November 1, 2012 | Vol. 116 -- No. 28

Three years and countless lessons

Write to the Point

By BECKY THOMAS

Staff Reporter

When I moved to Washington from Wisconsin nearly four years ago, I didn’t know how to pronounce Spokane, let alone Cheney.

Now I roll my eyes every time someone says “Chaney.” I usually know everyone at any given public meeting. I don’t ever get lost in this town anymore, even when someone sends me to the Bermuda Triangle, a.k.a. N. Second through N. Fifth streets.

After three years and a month as a staff reporter here at the Cheney Free Press, I’m saying goodbye. I never could have predicted all that I would learn here when I started in September 2009, so I’m not going to try to predict what’s going to happen next in my life. But I would like to take a moment to reflect on my time here.

First, I want to say thank you to everyone who has ever answered a really stupid question from me (I’m not going to list names because it would take up all 500 words of this column). When I first came here I had just six months of full time reporting experience under my belt, and I knew next to nothing about city governance, budgets, public records or interview etiquette. I learned a lot in all the meetings, interviews and hours of research, and I’m grateful for the patience and goodwill that was shown to me.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as a reporter here in Cheney is that the old saying is true: everyone, and I do mean everyone, has a story. Usually the best stories and most amazing accomplishments come from people who don’t think they’re anything special. The experiences I’ll treasure are the hours spent talking with a person one on one, long after I thought I got everything I needed for the story. I learned to be patient, to really listen and to use the details, the little gems hidden in everyday situations, to try to bring stories to life in writing.

Cheney has a lot to be proud of. There have been times when I wrote critically about one thing or another in this city, and it’s definitely not perfect, but overall I would say this city has improved tremendously since I’ve been here and there’s potential for so much more.

As far as the economy goes, businesses have come and gone, but I’m so happy to see more locally owned businesses springing up, especially downtown. Restaurants and shops encourage people to gather, support the economy and promote community. Especially in Cheney, it’s so great to see students and old-timers rubbing elbows in coffee shops. That just did not exist three years ago.

In general, I think the city and the Cheney School District are serving their constituents well. I’ve grumbled countless times about the lack of community attendance at important public meetings, but that’s also a sign that people are content (or too lazy to do anything). It’s always good to remind your elected and taxpayer-funded officials who they work for, though, so readers, go attend a meeting or two. Do it in memory of me and my griping.

Finally, I would like to thank everyone who ever gave me a word of thanks or encouragement for my work. For every 16-hour day and every angry call, there was a kind and thoughtful note, email or comment that kept me going. There are things I won’t miss about this job, but I will miss many, many wonderful people who have touched my life forever. Thank you.

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