This has been a difficult week for me, as tomorrow (Friday) will be my last day working fulltime for The Athens NEWS. This weekend, I am packing up my apartment and shipping off to Harrisonburg, Virginia, to move in with my partner.
It has been such an honor to live and work here, covering issues that matter to Athens city and county residents. As an Ohio University student, I rarely traveled off campus, let alone outside of the city limits. In the last year and a half, I have learned so much about this community and all the wonderful things happening here. What’s more, I now have a better understanding of what it means to be a good journalist.
Unlike many other communities where I’ve lived in the past, Athens has a certain energy that makes one feel at home. I’m going to miss the public art scattered throughout the city, the events (especially in the summer) that bring so many of us together in one place, and the many friendly faces I often get to see while roaming the uptown area. Of course, there’s also a special place in my heart for the local eateries and bars that I won’t find anywhere else.
Just from what I’ve seen in the short time I’ve spent here, I can tell that Athens residents care about this place more than most people I’ve met elsewhere care about their hometowns. It’s interesting to hear how much hope and pride people here have for a place so small and oft forgotten by the world around us, while many people in places like Dayton, Ohio, and Kalamazoo, Michigan can’t wait to abandon ship. Perhaps I just never met the right people in those other places to see the community pride, but here it seems like everyone I meet is one of those “right” people.
Working with Editor Terry Smith and Associate Editor Conor Morris has been such a wonderful experience, and they’ve each taught me so much about writing and reporting. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that good journalists don’t exist because here, at least, they do, and they work very hard.
These guys at The Athens NEWS really do care about this community and the people in it, and they commit every day to informing readers about what matters most, as accurately as possible. It’s not an easy job, and an occasional moment will generate the urge to throw a computer at a wall, but they don’t quit. I’m grateful to have been part of such an amazing team.
Although my plans to leave have been a long time coming, this week snuck up on me. I’m excited to start a new chapter with my favorite person, but I’m also disappointed. I love this town more than I can explain, but those who share that love understand: It pains me to say goodbye.
Editor’s note: No doubt about it, we will miss Kayla in our small news team, and wish her all the success, fortune and happiness in the world in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, where she’s moving. She has grown tremendously as a journalist since joining The Athens NEWS in mid-December 2017. She has improved this newspaper while making our newsroom a more enjoyable place to work. If you see the Kayla Beard byline in The NEWS going forward, it will be because she’s taking an occasional local freelance assignment for us, from her remote location. – Terry Smith