EDITOR’S NOTES: The column I never expected to write

By SARA CLIFFORD, editor

This is the column I’ve started countless times in my head, but never expected to publish. And now that I’m actually writing it, it doesn’t feel therapeutic like it used to. It feels surreal and sort of sad.

It’s the one where I tell you I’m leaving the paper.

I’m not leaving Brown County, just this job. I’m proud to live here and we’d be crazy to ever move.

I told the team at IU who interviewed me for my new job that I’ve had my dream job for the past 12 years. I’ve earned every career goal I’d set for myself. I’d never really planned to leave.

But I need a new dream now. I don’t know how much more I can do for this paper than what I’ve already done, and it’s not sustainable for my family or for me to keep doing what I have.

As a 13-year-old kid, I picked “weekly newspaper editor” out of a career binder and never wavered from that course, except for a brief detour at a job where I ended up meeting my husband.

I still have that piece of paper from the guidance office. “Editors must have intelligence, curiosity, perseverance, and a sense of what is news,” the “personal qualifications” section reads. “They must be impartial and fair in their reporting. They should be at ease with all kinds of people, understand community life, and have a deep interest in acquiring all sorts of knowledge. Editors must have good judgment, tact, and leadership. Editors should be able to work long hours, often under stress. A good relationship with co-workers is important. Editors should also have patience.”

I molded so many life choices around becoming this kind of person.

I was not someone who meshed easily with all different kinds of people. I’m not actually very good at it now, but I can do it. You, Brown County, have stretched me in that way, and I love you for it. I would not be who I am today without your questions, your challenges, your directness and honesty, your bubblings over of anger and heartbreak and frustration and gratitude.

Much of what you’ve had to say to me over the years has had nothing to do with me or the paper. It had everything to do with what was going on in your life, in your community’s life. And whether I chose it or not, I was glad you felt comfortable enough to share it with me, to allow me to listen.

I remember a very late evening many years ago, sitting at my kitchen island when my entire family was asleep but I was still writing. I took a second to muse about being trusted with the awesome responsibility of telling someone’s story. “Must remember this feeling when the not-so-awesome parts of work wear on me,” I wrote.

I will miss that feeling.

I will miss all of you. I truly will. I appreciate the unique Brown County characters you are, and I respect the role you play in the story of our community.

But most of all, I will miss my team, the people who’ve allowed me to reach any of the goals I’ve had because of their energy, their dedication, and their belief in building something important, something necessary.

The paper is still important. The paper is still necessary.

Please give Suzannah, Abby, Larry and the whole network behind the Brown County Democrat your full support, your help, and most of all, your thanks. Let them know how much you value the work they do and the personal sacrifices they make daily to bring you the news.

Thank you to those of you who’ve popped up from nowhere throughout the years, saying those things to me at the exact moment I needed them. You have no idea how many times you have sustained me and pulled me back from the point of giving up when it seemed like no one was paying attention and my work didn’t matter.

I wanted my work to matter. I wanted to do something that made the world a better place, or at least my corner of it. I wanted my parents and my children to be proud of me.

I recently learned, though, that my family doesn’t care what my job is or what good I did when I was away. They just want me, they want me present, and they want me happy. So, that’s where I’m going: To a job where I can be more of me, not “the paper,” and be happy.

In my first column back in November 2009, I wrote that this was not my newspaper, it was ours, and I was only its caretaker for awhile. It’s time for someone else — someone you already know, Suzannah Couch — to step into that role now, but I am profoundly grateful that I was able to be that person for 12 years.

All my life, what I’ve wanted was to be was a good community journalist.

Thank you, readers, for demanding that of me.

Sara Clifford is still a proud Brown County resident and is now a subscriber to the Brown County Democrat.