This is the column running in Wednesday’s Kentucky Standard, announcing that I am leaving the news business (again). You can read the original here
I have a few other thoughts about my time heading a newsroom, and I plan to expound on those in a bit. But first, here is my official goodbye column:
Nelson County: It has been a privilege
It’s not you, it’s me.
When I was younger, I ended a few relationships with that explanation and was the recipient more than once.
I didn’t always mean it when I said it, and I didn’t always believe the person who said it to me.
But I mean it from the bottom of my heart as I write this column informing our readership and the community that I am stepping down as editor of The Kentucky Standard, effective Nov. 6. I have accepted another job offer that will be better for my family.
I took the reins of this newsroom in July 2012, and the three-plus years have been some of the most rewarding for me personally and professionally.
But you reach a certain age where you are responsible for more than just yourself and you find your priorities shifting. I am at that point.
I don’t think I will ever find a vocation that intoxicates me more than journalism. For me, it’s always been about the chase. Sometimes that is literal, like speeding down a roadway toward the scene of some breaking news. Other times the chase is figurative, like reading through hundreds of documents looking for that fact that makes the story. For me, journalism has always been a way to better understand the world around me, and it has afforded me the opportunity to ask questions of people that I would not get the opportunity to do if not for my job.
Journalism has always meant more to me than a job, though. It has been a calling. Our Founding Fathers wrote protections guaranteeing the freedom of the press into the U.S. Constitution, mostly to act as a check on government power. That happens at all levels, whether it is The Washington Post reporting on Congress or the local newspaper reporting on the latest city council meeting. The only difference is the scale. Our national media outlets should hold our leaders and institutions in Washington accountable, and local media should hold our city and county officials accountable to those they were elected to represent.
While I oversaw this newsroom, I endeavored to ensure coverage of our local community that showed neither fear nor favor toward any person or entity. There might be some individuals in power who feel the newspaper was too hard on them, some that might even be happy to see me leave. But I hope I leave with a reputation for fairness and honesty.
Because those are the qualities journalism should always strive to maintain. It should not flinch from the truth, even when that truth can be hard to face. And we have faced some hard truths together since I came here in July 2012.
More than once, I have fielded a complaint from a reader or community leader that “there is too much negative news in the paper.” Many people who live in Bardstown and Nelson County want to hold onto this notion that it is some sort of Mayberry from “The Andy Griffith Show.” But it’s not, and while I am not from here, I would venture to say it never was as “Mayberry” as some people would like to recollect. I’ve read through the old editions of The Kentucky Standard, back to the days of Prohibition when it seems this area was pretty wild.
So while we have not shied away from showing some of the warts on “The Most Beautiful Small Town in America,” we have also celebrated what makes it so special.
I cannot think of a better place to be a journalist than Bardstown and Nelson County, and that is because of the sense of community. Where other small towns have been subsumed by urban sprawl or decayed into bedroom communities, this place has a vibrant social fabric that makes it special. It’s a mix of the people and their history — their sense of place.
Over the last three years, I have met many great people who I consider friends. I’m going to miss Frankie pouring my favorite bourbon when I walk in, convincing Jerry that he’s really a Democrat in denial, listening to Terry rant about “rimrackers,” discussing the paper with Steve while I get a cup of coffee or any number of other people who have added flavor to my life while I’ve been here.
And I’m going to miss the people who work at this newspaper. They are a scrappy bunch fighting against the tides buffeting traditional media to keep this newspaper strong. I’ve never worked with a more dedicated group of professionals.
And last but not least, I want to thank all of our readers. A large part of what made my time here so satisfying was the engagement of our readers with the paper. When I was interviewing for this job, Publisher Jamie Sizemore told me Nelson County views the Standard as “their paper, and they will tell you when they think you are doing a good job with it, and they will tell you when they think you are messing it up.”
That proved true. The community’s investment in this newspaper is one of the factors that made it such a special place to serve as editor. I consider it to have been a privilege.