Nathan Hansen: Goodbye, Independent Town Pages
I was never supposed to be here. Not this job. Definitely not this long.
I didn’t grow up dreaming of reporting the news. I never took a journalism class. I never wanted to break the next Watergate. I don’t even like Watergate. It exposed a massive government scandal, and I guess that’s important. But it’s also the reason every scandal since has to have a stupid Somethinggate name.
Last year a pop singer licked a donut and people called it Donutgate. That is a serious watering down of the brand.
I did my first real interview on my first day at this job. My boss at the time sent me across the street to write about a bank that had just opened. It was not, I think it’s safe to say, a very good story.
I’ve written something like 4,500 stories since then. I’d like to think they have gotten better. If they haven’t, I wish someone had told me before now.
Maybe you know where this is going. After 18 years and nine months, this issue of the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages is my last. My employer offered buyouts as part of some companywide changes, and I chose to take one.
It’s more than a little scary to make a change like this without knowing what’s next, but maybe it’s good to be scared every once in awhile. And I’ve never really been a fan of horror movies.
Change is good. It will be good for me to try something different after so long. It will be good for the paper, too. Somebody new will come in with a new perspective and a fresh energy. They will look at things differently than I would and see things I wouldn’t.
That’s important. Cities like Farmington and Rosemount need a newspaper that is committed to covering local news. Maintaining that paper has become an important part of who I am.
I’ve been present for some amazing stories over the years. I’ve been here for some heartbreaking stories, too. And some stories that were amazing despite the fact they broke my heart. Or maybe because of it.
I met people like Eugene Clay, who worked in newspapers longer than I’ve been alive. He kept a police scanner by his bed long after he’d officially retired and brought us photos of fires and other newsworthy events. Or Kim Budde, who is an amazing assistant principal at Rosemount High School and is the only person I know who has had her face carved in butter. Or Don Summers, who sometimes writes letters to the editor in verse and once brought me a happy meal just because I joked in a column that I wished someone would.
If you ever want to make people at a newspaper like you, bring them food.
I’ve had some wonderful co-workers in this office, and worked with some incredibly talented student interns. I’d try to name them all here, but I’m not sure which ones still read the paper, and I’d hate to say nice things about someone without getting credit for it.
There aren’t many jobs like this one. It’s an excuse to be nosy and an invitation to hear fascinating stories. I got to call up strangers and invite myself to their house and ask them lots of personal questions. I’m still amazed so many people said yes.
The job is exhausting and enlightening and frustrating and rewarding. It forced someone who grew up introverted to make connections all over town, and it allowed me to work in the schools and discover all of the wonderful things students can accomplish. That’s been my favorite part of this whole thing.
Maybe most important of all, for years this job has given me the opportunity to make stupid jokes for strangers. Without this column as an outlet, I’m certain my Facebook and Twitter feeds would have been even more insufferable.
My modest social media following thanks you.
It’s been a remarkable experience, and I wouldn’t change any of it.
OK, maybe I’d make it so fewer people would yell at me. And maybe I’d make some of the school board meetings shorter. But that’s it. Seriously.
I’m excited to find out what comes next — for me, for Farmington and Rosemount and for this paper. I’m sure there are great things ahead for us all.
In the meantime, thanks to all of you for reading and thank you for every nice thing you’ve ever said about this paper. It means more than you realize.