By Ben Peters
Athens NEWS Associate Editor
This week marks my last as The Athens NEWS’ associate editor. Next week, I’ll have moved to northern Virginia to be editor of Rappahannock News, a community paper in Rappahannock County whose newsroom sits inside a picturesque two-story residential home in the Blue Ridge Mountains’ gorgeous foothills located about 70 miles outside Washington D.C.
It’s a neat place that I’m very excited to learn inside and out. But it’s hard coming to grips with all the wonderful things I’ll be leaving behind in Athens. After all, this is the town where I found my passion for journalism, met many of my closest friends and years-long partner, and landed my first big boy job. The time I spent here will always occupy a special place in my memory.
When I started at The NEWS last June alongside former editor, Sydney Dawes, we knew there were big shoes to fill. In the end, I hope we were able to meet community expectations and carry on the paper’s long tradition of hard-hitting watchdog reporting of regional and university affairs. I know that ethos will continue to drive the publication in the years to come under the leadership of Corinne Colbert and Cole Behrens — two outstanding newspeople.
Covering Ohio University, my favorite beat on the job, was challenging. The goal I had in mind was to penetrate the institution’s culture of secrecy and understand the Board of Trustees and the Nellis administration’s tight-lipped executives so that faculty, staff, students, alumni and other stakeholders in the greater community could learn what those at the top were and weren’t being forthright about.
Sydney and I were successful to a certain degree in pursuit of that aim with a handful of stories thanks to the many incredibly sharp sources we developed, but there is still so much work to be done.
Beyond the university, it was also a treat to cover city politics and the affairs of state Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) in and out the statehouse. And while the pandemic was hard on everybody, including me, I did my best to try to help readers understand the unique circumstances of how the virus affected (and continues to affect) this small college town.
Of course, I owe a great deal to Sydney who hired me for the job, edited all of my stories, helped oversee the publication’s social media channels, managed all of the paper’s opinion content, and spent copious hours each week paginating the print product that allowed for our stories to shine on newstands. She was a great work partner and an even better friend who I wish the very best to at her new reporting job in Springfield.
And thanks to my friends and coworkers Cole, Corinne, Kaitlin Thorne and Alex Hulvalchick, who all ensured the newsroom was never dull. Also in need of shoutouts are former Athens News leadership Conor Morris and Terry Smith, who were both quick to answer the many messages I sent with questions throughout the year.
Lastly, thank you to the readers who gave me a chance and read my work. It’s tough to say goodbye, but I’m eternally grateful to have had the opportunity to serve this community.