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Over the past three years, when times were the most stressful and the task of putting out a weekly newspaper was most overwhelming, the mental formulation of this column often helped me persevere.
As you might have guessed, this is the column where I tell my readers I am moving on from the LeRoy Farmer City Press.
But just this week it took on a new form all together: It’s also the column in which I tell my readers the publication of the LeRoy Farmer City Press will cease after my last day on March 3.
I knew last week this issue and the next would be my final two at the Press, as I submitted my two weeks notice and informed my employer I had taken another position.
But it was Tuesday that I learned they would also be the final two issues of the Press as a whole. The News-Gazette will not seek a replacement editor.
The story is a simple and familiar one for print news followers, particularly locally: the necessary revenues to keep the Press afloat simply never materialized.
So, at six years and 16 weeks, the Press will go the way of the two Journals before it.
And, suddenly, my personal reflection on my time here seems dwarfed by the news I’ve put atop the front page.
Still, I think it’s worth mentioning the impact these towns and the people in them have had on my life. In a word, it’s incalculable.
It was October 2013 when I began working at the Press on my 25th birthday. Some 175 newspaper issues later, I’m four months into 28, and the freshmen on the pages of my very first paper will be crossing the graduation stage later this year.
In a way, it seems perfectly symbolic.
The time I have spent at the Press has been as useful as a formal four-year education. It’s been an education in the ways of the world. In weekly newspapering. In local government. In small-town America. And in so much more.
Like a freshman does to high school, I came into this job slightly timid, eager to learn and unsure of my surroundings.
But each day, with my notebook in my back pocket and my camera over my shoulder, I’d go to work telling stories.
And, slowly, the seas of unknown faces that made up the fans in the stands of the games that I’d cover became more familiar.
Crowd reaction shots became more than “Panther/Knight/Viking fans celebrate.” I came to know the faces in the photos, and they came to know me.
With that public trust, it came to be that a southside suburban city kid made a name for himself bringing the local news to a stretch of rural farm towns in central Illinois.
I suppose it bears mentioning now that I’ll be taking a position as a legislative aide in Springfield. So, essentially, I will go from holding politicians accountable to working for one.
It seems like an unlikely career pivot, but then again, I never saw myself as a smalltown newspaper editor. Then, for three years, I never saw myself as anything but.
Maybe this is just a temporary reprieve from the stress of a weekly newspaper. Maybe I’ll jump back in in the future, maybe not.
But not for a minute will I ever regret my three years spent in LeRoy, Farmer City and Downs. And I wouldn’t change a single experience I’ve had in the last three years.
That’s not to say I never made mistakes. There were plenty. And there are a handful of stories, maybe more, that I would approach differently looking back.
But you can’t grow without making mistakes. And I’ll forever be grateful to the readers and friends that have given me encouragement when I was down on myself. It meant more than any could know.
I’m even grateful to the readers that kept me on my toes, lodging complaints and calling me out on social media. I won’t miss it, but I’m grateful for having experienced it.
I will miss being on the sidelines at sporting events. I’ll miss the banter with the coaches (but I’ll keep in touch on Twitter.) Sometimes, I’ll even miss laying out a newspaper.
But I won’t miss the Monday-Tuesday feeling when my to-do list seems endless and motivation is in short supply. And I won’t miss the late nights...or maybe I will.
Frequently, I’ve reserved this space for moralizing and things I believed needed to be said. But now I don’t know what else to say but thank you. To everyone, for everything.
I’ll have one more issue to go at the Press, and I’m not sure what will be in it. But, as I’ve done the past three-plus years, I’ll try to make it worth your dollar.
If you’d like to submit a letter to the editor one final time, I’ll save some space for next week. If you’d like to lodge a complaint, one more couldn’t hurt.
As always, thanks for reading, everybody.