COLUMN: All grown up and moving on

Reporter says farewell after almost 19 years writing for The Leader.

Now here’s a bit of irony. After filling the pages of this newspaper for nearly 19 years, when tasked with writing a farewell column, I find it difficult to come up with the words.

I’m terrible at goodbyes. But here I am, having to say just that as my time at The Leader has come to an end. Truth is, it’s hard to know what to say.

As a Surrey school trustee who’s known me since I was a wide-eyed cub reporter once told me: “We’ve practically raised you!”

And she’s right. I was still in my 20s when I began working at The Leader, first covering the education beat before branching off in virtually every direction.

Off I went, pen at the ready, notebook in hand.

Some of the earliest interviews I remember include a honey-making senior with bees crawling through his unruly eyebrows as he spoke to me in his Surrey backyard, a ventriloquist whose dolls were, frankly, a little terrifying to me, and a handy retiree who adapted bikes and other equipment for kids with disabilities. I watched as he made a mom cry when one of his contraptions allowed her daughter to stand upright for the first time.

There have been hundreds of stories over the years and I’ve met some incredibly smart, empathetic, cool, talented, strong, funny and generous people. I’ve also seen the dark side: the sick, grief-stricken, abused, homeless, depraved, murderous. I like to think the latter serve to highlight the good, but there are some things you can’t un-see and un-hear.

Then there’s the ridiculous, like the man who called years ago, furious that everything in his local dollar store was not, in fact, one dollar. Or the woman who arrived at the front counter of The Leader, flipping frantically through the pages of a children’s book featuring two dads, pointing to a picture of an unmade bed where the two had “obviously” been sleeping together. Gasp.

I could go on and on. And I will. But not here.

I’m heading off down a different path, though I still worry about the future of newspapers. And you. And where you get your information in a world with an endless stream of data at everyone’s fingertips.

If I could ask one thing, it’s to please, please be discerning about what you read. This just in: Not everything posted on Facebook is true. Question everything. Be critical. Good journalism still matters.

And mostly, remember that this community newspaper is about you – your family, your friends, your neighbourhood. Major city newspapers and sites like BuzzFeed don’t care about the fundraiser you have planned for your classmate with cancer, or that the old-growth forest in your neighbourhood has been clearcut. This paper does.

I know, I’m talking like a preachy adult now.

So I guess that school trustee was right. I suppose I have been raised here – elevated in more ways than one.

Thank you for letting me tell your stories.

Now I’m off to write my own.

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