Well, here we are.
It has been a wonderful – if shorter than planned – journey.
After a little over a year of working as an actual, real-life, boots-on-the-ground reporter in Lane County – I’m still pinching myself that’s a thing that happened – I’m moving on.
This is my last week at The Chronicle. I’m sure some people are celebrating right now at the thought of not having to read my stories anymore.
I know there are some who will miss my voice, snark, and storytelling though, too.
Well, you probably won’t miss it, actually, since there’s a great and dedicated team at The Chronicle who know how to run a tight ship – and I can tell you without any hyperbole that they care deeply about the product they produce and are constantly hustling for it.
I remember the first time I heard this “hyper-local” ethos, the mantra our newsroom hammers home – and the first time I really understood it.
Hyper-local looks like you.
Sure, it comes through in meetings coverage to photo assignments to interesting features and, my personal favorite – the data-driven and in-depth enterprise reporting, but it all reaches the same conclusion: to share what’s being swept under the rug, give you the information you need and to cheer you on.
It’s unique. It’s differentiating. It’s realizing that “refrigerator journalism” is serious business, not the tail end of a joke.
It’s about Sunday morning coffee, your grandkid’s graduation photo and that new business opening down the street.
It’s about recognizing our responsibility as reporters. If we miss a story, we’re letting down our readers and the community. Because if we’re not doing it, who is?
At its core, hyper-local journalism is about trust.
When I joined the staff here, I felt the divide between our newsroom and the communities we aim to serve. It was deep, and your distrust was understandable: we were new.
We’d relocated our office from Creswell. We were trying something different.
We were new to Cottage Grove, new to Springfield, new to this hyper-local model that reaches across town (and party) lines.
I understood that, and I tried in small ways to start building it.
It takes a lot to do the job and to do it right. To cover and report on local government meetings, working weekends to shoot photos during Creswell’s Fourth of July parade in the morning and the fireworks show late at night or having “normal” days where I leave to write for an extra hour or two after 5 p.m.
There are many reasons we choose to become journalists (money and fame not among them), but for me the constant has been the gratifying sense of community connection, telling untold stories and getting to know the people who make our community’s heart beat.
It started as a personal mission, but I’ve realized over the last year that it should be the mission of journalists everywhere: to build trust and foster relationships with readers.
And there’s no better place to do it than here. By community, for community.
I didn’t get to stay long, but in this short time I was able to connect with so many business and community leaders, from Creswell to Springfield to Cottage Grove – and I can easily sum up the welcome I received: heartfelt and kind.
I never expected to tear up at an unhoused man’s funeral.
To learn how to dig for documents.
To borrow a physical flashdrive to obtain those documents.
To laugh in moments that scared me and to reach out for connection even when it was hard.
To show up authentically, in all my mess, to write what I knew would matter.
To get nervous prepping for radio interviews and tough conversations.
To be proud of the pushback— to hear my name in the same sentence as “flashy,” “exaggerated,” and “sensationalist” — and know it meant I’d done something right.
This list will grow, with time, the longer I get to reflect on my year here.
Thank you for taking the time to read The Chronicle – whether it is following our election coverage, keeping up with our local sports teams, or picking up an “old-fashioned” hard copy of a newspaper.
We’re still evolving – like any good, self-reflective mission does, but please don’t give up on local news; it’s never been more important.
And show your appreciation for those who continue to do this work, instead of tearing them down for doing it differently than you would have.
Like me, they pour their hearts into the work and they will continue to, for you, for our communities, long after I bow out.
It means the world to us in the newsroom that you continue to want to be informed and engaged, especially in a world increasingly detached from what’s true and real, in favor of what’s easy to believe.
I’m headed to New York University to pursue a masters degree in journalism.
It’ll be a big change. But The Chronicle has taught me that the future never arrives when we’re ready.
Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this community. To learn, to grow, to be challenged, to live and breathe that hyper-local thing we’re always on about.
Because in the end, that’s my north star. I know it’s The Chronicle’s.
I hope it’ll be yours too.
Ryleigh Norgrove was a reporter for The Chronicle.