A difficult farewell to my tenure at this newspaper

If I’m being honest, I’ve written this column in my head dozens of times. I still don’t know exactly what to say now that the moment has arrived.

I always imagined the end would be bittersweet, but I’m at least happy to say I’m going on my own terms. I didn’t end up another victim of the industry — handed a pink slip, unceremoniously pushed out the door, told my services were no longer needed.

My journalism career truly started at The Platte County Citizen, and it appears it also ends here. I’ve had a helluva run.

I wish the ending could be different. I always dreamed I’d retire from a newspaper as a beloved/hated old editor who simply couldn’t do the job anymore, but it wasn’t meant to be that way for me.

But I’m satisfied with the job I’ve done.

For more than 16 years, I lived my dream. I wanted to be a sports writer starting back in high school, and I made it into the business just before the internet downturn hit.

From editor in chief of Platte County High School’s The Pirate Clipper to a student writer at my hometown paper to leading Missouri Western State University’s Griffon News to the St. Joseph News-Press and back home, I’ve been lucky to enjoy this career. I’ll carry the memories forward with me and cherish them as I embark on a new chapter in my life — one outside of journalism in a new profession I hope continues to challenge me but allows me more time with my family.

I’m excited, nervous, optimistic and scared, but I know this is the path I need to take for myself and those who stuck with me while I pursued my passion in reporting.

I’ll miss the daily and weekly grind. I’ll miss the relationships I’ve built through this unique career. I’ll miss the challenge of telling people’s stories.

I’ve made mistakes; I’ve failed to live up to readers’ expectations; I’ve come up short of my own aspirations.

Through all the good times and bad times, I’ve always given my heart and soul to the product, strived to provide the very best to the loyal newspaper subscribers out there. I believe in local journalism and community news, and that hasn’t wavered because of this decision.

I always wanted to be a part of the solution, but I’m also tired of the fight over finances and resources. My family is ready to have me back on nights, holidays and weekends after I sacrificed so many of them in the name of the job.

That’s not to say this experience has many negatives.

To the contrary, I’ve been published in The Boston Globe and countless newspapers across the country. I’ve spent time in the Royals clubhouse and the Chiefs locker room and provided coverage of NASCAR’s biggest series.

Most importantly, I spent time in small towns and communities, learning the unique tales that make everyday life special.

I talked to a mother as she broke down recounting the story of how her young son lost his arm in a heartwrenching farm accident, overcoming his limitations to play fastpitch softball for Winston High School. I followed a Chillicothe wrestling coach around as he displayed unwavering optimism in his unwinnable fight with ALS. I watched Platte County High School’s Ethan Karsten win a third straight state wrestling title in the wake of his older brother’s death days earlier.  I learned the intricacies of youth bullriding’s biggest competitions from Koltin Hevalow.

Plus all the moments in between, way too numerous to list.

My return home provided me with a new experience, and I can’t thank the local communities in Platte County enough for welcoming me back and making these past four years so special. I learned so much more about local government (functional and dysfunctional), boards of education and legal processes, but more importantly, I reconnected with my roots while building new relationships.

I’ll miss this job more than you know and more than I can express with the words in this space. I will cherish the many, many memories I carry forward.

Selfishly, you hope people value your work and impact on the community, but I never expected the outpouring of support and well wishes as I spread the news of my recent decision. I’ve truly been blown away by the compliments and farewells, while also reminiscing on how many people I’ve met and stayed in contact with through my work over the past 16 years.

I hope to maintain those connections as I embark on the next challenge.

In 16 all-too-brief but meaningful years, I’ve adapted from hot wax and pasting a high school newspaper together to dealing with the realities of the internet age for newspapers to creating successful social media platforms engaging a wider audience to trying and fake it as a photographer. I want to hope my work will be missed, but the reality is the newspaper remains with or without me.

I’m just a guy who liked to tell stories, and hopefully fresh energy can help The Citizen continue to succeed and provide the stories that are meaningful to you.

My goal will be to remain involved in reporting as a hobby and not a job — on my time. I’m ready to experience some of this from the other side of the notepad/camera, but I’ll always remember fondly the experiences we shared together.

Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at editor@plattecountycitizen.com. Follow him on Twitter:  @Citizen_Ross.