Return to reporting was just what my stalled career needed

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The past year has helped me rediscover writing and photography. Why I took an eight-year break from it I will never know. Above is Jean Penney Harris of Clemans View Farms in Naches.

Originally published in May 2017 (updated)

If you haven’t seen me around town as a reporter over the past year, you’ve probably at least seen my byline.

I’ve been on the Business Times staff since September 2016, handling a mix of production and editorial responsibilities. For the past 12 months or so, I’ve been the only byline on our pages.

In early 2017, I was tasked with developing most, if not all, of the local content for the Business Times, coordinating our two other publications and laying out the pages. Oh, and some ad design, too. But help arrived in the spring and I have transitioned into a full-time editorial role. That new-found freedom has allowed me to spend more time producing the kinds of local stories you won’t find elsewhere in the Valley.

Did you know about the new restaurant going in where the Black Angus used to be? (It’s going to be a gourmet Asian buffet by next summer.) Or how about the new boutique fitness club, Iron + Mortar, off Nob Hill that opened just before the new year? Or the new youth indoor soccer facility on Sixth Street that is being unveiled in early January?

I love talking to people and telling their stories, so having a chance to do this kind of work again kind of soothes my soul. I also enjoy being a source of information, and this job has shown me a whole new side of the Yakima Valley that I never knew during my first nine years here. I worked nights and weekends on the Yakima Herald-Republic copy desk, so I didn’t have many opportunities for community interaction.

Prior to my time in Yakima, I was a sports writer and page designer in Hood River and Roseburg, Oregon, so sitting at a desk for 40 hours a week doesn’t exactly suit me. I enjoyed my time at the Herald, but the late-night hours and a creeping feeling of stagnation led me to take a marketing position in early 2016. Not a fit.

So I took the summer to figure out a new path. My job search led me back to the only other print publication in town, the Business Times, where I was hired to do production work and some reporting. One or two stories per issue turned into six or seven, and before long I was the managing editor, a position I had not previously held in my 16-year newspaper career.

I had managed sports sections and some newsletters in the past, but never three publications at one time. We’re down to two now, with the recent closure of the monthly Review-Independent, but my editorial calendar hasn’t eased. I’m still writing 8 to 10 stories per edition for the Business Times, plus more content for our monthly Senior Times paper.

And you know what? I love it. It’s so cool to be on the front lines again and receive such positive feedback from our readers. It really means a lot when someone calls or emails to tell me that my story made them feel like a rockstar. Or maybe they just enjoyed reading what I wrote. I get those, too.

That’s honestly why I do this kind of work. Building people up and being a trusted source of information is all I’ve ever wanted to do. No wonder every personality test I’ve done comes back saying my ideal career path is journalism. It’s just who I am.

That being said, I doubt I could ever find the same satisfaction doing any other kind of work. My options in the journalism field may be more limited than they were 10 years ago, but I believe there will always be opportunities to write and take photos. I may even start my own publication someday.

But for now I’m at the Business Times, and I can’t think of much else I’d rather be doing. We are a true community newspaper, and we are considered the source for what’s going on in the “real Yakima.” (Not my words. Ask around.) There are lots of great stories coming my way every day, and I look forward to passing on all of Yakima’s hidden gems to our readers for a long time to come.


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