A Fond Farewell Succumbs to Cliche
"Chesterfield Patch" editor Rachel Heaton hands the site over to new editor Jean Whitney.
Like everyone, I was bombarded by a dreaded question during my senior year of college: Have you found a job yet?
It was asked by friends, professors, grandparents, my parents and strangers. Shoot, sometimes it even felt like my little black cat Maddie was asking it if she turned her head and stared at me for just a bit too long. And every time the answer was no. I was so busy finishing up my journalism degree at the University of Missouri that I barely had time to look before my May 2010 graduation. I have an internship, I'd say. That will get me through the summer, and I'll find a job to begin after that.
Then they'd ask if I really thought I was going to find a reporting job. I heard plenty of wisecracks about my "dying profession." And I'd smile and laugh while I secretly crossed my fingers (and toes; it couldn't hurt) and prayed under my breath that I'd find a first job and get a chance to do what I love.
Well, I did. And my what a first job it's been.
Chesterfield Patch—and my formal career as a journalist—launched Nov. 2, 2010. I was new to town and figuring the place out (I still got lost driving to Chesterfield Valley sometimes). I spent every day for two weeks before that date sick to my stomach with worry about it all coming together: Would my reporters turn in their stories? Would the sources who only just met me return my calls? Would anyone I had told about Patch over the last month remember to read it?
It all came together and then some. We've published well over 1,000 articles since November about what's going on in Chesterfield. And I've gone from having to explain what Patch is at every turn to seeing a spark of recognition in people's eyes when I introduce myself as the Chesterfield Patch editor.
Like every first job should be, it's been a formative experience. I learned a lot about building relationships with community members and sources from the ground up. I got even more comfortable with public speaking as I attended events and talked about Patch. I'm sure I learned more about editing than I even realize. And like reporters have done for generations, I covered my beats by attending meetings at City Hall, staying on top of Parkway and Rockwood schools and checking in regularly with other newsmakers.
I lucked out with this job too, and I'm sincerely grateful. The community has welcomed me with open arms, and I've heard often how people have made reading Patch part of their daily routine. There's been a lot of fun and exciting things to report on this year, such as the opening of Chesterfield Amphitheater or the Make Your Mark Mural project. My team of reporters and columnists has been wonderful; they work tirelessly to write the best stories and take the best photos they can in their quest to chronicle life in Chesterfield. And the rest of the St. Louis Patch team has encouraged me to push through long days and been there to celebrate accomplishments. I couldn't have done it without everyone I've just mentioned.
But, the time has come to bring this first job to a close. I'm moving on to a reporting position at a community newspaper in South Carolina. But, I'll keep up with Chesterfield news because Patch will keep going! I'm leaving Chesterfield Patch in the hands of Editor Jean Whitney. You can reach her anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or give her a call at 314-223-3357. And we'll always be on Twitter and Facebook, too.
So now comes the hard part—the goodbye. I know it's a bit cliché to quote The Beatles, but what's a girl to do when that's what her daddy raised her on? Besides, they've always summed up how I feel about the closing of a chapter: "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."
I've put in a lot of love here, and I've gotten a whole lot back. So thanks, Chesterfield, for the wonderful experience. I only hope the rest of my career can measure up.