Staff Columnist

Here's the thing: I'll leave you with this

Iowa, I can’t thank you enough. But this is where I leave you.

When I got the confirmation email asking if I could come up to Washington for an interview, I immediately said yes. I had never heard of Washington, IA before and had no idea where it was in the state.

Luckily it was less than three hours from home.

I drove through a snowstorm to get here, then turned around and drove through it again. A few days later I was offered the job and began my career as ‘that girl from The Journal.’

That was two-and-a-half years ago. Now, the town I was once a stranger in is home and I know quite a few people by name. And those I don’t, they still know me. Because they invited me into their homes to tell them a story.

When we get to together for meetings and discuss what we’re going to write about, we don’t call them articles. We call them stories and we discuss story ideas.

Because of that, when I meet people for the first time and they ask me what I do, I let them know I have the job every kid dreams of: I’m a professional storyteller.

I have stories of a 92-year-old embarking on a 92 mile bike ride, of how a town came together to rescue a drowning man and a man who climbed onto the Notre Dame Cathedral when he was in the service in France.

I am so much more interesting at parties because I have lived in Washington, IA.

The first story I ever wrote was about a storm chaser meeting in New London, a town I had never heard of. I was so nervous, I arrived 20 minutes early and took six pages of notes.

When I think about the stories, I think about the people I tell them to. I think about how many cups of coffee or family dinners or front porches I have been on, telling you all stories of what is happening in our town.

And here’s the thing: I just can’t thank you enough.

Iowa, it has been a terrific journey. I have loved every minute and am so thankful to have a hometown here in the Hawkeye state. You didn’t convert me- life long Notre Dame fan here and Illini fan only when they play the Hawkeyes, but that was a battle lost before it began.

At the end of the month I will be moving back to Peoria, IL, my original hometown, where I’ll start online classes at the University of Alabama for my master’s in journalism. It was an incredibly tough decision and one I did not take lightly.

I will miss Iowa, Washington and all of the towns in between that I had never heard of two-and-a-half years ago but now love and care for. Thank you for trusting me with your stories and inviting me into your homes to tell them.

If you’d like to get a cup of coffee before I leave, please reach out. There is no bad time for coffee.

Before I go, as promised, I’ll leave you with this:

Katharine Graham is my hero. Among her many accomplishments she is most well-known for being the second female publisher of a major newspaper, The Washington Post, and the publisher who presided over the paper during the Watergate scandal. I have her brick of an autobiography (its 700 pages) on my desk. I’ve read it twice.

Of all the things she’s said, this is the one I have written on a piece of paper on my desk here at the office:

“To love what you do and feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun?”

I have loved being a reporter here and your willingness to answer my calls, subscribe and even reach out when you enjoyed something I wrote has made me feel that to you all, print journalism matters.

It’s been fun.