A photographer took this picture while we covered a competitive eating event in West Palm Beach in 2008. The medium was corn on the cob, and one of the top competitors had a red beard that netted kernel after yellow kernel. Hence, the expression on my face.
This picture also serves as a great summary of the past few days for me. I started this blog as an outlet where I could share stories, when compelled, even if they fell outside the parameters of my daily work or freelance assignments. When I woke up Wednesday morning, I picked up my phone, rubbed my eyes and scrolled through the hundreds of interactions on the blog and through social media from people across the country and abroad.
As I post this update, 165,000 people have read “Why I left news.” Yes, I realize that a large metropolitan daily newspaper has a larger circulation than that. But after years of waking up with a story in nearly print every day, I never have experienced such a poignant response to anything I’ve written. The blog post is 1,457 words with one photo, decidedly less digestible than cat memes and screaming goat videos. Yet thousands of people read it, shared it and responded to it.
As I rode the bus to work Wednesday morning, I saw that one of my favorite Washington Post reporters had retweeted another journalist who shared the essay, and that a narrative writer whom I always admired had poked fun of the “About Me” section of my blog. How surreal.
And how ironic. After spending years as a reporter, I garnered the most attention after writing a Monday-night blog post about why I resigned from a newspaper. I heard from former colleagues, editors and even teachers. I heard from people who hated the post, and I understand and respect their position. I set up my blog to allow only comments that I had approved, so I manually allowed every comment when the post first caught fire, including the personal attacks.
While this experience was wholly unanticipated, I am deeply moved by the passionate discussion it evoked. Some readers publicly shared messages about trying to find peace with their own decisions to leave news, while others described sticking around and living in fear that they won’t make it to retirement. What a raw conversation.
Thank you for taking the time to read my 1,457 words. And thank you for taking the time to respond to those words with whatever they made you feel.