Why did they let a reporter write a farewell column?

BY ZACHARY HORNER, News + Record Staff
Posted 6/19/20

I sold out.

In recent years, in conversations with my fellow journalists, we often deride (playfully) those former reporters who go into the world of PR and marketing. They gave up for the money! …

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Why did they let a reporter write a farewell column?

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Posted

I sold out.

In recent years, in conversations with my fellow journalists, we often deride (playfully) those former reporters who go into the world of PR and marketing. They gave up for the money! They quit the good fight!

Well, next week, I’ll join them.

On Monday, I will begin a job as the Communications Specialist for the Chatham County Public Health Department. These are among the last words of mine you’ll read in the Chatham News + Record as a reporter.

Reporters often come and go quite quickly in the newspaper world. As the son of a publisher, I heard of and saw many reporters and editors come and leave The Sanford Herald while I grew up. I know where a few of them are now — Will Doran and Anna Johnson at the (Raleigh) News & Observer, Shawn Taylor at The Wake Weekly, Alexa Milan Boschini at Elon University, Jennifer Gentile at Bee Page One in Charlotte, R.V. Hight at Central Carolina Community College — and a few of them disappeared into the mist like Shane leaving Bob Starrett behind. It’s just part of the journalism business these days.

I want to take this opportunity to thank a couple people and share a couple things I’ve learned since I started at the News + Record in December 2018.

• Everyone who has sent me a message complimentary of my reporting. Whether it was a tweet or an email or a phone call, every single one was appreciated and will be remembered in one way or another.

• Everyone (thankfully much fewer) who has sent me a message criticizing me or my reporting. While some of the criticism was unfounded, it’s humbling to remind yourself that sometimes you just aren’t as good as you think you are.

• The communications specialists, PIOs and community contacts who have been super helpful in making my transition to Chatham as smooth as possible: Debra Henzey, Kara Dudley, John McCann, Mike Zelek, Vanessa Jenkins and many more.

• My journalism and writing instructors and supervisors who have taught me so much over the years: R.V. Hight, Colin Donohue, Janna Anderson, Guy Roberts, Gregory Mancini, Vincent Healy and many more. And my mother, a former English teacher.

• And my dad. Not enough space here to say why. Just trust me.

I’m not a Chatham County expert by any stretch of the imagination, but as a reporter, you learn a few things along the way. You speak to people and embed yourself in situations where you can’t help but get to know a community a little bit. So here’s a couple things I’ve learned.

• Journalism is not dead in Chatham County. The people at the News + Record are working so hard to make this newspaper the best in the region. The new hires we’ve made in recent months have been stellar at fitting into the team and making a difference. Heck, we’ve got a TikTok account now. Two years ago, who would have thought the Chatham County newspaper would have a TikTok?

• Do what you care about. I’ve written several times about mental health and I’ve loved every time. I did it when I first got here and I’m doing it here in my final edition with a pair of pieces about PTSD. It’s been a blessing to have the opportunity to write about what I care about. It reminds me of how Ferris Bueller describes driving his friend’s dad’s 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California — “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”

I’m going to miss writing for this newspaper. But I’m also excited about my new job. You’ve seen me write dozens of stories over the last 18 months about health in Chatham — particularly related to mental and youth health. It’s my hope that I’ll be able to continue to serve you, residents of Chatham County, in that same way. Because while I might be “selling out,” I’m “selling out” for a good cause: helping improve the public health of Chatham County by communicating how that can happen.

If that’s “selling out,” sign me up every time.

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