I’ve always had a stronger than average affinity for my hometown, so when I told my friends that I'd accepted a job in New Hampshire I was repeatedly met with the same response: "I never thought you’d leave Buffalo."
In the back of my mind, I always knew I’d have to leave home one day if I wanted to push my career as far as I could, but I always assumed that time would come much later on. I was 23 years old when I was first hired at the Niagara Gazette and the prospect of writing for my hometown paper felt like the coolest thing that would ever happen to me.
The Gazette has been a fixture in my world for as long as I can remember. It was the paper my parents subscribed to my whole life. It was the paper that ran the Niagara-Wheatfield High School honor roll that my late grandmother so looked forward to clipping when my name would appear on the list. It was one of the first papers to publish my work when I was just starting out as a reporter.
I will be just shy of five years of employment at this newspaper when I clock out for the last time. My days at the Niagara Gazette have been tremendously influential in shaping who I am as a person, and as excited as I am for a change of scenery and a fresh start, there is a lot I will miss.
Leaving is bittersweet. It’s something I needed, but accepting that it was time to move on has been a real challenge. This place brought out both the best and the worst of me, but I'm leaving with more lessons, professional and personal, than I could have ever hoped for or expected.
I owe those lessons to each and every person who I’ve worked with over the last few years, from my editors Mark Scheer and Matt Winterhalter, who have always pushed me to do better and dig deeper, to my fellow reporters who have been friends, advisors and confidants, like Rick Pfeiffer and formerly Phil Gambini, who left the Gazette to start the next chapter of his own career in November.
I also had the pleasure learning from Michele DeLuca, who never missed a chance to make me feel good about the work I was doing and encourage me when I was feeling low, uncertain or unworthy. And of course there's Marlene D’Aloise, who always lent an ear when I needed it and who makes the best banana cakes I’ve ever had.
I can’t forget the incredibly talented Jim Neiss, who helped develop my eye for photography and who was never too busy to share his most recent shots with me or to discuss the latest episode of "Game of Thrones." And even though he hasn’t worked here for a while, I’d be remiss not to mention the great Don Glynn, who was always a fount of information and had the best stories to tell.
Though I didn’t work with them a whole lot, I’m going to miss our sports department, too. Mike Meiler and Khari Demos, you guys rock and I know you’ll keep up the great work. That sentiment also goes for the many friends I’ve made at the Gazette over the years outside of the editorial department.
On Saturday, I’ll be packing up my entire life, along with my boyfriend Ricky, our dog and two cats, to move to Keene, New Hampshire, where I’ll be starting as the Keene Sentinel’s politics reporter on Monday. (Yeah, I know. I missed the primary.)
The Sentinel has the very cool distinction of being one of the oldest papers in the country to continuously publish under the same name, having been founded in 1799. The history enthusiast in me is thrilled to have a chance to contribute to that legacy.
I have a lot to look forward to in New Hampshire, I can't wait to live in Keene, which by all accounts is a cool, walkable city with mountains and lots of wildlife nearby. I’m excited for quaint, historic New England towns and gorgeous fall foliage.
But for all that excitement, the closer I get to moving day, the more nostalgic I feel. I finally sat down the other day to sort through the massive stack of Niagara Gazette editions that had been accumulating in my office at home because I knew one day I’d want to clip some of the stories as mementos of my accomplishments.
Going through those papers was definitely a trip down memory lane. I reread stories from years ago and remembered how important they were to me and the people they were about. I remembered mistakes, triumphs, surprises and big moments that I’ll never forget. And most importantly, I saw how far I’d come.
Working at the Niagara Gazette, despite its many challenges and frustrations, has set me up to start this new chapter, and I’m confident I wouldn’t be taking this step if it weren’t for the experience I gained here.
To my colleagues, thank you for the guidance and encouragement. I’ll carry the lessons you all taught me for the rest of my life. To our readers, thank you for supporting us, thank you for paying attention and thank you for helping to make this the most memorable five years of my life.
Thursday was Mia Summerson's last day as a reporter at the Niagara Gazette. Reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.