A columnist's goodbye
RALEIGH -- Over the last five or six years, when strolling into the Legislative Building, I often have been hailed with the greeting, "Got a real job yet?"
The office of Rep. Winkie Wilkins, a Democrat from Person County, sits near the main entrance of the building, and my path to the press room there typically carries me by it. Wilkins, a former newspaper reporter and editor, could rarely resist the friendly jab.
I can't blame him. He knew.
For the last 10 years, I have had the best job in journalism in North Carolina.
This is the last column that I will write for the Capitol Press Association. Later this month, I will be moving on to take a job with the North Carolina League of Municipalities.
Paul O'Connor, who wrote this column for 22 years prior to my taking over the position, will be back on an interim basis until a permanent replacement is named.
Saying that this is the best job in North Carolina journalism is not an exaggeration.
Besides writing the column, I have served as editor of The Insider state government news service over these last 10 years. In both roles, and for six years previously while working for the Associated Press, I have enjoyed a front-row seat to the best show in town, the craziness that is the North Carolina General Assembly.
During that time, I have watched some sad but historic happenings -- a state House speaker indicted and sent to prison, another House member expelled from the chamber, a governor facing criminal charges.
More recently, I've seen Republicans take the full reins of power in Raleigh for the first time in a century and a protest movement arising from that power shift that grabbed the attention of the entire country.
All of that is serious stuff, but the world of covering the legislature and state government has never been all knitted eyebrows and stern countenances.
There were late-night, punchy moments of levity (like the time I was gaveled down on the Senate floor while showing off a hand-held electronic video poker machine to then-Sen. Roy Cooper), the long-running annual press skits that poked fun at legislators and lobbyists, and snarky press room jokes.
But the great thing about this job was the column, being able to tell readers exactly how I saw the world of state politics, to throw out the occasional praise, but to more often call out "garbage" when I saw something as garbage.
It was a privilege and an honor to write, and much of what I had always aspired to do in journalism.
Hearing from readers, both those who agreed and did not agree with me, was one of the best parts of the job.
For the newspapers and editors who subscribed, I truly appreciate their support. Some of the positions that I took on issues surely did not jibe with their own editorial stances, but they understood the importance of the perspective.
Thanks for a wonderful ride.