A year ago, my editor Jan Winburn had challenged me to dig deeper into a story about a road trip I had taken with my father. It meant exposing a complicated relationship, trying to build with words a bridge from my private loneliness to a public narrative.

That story changed my life. As reader after reader wrote to tell me they could relate, I realized, for the first time, that my isolation was my own creation. A series of vivid dreams signaled me to write more of my own story, so I began, bit by bit. But with a full-time job, my memoir was slow going. Still, I understood that my personal history, even if my daughters turned out to be the only ones to read it, would be my most important story. The buyout offered paid time to get it done.

When I turned in my voluntary separation forms, Jan hugged me, and we both cried. She told she believed the best for me. I told her, “You’re like a parent who raises children so they can leave and make it on their own.”

All those stories, all those years, all the people I learned alongside— they raised me to try, to risk failing, to write no matter what.

With their support, I’m trying something different. I’m going to miss them terribly. I will never replace those who helped me grow as a writer, and, in so many ways, grow up.



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The steady drip of layoffs and buyouts, slowly desiccating once-vibrant newsrooms around the country, has also produced a reservoir of anger, sadness, fear, uncertainty—even some cautious optimism here and there—among reporters and editors who invested years, decades in some cases, of their lives to print journalism. We’ve asked anyone so inclined to channel these emotions, not into rant—although there will be a bit of that—but rather into reflection on what went wrong, and where we might go from here. We will publish these periodically under the headline “Parting Thoughts.” All of the letters we publish will be collected here.

 

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Michelle Hiskey started as a stringer for the Prince George's County (Md.) Journal at age 16. She's taught at the Poynter Institute and National Press Club. She's working on a memoir.