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Seven years into my journalism career, I needed a change.
The late nights and weekends and stress of deadlines had worn me down.
I had covered so many deaths, murders, wrecks, accidents, fires and more in my hometown I could rarely drive down a road and not recall a tragedy.
While I spent most moments eating, breathing and living news, stories I had wanted to write for myself kept getting pushed back.
Eventually, I took a deep breath, set a plan in motion and said goodbye to the news biz.
I loaded my vehicle with a few essentials and headed west alone. I drove along interstates and back roads, taking in sights of Americana.
I took photos. I wrote poems. I wrote stories. I wrote and wrote and wrote.
I ended up in California where my adventure caught up with friends before I headed north up Highway 1 along the coast.
I saw things I never dreamt I would.
My adventure took me across the Canadian border. At every stop I hammered laptop keys—two long-buried book plots spilled from me for hours after driving and while night became morning.
I never imagined in three months it would all come to an end when my mother’s sudden death along a cold Kentucky roadway would call me home.
Trying to rebalance life and figure out who I was again, I turned back to what I knew—news.
I spent months as a roving reporter and editor for Landmark Community Newspapers, the parent company to The Brunswick Beacon. It is the same company that owns my hometown paper, The Kentucky Standard, where I cut my journalism teeth.
As I eyed an opportunity in Canada, my boss suggested I come to North Carolina, just to take a look, he said, at a great community newspaper on the coast.
It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with southeastern North Carolina and The Brunswick Beacon.
And honestly, sun and surf trump cold and snowy Canada any day.
For seven years I’ve had a tremendously rewarding and challenging opportunity to lead this newspaper’s editorial team.
But it’s almost time for that to come to an end. I announced last month I’m leaving the Beacon on March 15—one more newspaper after this to go.
A new opportunity is before me. I’m joining the team of Wilmington-based Lower Cape Fear Hospice & LifeCareCenter as its public relations and communications manager.
I’ve said, “I’m so excited!” so many times, I’m tired of hearing it.
But really, I am that excited.
News has been my life for 15 years. It will be an adjustment to be on the other side of the news for a change, but hospice is a great organization and I feel called to take on this new challenge.
You’ll hear again from me before I go next week, but I wanted to tell you a little bit about changes ahead.
A familiar face is returning to the Beacon. Former Beacon staff writer Sarah Sue Ingram is going to fill in as the interim news editor until a full-time editor is found.
Sarah Sue, who lives in Holden Beach, has an acclaimed journalism career. I’ve been fortunate to get to know her—and learn from her—as I’ve worked here.
I’m confident under her leadership this newspaper will continue to be one of the best community newspapers in the state.
She got started this week and is busy helping edit the next two issues before she assumes the role full-time.
In the meantime, I’m loading up boxes, cleaning out cabinets and getting ready to say goodbye.
I’m vacillating between “I’m so excited!” and a part of me that wants to cry.
While this journey is coming to an end, I’m eager to see what’s on the other side.
And those stories I once took a chance to write? They remain untouched as they were the day I got the call my mother had been killed.
Once old friends, the characters and plots are strangers to me.
Lower Cape Fear Hospice has a campaign under way called “Before I Die.” What better way to start a new career than to join in this conversation?
What do I want to do before I die? Finish those stories.
Hopefully the beginning of this new chapter will give me what I need to finish those that remain untold.
Until next week, however, your stories, Brunswick County, are the ones I’ll continue to tell.
Stacey Manning is the Beacon’s managing editor. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 754-6890.