One year ago, Southern Neighbor Magazine published its first edition with myself as editor. It came out pretty enough, but it was a rough endeavour.
Deadlines swirled around my head, I didn’t schedule photoshoots in time, I had to reinvent the wheel when I designed the pages because I forgot how any of the software worked — the term “uphill battle” doesn’t begin to describe it.
But then the magazine was in boxes. The red ink that filled the printed strawberries on the front was nearly too saturated for the page, but I saw something. I saw a platform for this community, I saw what Southern Neighbor was always meant to be. And from then on out, I worked my hardest to have it be a megaphone for voices from this community.
And one year later — twelve months, eleven deadlines, a few (just a few) tears and probably a few too many typos — my time as editor of this magazine has run out.
Southern Neighbor is a student-led publication. The stories you read, the photos and designs you see and the effort that sews it all together are from students’ hands. And as I am finishing my last semester at UNC, so am I finishing my tenure as editor of Southern Neighbor. This letter is the last thing I’ll pen for the magazine.
It’s sad, to say that least, to be leaving Southern Neighbor. I’ve had to part with so much from my college career lately — the comfort of a lecture hall, friends, my previous conception of youth — but leaving the world of student journalism has been especially hard.
I wouldn’t have been able to get where I am today without all the editors along my path encouraging me, without my friends understanding when I had to ditch them to cover breaking news and for the amazing staff writers and photographers I’ve been blessed to be able to work with these past four years. This past year wouldn’t have been what it was without my incredible management team, our writers or the myriad of people in the community I’ve met in the pursuit of community journalism. Without all of you — columnists, community leaders, business owners — this journey wouldn’t have been anywhere near as sweet.
So what’s next? Though I won’t be around to check up on this publication that became so close to my heart, Southern Neighbor is more alive than ever. I’m from the North (way North, like killer whales on the beach North), and I noticed very quickly when I moved to North Carolina what a “southern neighbor” was.
A southern neighbor has enough food for all the neighbor kids on a summer evening. A southern neighbor raises their right hand oh so slightly off the steering wheel to salute the passing car. A southern neighbor makes you feel welcome.
In my all too short twelve months, I met and spoke with business owners and community members that could use Southern Neighbor as a platform for their voice. With our community column series I hoped to create a space for people to share what was important to them. I sought after stories that highlighted parts of this community that aren’t always visible. I wish I could have 12 more months, and then 12 more, to continue these efforts. Not only did I want to create Southern Neighbor, but I also wanted to be a southern neighbor to whomever this publication touched.
We’ve always tried to cultivate a sense of community and familiarity with this publication. Now more than ever communities must band together to support one and other, and I hope — even in the most minute way — Southern Neighbor has helped in that endeavour. My greatest hope is that we did something that affected this community — its people, businesses and groups — in a positive way.
Though I will miss the landscape of student journalism, I know it is rife with the problem of institutional knowledge. My editorship was set at one year, I tried to absorb as much institutional knowledge as I could, learn as much about the infinite communities that dot our readership as I could, but I know in ways great and small I probably failed. The communities I tried to spotlight were only the larger needles I could find in the haystack. For everyone else, I lament not being able to tell your stories.
I might be stepping off the helm of this publication but I promise, for me, that hope to illuminate everyone’s stories doesn’t end with Southern Neighbor. I’ll always be here, trying my best to make a difference.