Editorial: Saying goodbye and hello at The Beachcomber

A significant transition is taking place at The Beachcomber.

Amelia Heagerty, whose warm and vibrant writing has graced the pages of this paper for three years, is leaving.

It’s a considerable loss for our small staff. Amelia has helped to carry the paper over the last couple of years, doing so with a grace and skill that have often seemed beyond her years.

She’s written every kind of news story a small Island can offer up — from lovely features about long-time Islanders to hard-hitting news stories about meth labs and drug-dealing. She’s deftly edited sports stories submitted by the parents of athletes, transforming their submissions into a decent sports page.

A student of French and Latin, she’s a phenomenal speller. She could find information on the Internet faster than those of us a couple decades older than her could formulate the question. And she was a warm presence in our hard-working newsroom, quick to laugh, encourage or lend a hand.

She’s also had her 15 minutes of fame here at The Beachcomber. Her story about the “Vashon Hum” garnered so much attention that she ended up on KIRO’s Dave Ross Show and KUOW and continues to get phone calls from people throughout the region who want to talk to her about their local hum.

But as is often the case with partings, this is a bittersweet moment.

Amelia is leaving to follow her passion, heading to graduate school in Colorado, where she’ll study speech therapy. She clearly loves children and helping others. We believe she’ll thrive in her new profession.

It’s bittersweet, as well, because we’re not only wishing Amelia farewell. We’re welcoming another talented writer to our staff — Natalie Johnson, whom we’ve hired to take Amelia’s place.

Natalie reached our fair shores from Spokane, where she recently graduated from Whitworth University, and in her two weeks on the job she hasn’t missed a beat. Under her belt already is a story about the Vashon Sewer District’s proposed expansion, a feature on the Vashon Allied Arts Community Quilt and a lovely profile of Island activist Hilary Emmer — all written as though she’s lived here for years.

She majored in journalism and minored in visual communications at Whitworth, where she worked for all four years on the student newspaper. After graduating a semester early, she landed an internship at The Inlander, a weekly with a snazzy style and where she learned to bring some voice and attitude to her writing.

And during the interview, we had a feeling she’d find her way happily on this Island when she mentioned that she’s a cyclist, loves to hike and played the clarinet in her high school band.

We’ll miss Amelia terribly here at The Beachcomber. And we’re thrilled that Natalie — a talented journalist who also makes her way through the Internet faster than her older colleagues — has joined us.

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