I began working at The Beachcomber on an August afternoon in 2001. Now, nearly 18 years, several job descriptions and thousands of news stories later, I am leaving the paper. This issue is my last as editor, but I will stay on for a week to help with the transition.
In quiet moments since I made my decision to leave earlier this spring, memories have flooded my mind from my earliest days here. Allison Arthur hired me, at $10 an hour, 10 hours a week, for an editorial assistant position. I felt over qualified for the job. But on my first evening at work, alone in the office and ready to build the weekly calendar, I could not figure out how to turn on the computer. I think of that now as a portent of the hidden challenges ahead.
As I prepare to leave, I feel honored to have had the opportunity to talk with so many islanders about their work and passions and, in turn, share those stories with the wider community: the challenges of health care on the island, living with a cougar in our midst, fighting wildfires east of the Cascades — and who could have imagined? — the ins and outs of asphalt millings. For years, I have said that working as a reporter in this community is a curious person’s dream job. I do not know where I will work next (all suggestions and job offers welcome!), but it is hard for me to imagine anything more interesting on a daily basis than working at The Beachcomber.
There is a flip side, of course. As I knew from working closely with each of my predecessors in the editor’s seat, this is a demanding, six- or seven-day-a-week job with unrelenting deadlines. After all these years, including the last year and a half at the helm, I am looking forward to a less frenzied pace and a chance to dedicate time to interests I have shelved for awhile.
Still, I am leaving passionate about the importance of community newspapers and the knowledge of just how fragile they are: most staffed by small numbers of committed people working on tight deadlines, earning modest wages and tasked with doing more with less as the business of news continues to evolve.
In the midst of this transition at The Beachcomber, I hope each of you will stay engaged with the paper. Call with news tips. Write a letter to the editor, instead of just dashing off a Facebook post. Volunteer to write a commentary about a topic you are interested in. Get in touch, politely, if people here get something wrong or to comment on a job well done. As I have said before, community journalism is a team sport. While Sound Publishing owns this paper, it belongs to each of you as islanders and readers, and I hope you will all support it, and the people who work hard here, in the weeks, months and years to come.
Thank you for being part of my last 18 years. As I move on to whatever comes next, I am looking forward to seeing all of you around this remarkable island we call home.
— Susan Riemer
After June 14, Susan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.