After this paper goes to print, I will be driving home, but not to the one I’ve been living in the past few years in Raleigh. This time, accompanied by my adventurous cat Houston, I will be headed toward Charlotte to join my husband where he has a new role with Duke Energy Progress.
Along with my suitcases and Houston’s litterbox, will be packed a million memories from my five years with The Wake Weekly Family of Community Newspapers that I would never want to leave behind.
I started here as an intern, fresh out of college. Most of my sentences began with “But I learned in journalism school,” much to the indignation of my fellow reporter, mentor and would-be associate editor (and forever friend) David Leone. The lessons I’ve learned from working at the newspaper are not ones that are taught in any classroom but were a crash-course about life, politics and small towns.
•Everyone has a story — and thank you for letting me share yours. The reason community journalism is so dear to my heart is because I truly believe everyone has a story to tell that needs to be shared. One of the few places that will listen is a hometown newspaper.
Some of my favorite stories have been the features of authors, artists and farmers, among countless others, who share how they got into their life’s work. Or it’s the too-often-forgotten stories of the veterans who have served our country and are willing to open up about it years later. I’m always pleasantly stunned when people thank me for writing an article and think to myself, “What are they thanking me for? It’s their amazing story, not mine.”
•Keep the faith in humanity — There are often complaints that “media,” as though we are one entity, is too negative and only has bad news. While that may be the case in other places, Wake Forest and Franklin County have proven that when the going gets tough, there is always someone to share a helping hand.
I have never seen such an outpouring of community support, whether it’s the hundreds that take to the track for Relay For Life, the stacks of peanut butter jars and other groceries for the United Way of Franklin County and Tri-Area Ministry food pantry in Wake Forest or the number of people willing to cook chicken and pork all night to sell at fundraisers raising money for their neighbors who have suffered hard times, tragedies or illness.
And that doesn’t even take into account the people willing to participate in 5Ks for causes near and abroad. While we may secretly joke about dreading what we’ve coined as “5K season,” it keeps giving a reason for positive news.
•But don’t trust everything — Some of the stories which gave me the most anxiety, and perhaps the greatest rush, were those that included the “watchdog journalism” element.
During my short three years covering Franklin County, I have seen a sheriff fall from popularity to being behind bars, a county sue a town over a disagreement and another town do away with some of its key staff because of suspicions of criminal activity and nepotism. I’ve called out “secret meetings,” cyber votes and just flat out neglect of public records and open meetings laws.
To all those who dare question the process of the governments and are willing to “shake the boat” every once in a while — please don’t stop. The public has a right to be heard, whether what they have to say is popular or not. And one person can make a difference.
•Down, but not out — It’s almost cliché to say something is the way it is “because of the economy.” And when it comes to development and new business, I’m no expert, but it’s probably true.
Thanks to some key individuals who have made waves to make their ideas come to fruition, I have seen the towns working hard in an effort to not just survive, but thrive. Just ask the members of OneFranklinton as they organize events and festivities to keep the community coming together, or the growing effort in Youngsville to revitalize the area and make it the way the residents envision it. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store.
While my own future may not be as obvious to me right now, I’m excited about whatever it holds. My only hope it to keep on sharing those stories of what makes and keeps a community great. But I will always have a soft spot for where it all began as an intern at The Wake Weekly.