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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 or the . 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 . You can reach her anytime at jean.whitney@patch.com. 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.

Tracy Speller August 03, 2011 at 02:09 PM
Rachel - you have been such an advocate for Chesterfield and the arts especially. Thank you for your time and energy over the last 9 months and we wish you all the luck in the world in South Carolina! We will miss you, but know that Jean will do an amazing job! Best wishes, The Ladies at Chesterfield Arts
Christopher Reilly August 03, 2011 at 07:15 PM
I will miss Rachel greatly. I first began with her as a listing agent before Chesterfield Patch had published a single story. Now I write for several Patch sites, but Rachel will always hold a special place in my heart as my first editor and someone who's taught me a great deal. I found her a great writer, a terrific editor, a wonderful people manager and, perhaps most importantly, a dear heart. I know Jean Whitney's work and I know she'll do a fantastic job as well, and I look forward to a new era with her. But, dear Rachel, I'll miss you and wish you only the best in your future travels. Peace.
Dawn A. Baggett August 04, 2011 at 05:14 AM
I would often wonder as I was putting finishing touches on my article (often at 12:30 a.m.), if Rachel was still working- it seemed as if she was always on the job. What energy! What enthusiasm! A dynamo! I want to thank you for hiring me to write for Patch. You took a chance on someone who hadn't written for publication in a very, very long time. I hope I didn't disappoint. I loved working with you. Your critiques were effective but kind. And, you showed me new ways to look at a familiar story. I'll miss you and wish you great success in your new job. It will be a great adventure.
Libbey Malberg-Tucker August 04, 2011 at 02:49 PM
Rachel: It's been great working with you and on such an innovative media platform! It was hard to get my head around it at first, but it's been so successful and you have been such a great, objective, friend to the City. We wish you well in your new endeavor and look forward to working with Jean!
Rachel Heaton August 04, 2011 at 08:05 PM
Thanks everyone! I loved working with you all too. It was great fun! Good luck Jean! The site's looking great :)

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