
McKinney paroled to the County of Los Angeles in the first week of January 2022.