CULTON: Goodnight, and good luck

Published 9:27 am Friday, February 4, 2022

I’ve always kind of hated putting my own words to the page.

That might sound silly considering I write for a living, but in journalism, I found my niche — putting other people’s sentences in black and white print. I’ve found a home in other people’s stories — the brave, the tragic, even the sometimes silly.

When I use other people’s words to craft a piece, to digest them and make them make sense to the general public, my fingers glide across the keyboard, itching to put the story to the page. However, when it’s time to express my own feelings through the written word — be it a column, editorial or even an Instagram post — my paragraphs become jumbled, and I usually end up hating the way I sound.

So, I try to avoid it. But as I am currently putting together my last-ever editions with Leader Publications, I thought I would at least try to put in writing what these newspapers, my news team and the southwest Michigan community has meant to me over the last five years.

If that last sentence didn’t give it away, I am leaving the news business. I am moving to the metro-Detroit area to be closer to family and take on a promising new opportunity. While I am incredibly excited, the move is bittersweet as it means I am leaving behind the place I have called home since 2017 — the Leader Publications newsroom.

When I was just 21 years old, our wonderful publisher, Ambrosia Neldon, took a chance on me and hired me to be the reporter for the Cassopolis Vigilant and Edwardsburg Argus, later moving me up to be the reporter for the Dowagiac Daily News.

Though I feel I never lacked in spunk, I was far from perfect. I was inexperienced and made mistakes — a notable one includes misidentifying the mayor’s wife several times in a single article. However, Ambrosia didn’t give up on me — and neither did the communities we serve. Our readers held me accountable, but allowed me to learn from my mistakes and prove that I could be a competent and faithful representative of their words in the news. It was a responsibility I took seriously as a reporter, and even more seriously as a managing editor.

So many people from Niles, Buchanan, Dowagiac, Edwardsburg and Cassopolis took me into their communities with open arms. I am forever grateful that you all trusted me with your stories and allowed me to tell them. It was an honor to share in your triumphs, your heartbreaks and everything in between.

While I am thanking people, I have to thank the people who have meant the most to me on this side of the state — the Leader Publications staff. These are people who have been side-by-side with me through late, pizza-fueled election nights and countless crises. You guys made even the hardest days worth it.

To start with, I need to thank Ambrosia Neldon, who is a wonderful mentor and the hardest-working person I have ever met. I will never forget the chance you took on me and all the opportunities you gave me. You do so much for the community that goes unseen, but I hope you know that it makes a world of difference.

Next up is our tireless sports editor, Scott Novak. You have always made me feel welcome in the newsroom, even though I can barely parse together your sports-speak. I’ll miss your classic rock playlist and expert dad jokes. Also to our current reporters, Maxwell Harden and Ryan Yuenger, your reporting is top-notch and makes me proud of the products we put out into the world. Finally, customer service representative Donna “Disco” Knight. You are such a genuinely kind person, and I’m thankful that you are always here to bring joy to the
newsroom.

I could go on for days, but as print space is expensive, I’ll cut it short. I’m just grateful to everyone I have had the pleasure of crossing paths with over the last five years. This is a time in my life that I will cherish even as I head off into the next chapter.

One last thing before I go: if you are reading this and are not already subscribed to your local newspaper, please put this down and immediately go subscribe. Your local newsrooms work hard, and they need you — and you need them in more ways than meet the eye. Local newspapers are vital to the health of a
community.

Finally, I’m ready to give my keyboard a rest and say my last goodbyes. As I’m a print journalist, I’ve never needed a sign off, so for this, I will steal a phrase from one of the most famous reporters in history, Edward R. Murrow: “Good night, and good luck.”