I was not expecting to write this column this soon.
After a bit more than 18 months as editor of The Observer, I’m returning from where I came — the East Oregonian — to be the news editor.
My stay here has been something of a blur — settling in during winter 2019-20, ready to get to know La Grande and Union County as the coronavirus hit, then changeover in our newsroom since November 2020. And just as we are at full staff and beginning to see the fruits of that, I’m heading out the door.
Yeah, it’s a selfish move. But it is one I really didn’t imagine myself doing. And then, I never quite imagined myself as an editor during most of my career as a reporter.
I saw more stability in being a reporter than in moving into an editor’s chair. And let’s face it, my people skills are what they are. I work on them, sure, but that’s a constant job.
But the offer to helm The Observer newsroom came during a point of big changes in my life, and after being the public safety and courts guy at the EO for years, I was feeling weary of covering the next home fire or fatal car crash.
I talked over taking this position with people I’m close with and respect. One bit of sage advice stuck home — did I really want to keep doing what I was doing until I was done?
Nope. I didn’t.
Working as The Observer editor was the hardest, most challenging job I’ve done. Even moving to Japan in my 20s without speaking any Japanese does not compare to this. Did I want it easier? Of course. But easier would not have been better, or at least not better for me.
I told our publisher — one of my bosses — Karrine Brogoitti that I didn’t “feel” like the editor until after doing this gig for about a year. That first year was on-the-job training. I still see it that way. But I would not have even lasted that long if it were not for Karrine, and Andrew Cutler, the EOMG’s regional editor and my other boss, and just about everyone else here at The Observer.
This crew did so much to help me and work with me and make me feel welcome. Devi Mathson and Kelli Craft in the front office, Dorothy Kautz, our graphics designer, and Lisa Lester Kelly and Dick Mason in the newsroom, as well as Ronald Bond, the sports editor who had to serve as the everything editor before I arrived and who was my No. 2 for months.
Takes a village, yes? About did for me, and I so appreciate all these villagers.
I don’t believe “things happen for a reason” or some cosmic thing has plans for anyone’s life. Opportunities come. You take them or not. I’m taking this not because I’m tired of being the editor here. Not even close. I feel like I was just starting to hit a stride.
Sure, I get to go back to Pendleton, where I have family and friends (haven’t moved yet, though). But that also is not central to my decision.
I’m taking this because I don’t know if the opportunity will come my way again, and I’ve grown and learned so much here that I’m keen to try my hand at a larger canvas.
While I won’t be involved with The Observer, this place will be a part of me and what I do for years to come. And who knows? Other changes, another opportunity and I could be back.