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Managing editor

Hello again, Camden News family!

As I alluded to in my Monday Morning email, this is my last week at the Camden News, so I wanted to give you guys a proper farewell:

After 12 years with this company, I have accepted a job at the Ouachita County Medical Center working with Peggy Abbott and the wonderful people who keep that vital facility open to area residents. My decision to do so wasn’t one that was quick and easy: This is something that has ‘been in the works’ for exactly a year. And it wasn’t one that was taken lightly: It was done after some tears and a lot of prayer.

This job is one that is so necessary, but it is quite demanding. I’ll be 60 soon - (I don’t want to talk about it. Ha!) - and I need to ‘pull it back’ just a little bit and regain some of that time that I’ve lost. And… I have to start going at retirement quite hard, or I’ll have to work until I’m 750 years old! (Okay.That’s an exaggeration, but I’ve done the math. wink)

But this job hasn’t been all ‘gloom and doom.’ When I started here, I had Jim Edwards as my managing editor, and he taught me ‘the ropes’ regarding covering the news, dealing with difficult situations, etc. So I’m giving a ‘hat off to ya’ to him for taking a chance on me and hiring me to learn and to this job.

Also, I had my co-worker and ‘partner in crime,’ Donna Collins - who got married and later became Donna Adams. She also taught me much of what I needed to know about this business

But Donna also had a great sense of humor, which helped us click and get along ‘right off the bat.’ I remember once when Mr. Edwards was on vacation and a large truck had somehow veered off the road behind the newspaper office on Washington Street and hit a pole. The impact caused the pole to snap and break. Since our managing editor was out of town, Donna decided she was going to triple-dog-dare me to write a goofy cutline (caption to non-newspaper folks). So I wrote: ‘Aww, snap!’ and triple-dog-dared Donna to use that cutline since she was acting managing editor when Mr. Edwards was away.

She used it and we got away with it.

And boy did we laugh!

(We tried to keep it professional as much as we could, but, come on. That one was too easy!)

We often had giggle fits while working and ‘quipping’ things, and that helped to keep the levity in the office.

Donna died a few years ago of that dreaded monster, cancer.

I miss her.

It takes a backbone to do this job, too. Especially when you’re writing about something that is very serious like a murder, covering a trial - especially a murder trial, going to the site of accidents where people have lost their lives, etc. We’re not “ambulance chasers,” but we have to cover the news, even though it’s a sticky situation sometimes.

And it takes guts to take pictures in certain situations, like walking in front of a crowd to stand front and center in front of everyone to get that perfectly-timed photo. I mean, you’re in front of everyone! And I used to have this internal dialogue of: “Is my hair sticking up in weird places? Do I have visible panty lines? Are they staring at my back fat?”

The struggle was real, but then I got used to it. Now, I’m around 90% comfortable getting that shot. I’ll go to the scene of something, get as close as I can, open my car door and stand on the door frame to get that shot. (The back-fat thing still bothers me, though.)

In the past - especially when I began here as a reporter - I have had to cover some really ‘heavy’ stuff. I remember the awful time when a child was missing from the yard of his house, and the house sat right in front of White Oak Lake. For one full week, I went to the scene of that incident near Chidester - waiting in the area with others until it got dark and the search was called off for the day. Waiting as I prayed for good news as members of city and county and state law enforcement, the child’s family members, and volunteers from the community searched for that little boy. I’d drive home exhausted, praying for a happy ending to the situation, only to do it all over again the next day. It also happened to be during the weekend of the local dog show, so I had double duty at that time.

But there was no happy ending.

After a week, the little boy was found in the water. I wept all to way back to the office. Mr. Edwards had held the sending of the newspaper until I got back with the details of the story. I blinked through tears as I typed the story, and it was printed in that day’s paper.

End of story. Nope. Not for me. Because I often thought about that situation, and often wept about it.

Not always an easy job, right?

But there are those whom I have met through this job and I now consider them to be family. I have my ladies who will call and remind me about Ouachita County Community Concert Association events and Events at the converted Fairview High School gym, now known as the Events Center at Fairview Park. (Thanks for keeping me on top of things, Kay Martin and Amanda Wunnenberg!)

There are just too many people for me to be able to list who gave me encouragement when I started at this job, and continued to look out for me during my tenure here. (Thanks Teresa Harris for being my ‘guardian angel’ and bringing me a cherry vanilla Dr. Pepper from Sonic at just the right time when I’m having an unusually-stressful day. I don’t know how she knew, but she always did.)

And another little tidbit that made me appreciate even more the support that I’ve received at this job: In June of this year, I won an award in the Arkansas Press Association’s contest. It was first place for a tragedy/triumph story about the woman who was killed in a auto accident, but the triumph of her son crawling out of a ravine to get help for himself and his sibling after being stuck in the vehicle, unseen, for at least two days. It was a story that was covered, and one of those that had a horrifying start, but a good ending for the surviving children.

After the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette posted the winners of the contest, Allen Dawson of Allen’s Restaurant just up the street from the Camden News office not only congratulated me, but he cut out the newspaper announcement and laminated it for me. (I still have it, and I think I might frame it.) Allen has not only been a supporter of me and the newspaper all these years, but he’s also kept me on my toes - which is something all journalists need. Mrs. Abbott who congratulated me as well. It’s not that I need such accolades, it’s just that the ‘attagirl’ responses are so few and far between that when you do get one, it feels mighty good! (And gives me the impetus to keep going.)

And speaking of encouraging, I am grateful to Jim Edwards for taking a chance on me and opening the door to me working at the newspaper. His guidance and wisdom were sooooo instrumental to me that I cannot find the words to thank him other than: “Thank you.”

So, after many years, I hang up my my reporter’s hat for other horizons. I thank all of those who subscribed to the Camden News and ask a favor in return:

Please continue to support local journalism. That service is vital to the community. So if you need to renew your subscription, please do so. If you need an iPad to continue to read the paper and get it online, call the office at 836-8192 and they will take care of whatever you need to be able to keep up with the news online.

I’ll sign off with the same quote I used Monday:

“Life is like riding a bicycle: To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” - Albert Einstein

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