The new face of Grist: Brady Piñero Walkinshaw, left, will take over the reigns from founder Chip Giller, who started the organization in 1999.
Brady Piñero Walkinshaw, left, with Grist's founder, Chip Giller. ROHAN V. MENDONCA

Well, this was unexpected. Former representative Brady Piñero Walkinshaw announced today that he is joining Seattle-based environmental news outlet Grist as the organization's new CEO.

So why is a former state legislator turning to journalism?

"Coming out of my own election and the national election and reflecting on where I think the movement for really positive social impacts will be," said Walkinshaw, "I think media and journalism, especially nonprofit, independent media like Grist, has an extraordinary position to spark action for a more just world."

The career change comes after Walkinshaw fiercely ran against and eventually lost to Pramila Jayapal in the race to represent Washington's seventh congressional district in November. Now at Grist—where, full disclosure, I was a fellow—Walkinshaw said he's most excited to further expand the organization's national news platform, focus on covering environmental justice issues, and "focus on solutions journalism."

As part of the company reorganization, Chip Giller, who founded Grist in 1999, will be working to bring together environmental leaders to launch a new effort.

"So often solutions-makers are siloed," Giller told The Stranger. "Folks working on transportation are usually talking to transportation people. Policymakers are rarely talking to storytellers. ... We want to assemble those people and pull them together for a different experience and spur collaboration [to envision] what the future might look like in 50 years."

On the heels of The Seattle Times' newsroom buyouts and layoffs, Grist, too, laid off four of its five full-time reporters—Katie Herzog, news writer; Heather Smith, columnist; Ben Adler, politics writer; and Aura Bogado, climate justice writer.

When asked about the recent job shifts, Walkinshaw said that "diversity, equity, and leadership [are] an absolute priority in our journalism staff and on our board and that will be an absolute priority going forward." An announcement for Walkinshaw's arrival also noted that Nikhil Swaminathan, who has written for Al Jazeera America and The Nation, among other publications, will also join Grist as a senior editor responsible for "equity coverage." Moving forward, Walkinshaw said he hopes to build up the organization's environmental justice desk while "telling the story of a better world."

This post has been updated.