I'm leaving The News, and I want to say thank you. (People accuse me of writing long; how's that for a short intro?)
Since I was hired by The News in February 2009 as an ignorant, fresh-out-of-college novice, I've experienced so many amazing things and grown so much as a writer and person.
My growth is not my own; it's a combination of the countless hours of help and support from bosses and co-workers and the exhausting patience of those in the community, who would set aside time for interviews that never ended on time and emails that routinely resembled in-depth questionnaires.
So, thank you for being kind, giving, trusting and open-minded. And thanks for your constructive criticism and challenging me to dig deeper, be fairer and write more clearly.
Come Monday, I'll be working in communications with a local biotechnology firm (I'm sorry for being ever-so-slightly vague, but you can have unlimited guesses or simply email or call me).
The new role is a great opportunity to be involved with a high-quality company that's involved in improving people's lives. And one of the best aspects for me is that I get to remain in Newton County. I hope I'll have a chance to remain involved and engaged and help where I can.
(This is a great time for me to insert a subhead. Man, I love subheads.)
Parting is such sweet sorrow
It's bittersweet to be leaving The News. I can't think of an easier way to become part of a community than by being paid to immerse yourself in it. A short while after I joined The News, I really began to throw myself into my work. I met people, talked to them, called them, went to meetings, covered events on evenings and weekends, visited churches and began making true friends.
I grew to care about the county, developing from an interested outsider into a person who knew the players involved, understood their struggles and realized no one had it easy - not the people making decisions and not the ones being affected by those decisions.
And if there's one thing I can say about government, is that's people probably don't give each other enough credit. Citizens and elected officials alike think the other side is out to get them. But I think people generally are trying to do the right thing.
I'll miss being the go-between; the person who tries to cut to the heart of issues to present them to citizens, while representing those citizens' concerns. I'll miss being intimately involved. I've always thought it would be satisfying to be a judge or mediator (after my experiences at the paper, I'm probably more qualified to be a therapist). In the end, I tried to use the power and influence I had for good.
The part where I say I'm sorry
As hard as I tried, I know that my writing, at times, unfairly hurt people. Reputations were damaged and lives were altered.
I've met many people who naturally assume that news reporters love negative stories about people screwing up. I get it. I read the news, too. However, I will say there's not a type of story that troubled me more than the ones about people who were allegedly doing illegal or improper things.
Don't get me wrong; there are a lot of people who messed up, were unabashed about their actions and deserved to be criticized publicly. But life is messy, and I ran into so many stories that devolved into amorphous, he-said-she-said messes that would leave me less sure of the facts than when I first began.
So, I know I got some things wrong. I'm sorry when I didn't do enough digging, whether it was because of laziness, cowardice or any other number of excuses.
The last subhead
If you're still reading, you either like my writing or are killing time. Either way, thanks. I really, really wanted this column to be witty and creative and meaningful. But I procrastinated and starting writing at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
So, let me see if I have any great insights to share. (Spoiler alert: I don't; you've heard these things before.) Life can be really complicated. When it's not, be just a little suspicious and then, if it checks out, be thankful. If people ask you for help, be willing, but put the onus on them to help themselves as much as possible and ask them to do as much of the legwork as they can.
Don't tell white lies. Learn when you're telling white lies. I've promised many a person I would look into many a thing. Most of the time, I meant it. Many times, I meant it but knew I wouldn't have time. I'm sorry for that, too. I can't tell you how many stories over the years I wish I could have written.
If you won't be sacrificing important time with family or causes near and dear to your heart, get involved. Join a committee, volunteer with your church or a local nonprofit or write a freelance story for the paper. Pick an area and make a difference. Listen, I'm not an expert here. I've just done some of these things and enjoyed them and think you might, too; some are definitely more meaningful than others.
(Let me take this opporunity to use some other advice I received recently and mention that today is the birthday of the wonderful wife, Jennifer (Rinko) Khouli, who is the love of my life.)
The plan is for me to keep my firstname.lastname@example.org email account active for at least a few weeks, so feel free to keep emailing if I can help (after hours) by providing info or passing info along to someone at the paper. But if you need help with a story, email the newsroom at email@example.com.
So, thanks again. I'll be around and all that jazz. The show must go on; the news certainly will. Or vice versa.
(Look at that witty ending; nailed it.)
Gabriel Khouli has covered local government, business and everything else under the Newton sun since February 2009. He's leaving, but he's sticking around in Newton County. He enjoys strategy board games, cards, movies of most genres (horror freaks him out) and plays (yes, that includes musicals). He's an interesting fellow.