I was an 18-year-old kid when I walked into The Phillips Bee office for the first time.
I'd never read the newspaper before. I wasn't 100% certain what my new job as copy-editor would entail. I had no idea this job was going to change my life.
What I did know was that I needed a job to earn money for college, and I wanted a job that had some kind of purpose. As a fervent scribbler in my high school years with an affinity for interesting stories, I thought the newspaper might be a good place to start.
That was nine years ago now.
Honestly, I was shocked that I got the job at all — undoubtedly only on the merits of a personal recommendation from longtime reporter Peg Zaemisch and columnist Karen Dums — but I was determined to prove I was worth the risk the newspaper took hiring a shy teenager.
That all feels a long time ago now.
That first year, I wrote an article ... and then another ... and another. In those early years, I exclusively wrote features; the personal stories of the people who make our communities what they are. All these years later, there is still nothing quite like the experience of someone sharing their personal story with a stranger, entrusting them with the retelling of a life.
With an outstanding mentor in my first editor, Eric Knudson, I learned how to write news, how to edit an article, how to ask thoughtful questions, and how to second-guess what I thought I knew. Somewhere along the way, I fell a bit in love with that peculiar white-knuckle exhilaration of turning words and photographs into a newspaper on a deadline.
I came to know a lot more about our towns, from Park Falls and Phillips to Ogema and Brantwood, and found a deep respect for the people who are determined to build a sense of community despite the challenges of living in this part of the world. I learned how our towns, schools, and governments run, and how critical the involvement of everyday citizens is to the operation of local government.
I don't think I can count all the lessons I learned alongside my second editor, Seth Carlson, but maybe the most valuable was to tackle the difficult aspects of this job with a sense of humor. He offered me great opportunities to grow and develop as a writer and editor, pushed me way out of my comfort zone, and patiently guided me through reporting some of the more challenging articles of my career. We had the privilege of finishing the work we'd started with our first editor: redesigning the newspaper and expanding our coverage to ensure we were informing the community to the best of our abilities.
This newspaper, rooted in Price County out of all the papers it grew from — The Bee, The Phillips Times, the Park Falls Herald, The Prentice Times — serves as a facilitator for community discussions. At its best, the newspaper keeps disparate towns connected, allowing us to find strength as citizens united in building a better present.
It has not been an easy job, and there were many years that I worked a 50-hour week on a 30-hour paycheck, but it turns out it was exactly the job I needed. I've made plenty of mistakes over the years, all of which taught me a lesson in the school of hard knocks. I've missed the mark on some articles, and missed other stories altogether. It is the work of a lifetime to attempt to tell all the stories of Price County that deserve to be told.
So it is with a certain heaviness of heart that I say April 2 will be my last day at the Price County Review. An opportunity has arisen that I couldn't say no to, and will take me away from my beloved Northwoods for at least a period of time. I have no skill at prophecy (as can be demonstrated by the fact that what was meant to be a one-year job kept me here for nearly nine), but I think it goes without saying that this little corner of the world will always be home to me; the true north to my personal compass.
It has been a privilege to report for our community. I will be forever indebted to the people who gave me their time and stories, welcomed me into their homes, fielded my phone calls, shared their knowledge and expertise, answered tough questions honestly, and provided me with constructive criticism.
For all that and so much more, I thank you.
I hope I'll see you around.