“How do I write this column? How do I explain that I am leaving a job I enjoy to a public who has been so a part of my family’s lives and development for the past five years?” I looked at my editor as he shrugged his shoulders.

“Google it. See how other columnists have handled this topic.”

Google, enmeshed in its own personal/public issues took less than half a second to find over 46 million results. At the top of the list was a PDF.

The top result was a 2018 master’s thesis by Sarah May Heaney of Eastern Kentucky University titled “Leaving journalism: Self-identity during career transition for female former Kentucky reporters.”

My internal nerd jumped with excitement. My editor echoed in my ear, “I’m putting C pages together next, so be quick.”

According to the purpose, I had stumbled upon a qualitative study focused on how “leaving the field of journalism affected the life narrative of female former Kentucky reporters.”

I yelled up to Shannon asking what the capital of Kentucky is — something she is learning in eighth grade Global Studies.

A qualitative study focuses on interviews versus a quantitative study which would utilize hard numbers and survey data. 

“You must decide now if you are a qualitative or quantitative scientist,” one professor told me while I was working toward my master’s. I chose quantitative. When my mother went through her master’s program, she chose qualitative. 

We both ended up as journalists in our first careers. 

Heaney discovered in her study that there were three themes for the former female reporters when discussing how leaving journalism affected their life narratives: “self-identity as journalists persists after leaving newspaper jobs, other life roles took precedence over journalism when making the choice to leave, and journalism work was meaningful because it affected people personally.”

Yep. I agree. 

I am a journalist. My mother was a journalist. My husband is a journalist. My best friend is a journalist. I am proud of the work we do and proud to say it is in my blood, in my life, to protect and promote free speech and inform the public. That will not change when I change careers. 

I am leaving journalism, for now, because that is the best decision for my children and family. 

Journalism has been meaningful and important to me because of YOU — the reader, my community member. I have made tough decisions because I knew it was in the best interest of the people of the Iron Range to research and write on a given topic. I did what I did to keep freedom and decision making in your hands. 

So yes, I have made the hard decision to leave the Mesabi Tribune as a full-time reporter. I am doing this for my family, but my family remains journalists at heart. We nurture curiosity and critical thinking in each other.

Poetic in its own way, my final day will be Nov. 3 — Election Day 2020. As final votes are cast and the future of our country is being counted, I will conclude this chapter in my life.

Don’t worry, you won’t get rid of me that easily! I’m sure I’ll end up writing here and there — possibly a strongly worded Letter to the Editor, just to keep elected officials honest.

I do have to admit that I am looking forward to a social media cleanse — turning off Facebook for a good while and unfriending hateful commenters. I am also looking forward to opening up on my personal views, which as a reporter, I have pushed to the side as unbiased reporting is vital. 

In her thesis, Heaney discusses the statement “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” as one embraced by journalists. As a reporter and foster parent, I have worked to find a balance between that juxtaposition. In my new job, I will focus more on the former while searching for ways to do the latter as an active community member. 

Heaney identifies research which found that “A person’s identity is made up of two parts: personal and social” and points out that these are often emmesh for journalists who see their career as an essential part of society. 

My personal identity, in this community, is certainly enmeshed with the Mesabi Tribune and I am OK with that. It will take time, but soon enough that will separate and I will have to find my evolved role on the Iron Range. This role will not be so public but just as honest and true. 

I am grateful for you allowing me into your home, hearts and heads. Sincerely, if there is anything I can ever do for you, just let me know! 

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