This is my last issue as editor of Folio Weekly. I am deeply indebted to the colleagues, sources and readers who generously graced me with their talents, knowledge, support and tough love as needed (if not always wanted). It has been an honor and privilege to meet with you in these pages week after week.
When I took the helm of Northeast Florida’s premier alternative voice in February 2016, I was an especially green editor. Having never worked in a newsroom, let alone edited a publication, those early weeks were as exciting and terrifying as any I have known in my career. Looking back now, 138 issues later, I marvel at the faith placed in me, as well as the naïveté, optimism, passion and fear of the woman who was brave and foolish enough to believe she could follow giants and make a difference with a pen as her sword and truth as her shield. I am cautiously optimistic that she was right.
Much has changed in the 11 dozen weeks since I vowed to “kick some ass” in this space.
Some changes have brought joy, such as the February 2017 passage of an amended human rights ordinance to protect our LGBTQ brethren in Jacksonville from discrimination. On the national front, the long overdue and still in progress #MeToo movement has ushered in an era in which we are finally beginning to believe survivors of sexual assault and abuse when they tell their terrible stories. I’m confident we’re due a reckoning on this subject in our community, where changes come more slowly, but in time.
In the last few years, people who had been sitting silently and hoping better was around the corner have stood up and made themselves heard. Their stories of injustice and suffering have sparked much-needed debate about fairness, particularly as it intersects with race, justice and poverty.
Do not be afraid to have these difficult conversations. This job has underscored to me the fact that we do not have to agree to listen and try to understand each other. Through understanding, we may discover common ground.
Other changes have brought anger, terror and pain. The resurgence of white supremacy, with its parade of horribles crawling out from the shadows to seize the spotlight, has been humiliating and shocking. At present, though, the monsters seem to have slithered back to the fringes.
I am not yet convinced we have heard the last from them, however. I do not fear their return, for theirs is a losing cause. When/if that time comes, I urge you to try to recall that civilization is not well served when we meet hate with hate, and that love has a disinfecting effect. It can even change a human heart, such as that of the former Grand Dragon of a local Northeast Florida branch of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi we profiled in October 2016. In recent months, he has renounced racism and expressed regret for his role in sowing seeds of bigotry. If he can change, so can you.
The hatred that cascades from social media and spills across dinner tables and friendships is another chilling development. Tumult and division have elevated our civic discourse to an apex probably not seen since the 1960s; I believe we’re in the midst of another cultural seismic shift. I genuinely look forward to seeing its result.
The 31 months that have passed since I first greeted you here have brought me three birthdays, scores of friendships, countless laughs and lessons, and a few pounds courtesy of many hours at a desk, albeit standing up. I’ve been flattered, frustrated, intrigued and pissed off in spades. I’ve thrown the first pitch at a baseball game while wearing a banana costume—a good laugh is worth a little dignity.
Like my waistline, my skin was a bit thinner when I began; I can recall more than one time reader feedback sent me reeling into a spiral of self-doubt in those early months.
It’s a good thing that criticisms have a callousing effect when applied liberally and with regularity. This is not a complaint. As I told a group of professionals at a retreat this summer, the opportunity to take a lot of criticism can make you better; even deconstructive criticism has value and may have the ring of truth if you’re willing to hear it. I hope that has been the case for me.
As I depart with head high and humble heart, don’t think you’ve heard the last of me—far from it. I have delighted in being an editor, but it’s time I take the many lessons learned here and return to my roots as a writer and journalist.
This has been a particularly enriching and delightful chapter; as I turn the page, I look back with much warmth and few regrets. I will dearly miss you all.
Thank you for everything.