EDITOR NOTES: Farewell to the Brown County Democrat, thanks for the memories

“The only thing you can count on is change.” This valuable life lesson from my Papa Russell Kelso keeps running through my mind as my last day with The Democrat, Aug. 26, draws nearer.

The decision to leave this newsroom, my second home for the past eight years was not easy. Change is not easy, but it is inevitable. That is a tough lesson I have learned over the last two years.

I have cherished my time with this award-winning newspaper, especially the last year I was honored to serve as editor. The long work days and work weeks always felt worth it when someone would stop me while I was out and about it to tell me how good of a job we were doing after our longstanding editor, Sara Clifford, left about this time last year.

Filling Sara’s shoes was not an easy task, but thanks to my team — Abigail Youmans and Ray Niedbalski — we continued to cover Brown County in a way that our readers and subscribers have come to know and love.

It is becoming more and more difficult to believe that I will no longer be covering the news of my hometown. There is something special about covering a community you have called home for 32 years. Like how my precious nephews run into the newsroom when my sister stops by for a quick visit during an errand run in town. Or when I go to the middle school and immediately get flashbacks to when I was shy, nervous eighth-grader entering those doors for the first time.

Along with memory after memory, this county is filled with people I love and respect. I walk into most rooms and can find a friendly face. I have almost always felt welcome everywhere I have gone on assignment these past eight years. To put it simply: It is bittersweet to leave.

But the good news is that in my new role, I will still keep my eye on everything Brown County. Next month, I will start working as a digital marketing and storytelling specialist with the Regional Opportunity Initiative (ROI), headquartered in downtown Bloomington. I am excited to work for an organization I was already familiar with thanks to my time with the Brown County Democrat. I remember writing about ROI when Brown County Schools received grant funding to start Eagle Manufacturing in the high school. As the digital marketing and storytelling specialist, I will work to help promote the Indiana Uplands region, which is made up of 11 counties including Brown, as the ideal place to live, work and play.

Looking back over my large stack of newspapers — I have kept every issue since my first official day back in 2014 — I can chart my growth as a journalist and the evolution of this newspaper. My first A1 piece was about the nonprofit Girls on the Run, which works to empower girls by building their confidence and decision-making skills while teaching them how to run.

At that time, we had three other writers covering news in Brown County, and I had been working for the paper for a couple of weeks before my first story ran.

Now, my name is in almost every issue of The Democrat. Working for this newspaper, covering it from every angle, empowered me to grow into the independent and confident journalist I am today — a long way away from the shy 20-year-old who wanted to write for The Rolling Stone when I first started as an intern here in 2011.

I tried to tackle the tough stories with grace and a kind heart. I cried with sources. I laughed with them. I celebrated their successes and felt their heartbreaks. Through all of that, I learned how to tell a story — and how to tell it well. So, thank you, Brown County, for trusting me with your stories and to report on the news that matters most to you. You trusted me to attend government meeting after government meeting then share the news you needed to know.

I look at the newspapers from my past year as editor and I can recall almost exactly what was happening in my life at that time. There was the issue in February when there was a snowstorm and my internet went out at home, so I rented a room in Nashville to make sure I could edit and get everything turned in before deadline. There’s the issue where I proofread the front page in the backseat of my best friend’s car on my way to Chicago for a weekend away. Being a journalist is not easy, especially when you are the editor and a paper hitting newsstands on Tuesdays is your responsibility. It was a responsibility I did not take lightly and, looking back, I wouldn’t trade the past year for anything.

I have made lifelong friends inside and outside of this newsroom. These are people I know I can call on if I need anything, and I hope they know I will do the same for them.

Brown County will always be my home. I will not be a stranger. You will still see me at events; I just may not have a camera hanging around my neck.

I want to let our loyal readers and subscribers know that this will continue to be your newspaper covering the community we all know and love from every angle.

Retired journalist Bob Gustin will step in as an interim editor as the search for my replacement continues. Bob retired as editor from The Republic and was the one who hired Sara. He is no stranger to Brown County. He lives here with his wife, Chris. I am incredibly grateful to have Bob step in and help in this transition.

I ask readers to be patient as we work through this transition. I know Bob, Larry, Abby and Ray will work tirelessly to keep this newspaper operating at the level we all expect.

One of my Papa’s favorite Merle Haggard song was “The Roots of my Raising.”

A part of the song goes, “The roots of my raising run deep. I come back for the strength that I need. And hope comes no matter how far down I sink. The roots of my raising run deep.”

Thanks for raising me Brown County.

Suzannah Couch is still a proud Brown County resident and is now a loyal reader of The Brown County Democrat.