Spending more than two decades as a journalist is sort of like being a passenger on a cruise ship.
There's anticipation of seeing new places; excitement to meet new people; and an opportunity to expand one's horizons with new experiences.
I'm not exactly dropping anchor after the Wednesday, Aug. 25, editions of The Outlook, Sandy Post and Estacada News hit the streets. I'm simply setting sail on another adventure — retirement. DH (Dear Husband) retired nine years ago and has made a life of leisure look so appealing that I decided to follow his itinerary — anywhere but the golf course.
I've been blessed with predominantly calm waters during my 23-year career. Three editors, who possessed a solid grasp of community journalism, pushed, cajoled and encouraged me to grow as a writer. Likewise, my co-workers over the years were an incredibly talented bunch, who inspired me, made me laugh and put up with my newsroom foolishness. And a community that exploded with wonderful stories along with its population.
I was hired as a news clerk back in the day when rookies started at the bottom, writing news briefs and obituaries. The internet was slowly evolving and largely unreliable at that point, so most communication from the public came into the newsroom via FAX. Eventually, use of the internet and email became ingrained in how we did our jobs. That's not to say instant access to information wasn't fraught with room for error. When Pamplin Media launched an online submission form for obituary information, it only took one use before we realized the first name on the form was meant for the person filling it out — not the name of the deceased.
One of my earliest assignments had me in the field with a camera to shoot photos of people enjoying an early snowfall shortly before Christmas. Trucking around in the snow, totally unprepared for the weather, I shot my photos thinking the whole time, "I can't believe they pay me to have this much fun."
A few short years later, I lost those camera privileges after I shot a photo of the descendant of a Gresham pioneer family with a street sign sticking out of her head.
A reporter's days are buoyed by variety. Every day is an adventure. I made friends with other members of the media while attending a training day with Portland firefighters. We got acquainted while rappelling down a three-story tower and driving the back end of a hook and ladder. I gained new respect for the FBI after spending nine weeks in their citizen's academy. Along with a candid peek into what agents do, I learned it's possible to hit birds in Canada from a shooting range in Vancouver, Washington when you are a weapons novice holding an MP5 assault rifle set on automatic.
I've been mauled by goats, slobbered on by pigs and knocked over by horses. I've interviewed inspiring children, local and national dignitaries and even a group of guys who chose the hottest day of the year to can an ungodly amount of pickles.
But I've also been blessed with a pie, fresh from the oven and handmade by the late Rev. Harold Fuller; heard and written remarkable stories of heroism and love among World War II veterans; and had my heart truly warmed by readers who sent cards and emails as I slogged my way through breast cancer treatment in 2017.
I've seen tidal waves of compassion in our community during turbulent times. I stood with neighbors and friends near American flags suspended from Gresham Fire's ladder trucks over downtown Gresham three days after the towers collapsed in NYC in 2001. In the aftermath of the Reynolds High School shooting in 2014, I talked to the manager at the Wood Village Fred Meyer, who brought out lawn chairs, cookies and sunscreen for parents waiting to be reunited with their children.
It humbled and honored me to be able to tell those stories as a member of the media.
But most of all, it's been an incredible experience sailing on this ship that took me on so many journeys the last 23 years. I am indebted to my co-workers who made the job fun; those three editors who gave me the wings to fly; and privileged and honored by those who entrusted their stories to me for the telling.
So in the words of Jimmy Buffet, the Master of Margaritaville, "Drink it up, this one's for you — it's been a lovely cruise."
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