It’s been seven years since we began getting together in this space every other Friday.
I had recently retired from the University of Maine when state editor Rick Levasseur called to ask if I would be interested in writing a column for the Bangor Daily News.
“What about?” I asked.
“Anything you want, as long as it has something to do with Aroostook County.”
Well, it doesn’t get any better than that, so I offered a few sample columns and was accepted. Even better, I shared the space with fellow transplant to Aroostook, Julia Bayly, who filled it on intervening weeks, making the deadline schedule more than manageable.
I felt I had come full circle. My first job upon moving to Maine was as the Caribou area correspondent for the BDN, working out of the Presque Isle Bureau with bureau chief Dean Rhodes and full-time reporter Christopher Spruce.
It was a great way to learn about my new home. In addition to covering cops, courts, fires and local government, I could write a feature story whenever I wanted to know more about an interesting person or project. I met wonderful people and learned something new with every article. I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to ask people questions and write their stories.
That job led me to one editing the weekly newspaper in Caribou and eventually to the founding of an Aroostook-based quarterly magazine about rural culture. Reporting magnified my appreciation of the quality of life in northern Maine, where traditions and values that made our nation strong are still alive in a culture of hardworking people living close to the land.
Writing this bi-weekly column has been a similar experience, even though I struggled to stay within my 700-word limit. Writing about unexplored aspects of life in Aroostook has connected me to a host of interesting people, both interviewees and readers. Writing for you nurtured my love of journalism.
So it was with considerable sadness that I read the email from my new editor that began, “I am writing this note with a heavy heart …” telling me she had been asked to let me know this column would be my last, assuring me it was a business decision and was “in no way a reflection on your writing or column.”
In response to her invitation to write a “farewell to readers,” I want to say, “thank you.” Thank you for your emails, letters and comments on the street (and post office and stores and at events). I am grateful for your enthusiasm and your story ideas, and grateful to the BDN for bringing us together twice a month since August 2010.
We Mainers can be proud that this newspaper has been able to remain independent and family-owned since 1889. It is filled with strong news and feature stories about each region of the state, enough national and international news to keep readers up to date daily, and stimulating editorial and op-ed pages representing the diversity of its readers’ views.
I have had visitors from out of state pick up the paper and remark on the quality and amount of its content. My sister lives in a city of a million people and receives her corporate-owned daily newspaper at home only three times a week. She can buy it on the newsstand any day and receive it online for a price, but home delivery has been reduced and the percentage of staff-written articles is small, compared to our newspaper.
We are lucky that the BDN is still delivered to our homes daily and is available online free. The Bangor Daily serves its readers well, and the readers make the difference for a writer. It’s nice to have an article in a national publication, but reader response is sparse by comparison.
High on my list of New Year’s resolutions the past few years have been “Compile columns and essays into a book” and “Expand freelance writing.” Well, I just got the message that it’s time to get to work on these projects, but I will miss meeting up with you on these pages. It’s been great fun.