Community mourns the loss of renowned journalist

The family of retired Destrehan journalist Matthew “Matt” Scallan announced the former Times-Picayune reporter’s passing on Oct. 3, following a long battle with frontotemporal dementia.

Scallan’s 34-year journalism career included work at five different newspapers in Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana. He is perhaps best known locally for his work at the Times-Picayune, where he worked for 22 years.

A lifelong learner, Scallan was a voracious reader, constantly seeking knowledge on a variety of topics, wherever his personal and professional interests led.

“Matt had this ability where he felt he could be self-taught in just about anything,” his wife of 25 years, Karen Scallan, said. “If he was interested in something, he would read everything he could get his hands on, he would watch YouTube videos – he would figure it out.”

One of his self-taught skills was computer analysis, a skill set he often used in his analysis of government data, allowing him to uncover stories like the one on the Kenner Recreation Department in 1996. He released a story later that year raising questions about booking practices at the Pontchartrain Center that appeared to favor elected officials.

As a reporter, Scallan covered business, government and politics stories in the River Parishes as well as in East and West Jefferson Parish.

During his time in the 1990s working at the Times-Picayune River Parishes bureau, Scallan produced a number of notable investigative stories like the one outlining a host of pre-election public works projects ordered by then St. Charles Parish President Albert Laque’s administration. He was also responsible for breaking a story regarding sexual harassment allegations inside former Sheriff Johnny Marino’s office, who afterwards did not seek reelection.

Not afraid to show off his quirky brand of humor, Scallan was active for years in the Press Club of New Orleans where he often participated in The Gridiron Show, a long-running satirical show poking fun at Louisiana politics and government.

“He wrote satirical skits with the [Press Club’s] script committee for a number of years,” his wife Karen said. “During that time, watching him play Governor Foster was a real treat; he could look at the funny side of things – that was something really important about him.”

The noted journalist joined the Public Information Office of the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office in the later years of his career, where he worked until 2016.

Scallan met his wife Karen through his match-making brother Andy Scallan, who, after getting to know her, pegged Karen’s interests and personality as being a perfect match for his brother Matt. Andy Scallan quietly arranged for Karen to meet his brother by inviting her to a family dinner party Matt was set to also attend.

“We talked all night,” Karen Scallan said of the first time she met her soon-to-be husband, realizing then she’d found the man she would later marry. “From the moment we met – I think we knew; we just clicked.”

The couple would later have a son, Kevin, who recently became a Destrehan High School graduate.

Scallan died at age 68, with his funeral attended by numerous lifelong friends and journalists, some of whom flew in from around the country to pay their respects at his funeral.

“[His friends said] the same thing I said in the eulogy – that he always was honest, he was truthful, but he was fair in his reporting, whatever the assignment was,” Karen Scallan said of her late husband. “He was obsessed with getting all the facts; he was determined, and that was something that was a constant throughout his career.”


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