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Long-time Marietta Times editor says good-bye

For the last several weeks, I’ve been busy packing. Boxes full of newspapers, notes, awards and 17 years of my professional life have made their way into my car one at a time as I prepared to say good-bye to The Marietta Times, where I’ve spent most of my career, first as a reporter and then as news editor.

It was a nostalgic process, but also a reaffirming one.

With every item, as it went in a box, I continued to realize that journalism, and working for this community paper, was something I really used to love.

I’ve known for a while it was time for me to go. The newspaper industry is changing, and I felt I’d done all I could at the Times. Grass was growing under my feet. So in early 2019, I started working toward earning a master’s degree with the intention to enter a new career field. Now, I’m almost finished and it’s time to make that leap of faith into a whole new profession. It’s scary. I’m 40. Not so old in the grand scheme of things, but not so young either. There have been many times when I’ve just been tempted to stay where I am, to continue to do what I already know how to do, to not take the risk. It can be hard to challenge yourself and to make yourself uncomfortable. That was even before the pandemic and all that changes that brought, to my graduate school journey and beyond. It’s filled the path toward this change with even more obstacles, as did a life-threatening health scare this summer. There have been moments of panic, moments of “never mind,” but I know that as much as I still love newspapers and believe in their importance, I am no longer excited to work at one, or challenged. So, I’m doing something about it. It will be hard. It will be scary. And I believe it will be worth it.

But what a range of emotions I’ve had looking back in these last few weeks.

I found old stories I’d written that I’d completely forgotten about and reflected back on some that will stay with me forever. The devastation of fires that took parts of our downtown, and the resilience and strength of those who helped rebuild it. Floods, minor and major. I can remember jumping in the truck of a New Matamoras volunteer firefighter in 2004 and going with him to meet a dozen families in the community, each with their own story of loss along the Ohio River. I can still recall one young man whose home was destroyed telling me it felt “kind of bare” to just never be able to go home again. I thought it was an odd choice of words at the time, but I think he actually had it just right.

I reported on the heartbreak of school closures, from Reno and North Hills to Bartlett and Cutler to Center Elementary, as well as the innovation and dedication of our local educators every day.

I’ll never forget covering the funeral of former Times writer Army 1st Lt. Chris Rutherford, who was killed in Iraq at only 25, and the uplifting sight of all those who showed up to line the roadway to honor him. I’ve seen horrific things in courtrooms, balanced out by meeting a beautiful little boy in Beverly, who finally got to meet someone else with his rare disease after my article brought them together.

I spent afternoons with dozens of our local veterans for the years that we published our “Stories of Service” page, hearing stories of bravery and loss that some were putting into words for the first time since returning from war.

When I became news editor in 2011, one of the first assignments I was tasked with was putting together a multi-day, multi-page package on sexual abuse, much too prevalent in this community and others. I wrote a column for that package about my own experience surviving childhood sexual abuse and for weeks I had people in the community reach out to me to share their own experiences. I remember each conversation.

I certainly can’t forget the derecho and the impact that had on our community. Of course I recall the lack of power, the heat, every store being out of gas and ice…but I also remember loading up our computers and servers and heading with a core group of Marietta Times employees to Steubenville to print our paper, pulling an all-nighter and returning home to the wreckage of that storm feeling at least a little victorious.

I’ll miss the exhilaration (and exhaustion) of election nights and getting a chance to explore every nook and cranny of Washington County, from knocking on doors in barely-populated Elba to digging through historical artifacts. I’ve met so many people I never would have known, who shared stories I hope to always remember.

It’s never easy to say good-bye but I’m so happy I’ve spent the last year and a half learning something new. If you’re not happy, if you’re not feeling challenged, try something else, no matter your age, no matter how tough it is. Don’t just sit still.

I’m about to find out who I am when I’m not a journalist. I hope to see many of you from that chapter of my life in the next one.

Kate York can no longer be reached at kyork@mariettatimes.com but feel free to reach out to MuskingumKate1020@gmail.com

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