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Then There's This: Final Column

Do not stand at my grave and weep – I'm just heading off into the unknown

By Amy Smith, Fri., Aug. 22, 2014

The <i>Chronicle</i> cover my first week on the job
The Chronicle cover my first week on the job

The hyperventilating started on Monday. That's when it hit me that I was entering the home stretch of my journey here at the Chronicle. Next Friday, Aug. 29, is my last day, but "Then There's This" ends with this issue. Yikes!

Two months ago I summoned up my courage and told my two immediate jefes – News Editor Michael King and Managing Editor Kimberley Jones – that I would be saying farewell at the end of August. Two months seemed like plenty of time to begin the physical and emotional exit process, and I figured I would spend some of that stretch leisurely cleaning out my desk, clearing files, and sending spam emails to people in my list of contacts, to let them know I was leaving. I envisioned posting news of my pending departure on my Facebook page as part of an exciting two-month buildup to my last day. But I got busy and never got around to anything more than just telling some friends and regular sources, and anyone I happened to come across during the course of my workday. I am flattered that a few folks have expressed genuine remorse about my leave-taking. Thank you for that. And thanks for reading.

Anyway, after I gave notice I went back to work as if, la-di-da, nothing had happened. I never fully processed leaving the place that's served as the basis of my professional identity for the last 18 years. Hence the onset of hyperventilation, which this week has been sneaking up on me at the most inconvenient moments. Breathe, I tell myself. Just breathe.

Before I write myself any deeper into this rabbit hole of a column hole I'm trying to fill, let me say that I plan to freelance for the Chronicle in the near future. So all is not lost for the three or four of you who are lamenting my departure. In the meantime, the News section will carry on just as it always has – under the immensely talented and wise King, who I am proud to call a friend and confidante in spite of our occasional political differences. Staff writer Richard Whitta­ker, our resident Renais­sance man, will continue churning out copy with characteristic ease. I'm especially excited about the addition of new voices in the News mix. You've no doubt already noticed the byline of Associate News Editor Mary Tuma, a former staff writer for the San Antonio Current, who recently joined the Chronicle staff and hit the ground running with her coverage of the HB 2 trial. As well, proofreader Amy Kamp has started branching out with more news writing, and I hope to see a lot more from that Amy after this Amy has left the building. I'll miss my heart-to-hearts with officemate Brandon Watson, who went from assistant news editor to food editor in short order.

FAQ

So, why am I leaving, exactly? Because it's time. I have no idea what's next for me – the mystery is both exhilarating and terrifying – but I like the idea of starting a new chapter. Plus, I like the notion of spending long weekends playing Scrabble with my 97-year-old father in Dallas. I've been blessed to have worked for this paper all these years. My heart swells when I tell someone I work for the Chronicle and their eyes light up with joy. I'm always amazed how some people get misty-eyed when they talk about how much they rely on us for all things news, music, film, food, and arts. Daily newspaper reporters seldom get that kind of reception. I do appreciate that readers rely on our candidate endorsements to help them in their voting choices, although there've been times when I wished they'd continue researching the candidate before making a decision at the ballot box. Hell, there've been times when I wished we'd done more research on a candidate before making a recommendation, but we do the best we can.

Orientation Week

My first week at the Chronicle was one of the happiest of my career. I started work on Sept. 3, 1996, the week that the paper was celebrating its 15th anniversary (and yet another anniversary is around the corner as I leave). Publisher Nick Barbaro and Editor Louis Black were wearing ear-to-ear grins and swapping inside jokes, which I didn't get, but I laughed anyway. Advertisers and other well-wishers were sending over giant baskets of food and wine. Staff morale was sky-high and I figured it had always been that way and always would be that way, but I was wrong, of course. The anniversary issue that we put out that week (I say "we" even though I didn't have a computer my first week), remains one of my favorites. Barbaro is on the cover, replicating a similar moment in time. Only in this photo the creek is dry.

In his "Page Two" column in that issue, Black explains the story behind the cover photo and reminisces a little on the weekly's history. But, as he wisely noted, "The Chronicle cannot be about the past alone, it must be about the present and the future."

Thanks for the memories, you guys.

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