After four great years, its time to say shalom to j. and journalism

“All my bags are packed and I’m ready to go … ” I always hear John Denver crooning in my head when I am about to embark on something new that takes me away from where I am. This is one such time.

On Aug. 10, I will clock out at j. for the last time. Soon I will work as a grant writer for an educational nonprofit called BUILD (www.build.org).

The career shift and job change have been a long time coming. Unless you live under a large boulder, you know it’s not an easy time to make a living on the written word. People aren’t willing to pay for what they read. Businesses aren’t advertising. News holes and budgets are shrinking.

None of this is encouraging to someone whose livelihood depends on people consuming and paying for what she writes.

This sad but true fact has other implications. It means we journalists — writers, editors, photographers, designers — are overworked, underpaid and disheartened on a daily basis.

My positive nature just couldn’t take it anymore.

I still harbor hope that you, dear reader, will continue subscribing to and enjoying j., because my departure

doesn’t mean I don’t still believe wholeheartedly that this community — and all communities — needs a newspaper (even if it’s just online) to connect people to ideas, and to each other.

Oct. 9 would have been my fourth anniversary at j. I may be leaving before that milestone, yet I remain grateful for the time my words have spent in your hands or at the mercy of your mouse.

I was 16 years old when I announced to my parents I would be a journalist. They probably smiled and exchanged knowing glances that said: She’ll change her mind, again and again.

But I didn’t. I pursued a journalism career because I wanted to give a voice to the voiceless, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, and because, quite simply, I loved the work.

J. has been a good home for my storytelling these past few years. Ours is a team of incredible editors, writers and designers, and it’s been fun to call them colleagues since I joined the staff.

The job has allowed me to interview famous authors, politicians, filmmakers and artists. It has twice taken me to Israel.

But my favorite stories have been those about “ordinary” people in our community. The lawyer who crusades for the release of a wrongly imprisoned woman, the volunteers who hold hands with the dying, the young couples who open up about challenges in their relationships.

The honesty and humanity they revealed to me — and I to you — will not soon be forgotten.

Perhaps the most valuable experience j. provided me was to reconnect me to my Jewish identity and introduce me to a vibrant Jewish community.

In my first column for j., published Sept. 7, 2007,  I wrote about how horribly lonely I had been in my previous jobs, which had me living in the high desert of Eastern Washington and the prairies of Iowa.

J. was an antidote to that isolation. Here, I was surrounded by Jews — not only in the office, but from every place I reported.

Gradually, these encounters resurrected the Jewish in me. As I became more knowledgeable about this deep and meaningful tradition of ours, I began to feel right at home in the community. I am confident this won’t change even as I change jobs.

I predict that I’ll miss pursuing this wonderful craft, but I have no doubt that I am making the right choice. I want and am ready for a new challenge.

Just the other day in the dimly lit Castro Theatre, a woman said to me as she passed, “Thank you for your writing. You don’t know me, but I know you.” My heart soared.

Along with all of my memories, I will take with me a stack of letters praising and criticizing my work. These say to me that my stories have moved some of you over the years.

For this, I am so grateful. Millions of crazy people try to — and do — sculpt a blank screen into a story, but very few have the honor and privilege of an audience. I’m a lucky one.

Thank you for reading.


Stacey Palevsky
can now be reached at staceydebra [AT] gmail [DOT] com.

 

Stacey Palevsky

Stacey Palevsky is a former J. staff writer.