Matthew Kevin Scallan (“Matt”), a newspaper reporter and editor for 34 years passed away peacefully on October 3, 2023 from a long battle with frontotemporal dementia. He was 68.
Mr. Scallan worked at five newspapers in Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana, including a 22-year stint at The Times-Picayune. He covered government and politics in the River Parishes, and government on the east and west banks of Jefferson Parish. He wrote stories that ranged from business and government to the court system, during his 22-year career at the newspaper.
A specialist in computer analysis, Scallan used those skills to uncover illegal spending practices in the Kenner Recreation Department in 1996 and wrote a story that raised questions about booking practices at the Pontchartrain Center that seemed to favor elected officials.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Scallan covered the recovery at New Orleans International Airport, and in Kenner, including the effects of an ongoing feud between then-Mayor Phil Capitano and then Police Chief Nick Congemi.
While working in the River Parishes bureau 1991, Scallan also produced a story detailing a flurry of pre-election public works projects ordered by former St. Charles Parish President Albert Laque’s administration. In the early 90s, he wrote about allegations of sexual harassment of Sheriff’s Office employees by former Sheriff Johnny Marino, who did not seek re-election.
During a stint covering the city of Kenner between 1996 and 2006, Scallan produced a number of investigative stories, including one documenting the Kenner Recreation departments’ no-bid purchases of hundreds of thousands of dollars of sports equipment from a company partly owned by two recreation department employees. City officials listed the purchases at just under the state’s then $500 threshold at which city officials were required to go out for bid on the items. After the story was published, the Legislature raised the threshold for no-bid purchases.
In 1998, Scallan uncovered a pattern of toll avoidance on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, that involved off duty police officers avoiding tolls on their daily commutes across the bridge by claiming to be working on duty. The story led to a crackdown of the practice.
During his last weeks at the Times-Picayune, Scallan, along with the rest of the River Parishes bureau, covered the shootings of four St. John the Baptist Parish sheriff’s deputies on Aug. 16, 2012. Then, he and the other members of The River Parishes bureau covered the devastation of Hurricane Isaac, which struck St. John less than two weeks later. Scallan, along with the rest of the soon-to-be laid off River Parishes bureau, threw themselves into covering the aftermath of the storm, producing stories about the planned, but unbuilt levee that would have protected LaPlace, as well as residents’ struggle to recover from the storm. The front-page Sunday story appeared on Sept. 30. “We went out with flags flying,” Scallan told a reporter with The Advocate newspaper, referring to the bureau’s work in the last month of the newspaper’s seven-day per week publication schedule.
He later joined the Public Information Office of the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office and worked there through 2016.
Scallan was also active in the Press Club of New Orleans, He served as president in 1999 and 2000, and served as “Top Banana” of The Gridiron Show, the club’s fund-raising event 1998 and 1999, after several years of working on the group’s script committee. He frequently portrayed then-Gov. Mike Foster in the satirical shows.
Scallan’s work at The Times-Picayune was the last stop in a 34-year newspaper career that included stints at The Daily Comet in Thibodaux, the Daily Iberian in New Iberia, the Fort Lauderdale News/Sun-Sentinel in that paper’s Palm Beach County bureau. He was an assistant city editor for The Sun Herald newspaper in Biloxi, Miss. from 1987 through 1990.
“At some point in high school, I decided that journalism is what I wanted to do with my life. Afterwards, there wasn’t the slightest hesitation or doubt,” he wrote in 2013. “I graduated with my journalism degree in August, 1978, four years to the month after Richard Nixon resigned.
“I worked long hours for pitiful wages… Newspapering was what I was born to do.”
Scallan was a graduate of Louisiana Tech University’s School of Journalism and of Bonnabel High School, where he was sports editor of the school newspaper, The Bear Facts. He was the 1974 regional champion in the two-mile run, and had run three marathons before graduating from Bonnabel High School. He was a member of the cross-country and track teams at Louisiana Tech in 1974 and 1975.
He was a resident of Destrehan, Louisiana and is survived by his wife of 25 years, Karen Cummins Scallan and son Kevin Andrew Scallan; his mother, Maridel Rita (Smith) Scallan and siblings, Albert Scallan (Mandy), Andrew Scallan (Lori), Chris Scallan, Jeremy Scallan, John Scallan (Melissa), Julie (Scallan) Christman (Jim), Patrick Scallan (Jennifer) and Paul Scallan. He will be missed by a long list of nieces and nephews especially Claire Charlton who was like a daughter to him. He is preceded in death by his father Albert Joseph Scallan.
Special thanks to Our Lady of the Lake Hospital Hospice in Baton Rouge, River Oaks Nursing Facility in Baker, Louisiana, and Hospice in His Care, all who provided great comfort in our loss.
A Visitation will be held at Garden of Memories Funeral Home, 4900 Airline Hwy, Metairie, Louisiana on October 11, 2023 beginning at 10am followed by a eulogy and Mass at 12:00pm.