My second job after college was at the weekly South Lyon Herald. We covered a small town in southeast Michigan like a big, wooly blanket — as the education reporter, I did a two-page spread on prom, for example.
My editor there was Maria Stuart. It feels like ages ago for me, as I’ve moved numerous times, both my home and my job, in the 15 years that have passed.
Maria planted roots, though. She liked being a small-town editor and she built a life around her role at the small newspaper group.
She rolled with the changes when the Livingston County Press became the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, and the newspaper chain Gannett became the paper’s owner.
Today she’s adapting to new changes, having been laid off earlier this year. She and some of her former coworkers have formed Livingstontalk.com, a hyperlocal Web site reporting on the news of Livingston County, a formerly rural area that’s now home to commuters heading both to Detroit and Lansing.
Maria finds the positive in getting laid off:
I didn’t know it then, but I know the truth now: In those first few weeks, I began to remake my life. I was born again, a new soul from the chaos, this time to a life lived differently.
For some, working at a mad pace at jobs we profess to love is a way to keep our distance from our hearts and homes. For me, my job loss booted my butt down the path of a different, better way of life.
She is open and honest about the hurt of losing her job, mixed with the optimism of seeing the opportunity to try something new. That’s part of why I hold it up as a lovely story of reinvention — sometimes we find ourselves in these times of mixed blessings.
Maria’s bittersweet column on launching Livingstontalk.com says:
No one goes into community journalism for the money. It’s the love of the work; the privilege to advocate for the communities in which we’re raising our families. It’s being invited into people’s hearts and homes so that we may give voice to the stories of their lives. I’ve been humbled by the grace with which some people move through unspeakable tragedies. I’ve learned lessons in humanity and faith and kindness; I’ve shared in people’s great accomplishments and deep despairs. I am eternally grateful for the way this community has embraced me, and for the honor of being part of it.
Plenty of people have left journalism after the massive job cuts in newspapers in recent years. That Maria remains committed to it, and to finding a new way to continue serving her community, moves me.
I wish good luck to all journalists looking for the future of our profession — especially to an editor who showed me patience and support when I was just finding my way.
Another time, I’ll share one of my favorite Maria stories — she gave me advice on my love life that I continue to pass along, always giving her credit.