Leaving the paper after 15 years with hope 

Published 6:10 pm Friday, March 27, 2020


As I sit here on my last day at The Advocate-Messenger newspaper, it’s way stranger than I ever thought this day would be.

I’m alone in the newsroom since we’re social-distancing. 

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Our jobs have been made easier, on one level, since the COVID-19 virus pandemic happened. There’s no need to search for copy; there are no “slow news” days. Things are changing by the hour, sometimes by the minute, on what the latest death toll is, what the latest social restriction is. 

We thrive on this. Not the negative aspects, of course, but the need the public has for us to get information out to them, dispelling falsehoods in the process. I’ll admit it — it’s a rush. 

And part of that rush is because this community has been good to us, in the grand scheme. Authorities have been at our beck and call for information, helping us calm some nerves as well as caution others; the public health director has been our logic-and-science hotline; several others have checked in with us daily, offering updates and facts to print. It’s like being part of one massive community team. 

This time will go down in history for all to see how we handled it, with future classes studying why in the world we hoarded toilet paper, or had parties to celebrate a deadly virus  — only to get sick at the party and most likely spread the deadly virus. 

I’ve never written a story thinking, “What will this show future civilizations about us?” But it’s a hefty thought. 

Working at the newspaper for the past 15 years is irreplaceable to me. I interviewed on a whim to get out of the corporate world, where I made great money but had no time to spend it. Little did I know I’d take a writing gig that allows me to learn something completely new every single day, and eventually work harder for less money. 

But that’s industry-wide. I really can’t imagine what the newspaper heyday was like; it’s changed so much just since I’ve been in the industry, I can’t fathom what the old-timers are feeling. 

And I’m glad those old-timers stuck it out and stuck around as long as they could. And others’ mentoring and knowledge has also been irreplaceable. My first editor was the only one who could ever get away with telling me to “slow down,” because he was right about it, as he was — and still is, about most things.

People continue to do these jobs because they believe in it; they do it because truth is powerful. Especially, now, with the Wild West of social media. 

Journalism becomes a way of life.The fact I didn’t make as much money here as I did in the corporate world lost its meaning, any weight at all, the first time someone thanked me for telling their story. Being able to give someone a voice who otherwise wouldn’t be heard is priceless. 

Helping someone understand why they should care what government entities are doing and why they are doing it — the first time you see that lightbulb go on, you feel paid. 

The time my first editor waved me into his office and told me why I was a good writer, I felt like the richest woman in the world.

And leaving the newspaper now, I still feel pretty rich. I have met some of the best people in this community, who have become my closest friends and like family to me, through writing. Not to mention, the family I’ve been so fortunate to work with really has been, to use my current editor’s phrase, a “dream team.” It’s a trio of the most different personalities from each other you could ever imagine, and it has worked. We had each others’ backs, we succeeded, we got the paper out daily — and we usually liked it. 

I will still be freelancing for the paper, which I’m strangely excited about. I have a list of stories I haven’t been able to get to. Plus, in these crazy times we are living in, we have to continue telling people’s stories, and telling the truth. 

Please support your community newspapers, which supports community journalism. No matter what happens, people will continue telling stories that represent, affect and change our communities. I know I will attempt to. 

Thank you to everyone who’s taken the time to explain things to me so I could explain them to others; thank you to each and every person who’s trusted me enough to tell me their story. 

And thank you to those who continue to not only support the free press, but know its real worth in today’s climate. Some of you really get it, and that gives me hope.