Goodbye, East County, thank you and good luck

They say all good things must come to an end.

Although I sincerely hope that maxim doesn’t apply to Vons’ half-off sale on the 30 ounce box of Russell Stover Assorted Fine Chocolates, it does hold true for my time as editor of this newspaper.

This will be my last column from the editor’s chair (and if some of you are breathing a sigh of relief, I completely understand – no hard feelings – I know my copy editor certainly is).

Although I am excited about the road ahead, I am sad to say goodbye to a community that has begun to feel like family.

It has been – and this cannot be over-emphasized – a complete privilege to serve East County as the editor of one of your local papers. I hope I have done right by this community in the last 22 months.

Ask any of the journalists on my team here and we will all say that telling your stories – the good ones and the ones that are more difficult – is a both pleasure and an honor, and a responsibility we do not take lightly.

I suppose it’s only fitting to leave with some departing thoughts. I haven’t had to do this since I said goodbye to my middle school class of two years when I taught in Prague, Czechia in the early 2010s. Goodbyes never get easier, but I think, with time, we get better at it.

So here goes…

Dear readers, please don’t stop doing good.

I have seen it. I get emails across my desk every day about the excess of generosity, decency, kindness and humanity displayed in East County through business, in schools and private organizations and across neighborhoods. There are good people here and I love that East County is just one corner of a very large country also made up of good people who live in little corners like this one.

Keep a critical eye out.

I realize I have a tendency to be a pot-stirrer. I get a real kick out of establishing common ground and then walking hand-in-hand into controversial thoughts and perspectives. But we have to do that, don’t we? We have to be critical of the process, of the results, of the motivations behind them. And as much as we have to be on guard against those who might work against our values or undermine our liberties, we should be wary of no one more than ourselves. Let us not be blind to our own failures of reason or compassion. Let us be on guard against fears and biases and the subtlety of thought that makes the difference between a stand that is right and a stand that is wrong.

Don’t stop reading newspapers.

I know, I know – talk about bias, right? But yes, please keep reading newspapers.

Everyone keeps saying print is dying, that journalism has turned sour – full of fake news, full of slanted stories. Where are the truth seekers?

I’ll tell you – you are the truth seekers. Journalists are not some other breed of human. We are your friends and neighbors, your sons and daughters. We grew up in the same cities, drinking the same water, pledging allegiance to the same flag. We are a reflection of the communities we come from.

If you feel betrayed by how the media has been covering the issues that are important to you, I would ask what you have done to promote truth-telling.

Of course, journalists need to be held accountable (on that note, thank you to everyone who emailed, tweeted or snail-mailed me to correct my spelling – I appreciate your dedication to the integrity of this publication), but the spread of misinformation and the suffocation of real news by way of ignorance is the responsibility of everyone who partakes.

If real news matters to you (as well it should), pay for it. Subscribe to a media outlet you trust (and maybe a few others you are more wary of just to keep your horizons broad). Pick up print newspapers and use the coupons inside, follow up with the ads for local businesses. By doing this, you support your community and you pay the salaries of every starving reporter who spends their Thursday nights at city council meetings so you don’t have to, so you can be at your kid’s soccer game or out with your work colleagues.

I hope the decency of the American population and the integrity of American journalism are two good things that do not come to an end. I think they have an inseperable relationship. A well-informed people is a strong one. And, hopefully, that strength and knowledge will be used to wield compassion and extend grace, to pick up the lowest in our society and hold the mighty accountable.

Good luck.