ABOUT 15 YEARS ago, when the newspaper industry was first undergoing convulsions, I started thinking maybe I should get out of the profession while I could still leave on my own terms. Actually, I obsessed over it.
The problem was that I couldn’t imagine doing anything else, because I had the best job in the world: I get to spend the time I need to understand the most critical challenges facing our state, explore ideas with some of the brightest minds in our state, figure out practical ways to address the problems, and share my ideas with The State’s readers. And sometimes, policies get changed for the better as a result of all that.
Finally, I decided that I could not stop doing the job I love — but also that I couldn’t continue to live with the anxiety about my future. So I pledged to never even think about what I would do if I were not at The State. When the day came that there was no longer a place here for me, then I would think about what happens next.
That day came on Tuesday. What happens next begins Sept. 1.
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I had intended to say my good-byes to all of you then, in a column that would focus on the biggest challenges that remain for our state. But South Carolina is a very small state, particularly the political part of South Carolina, and word got out … quickly. I’m very sorry if you heard this from someone else instead of me.
I still hope I will get that final column written about our state’s future, and I have three more columns I had already written, which I will run in the next week: about the lottery, an aspect of the Legislature’s power that we haven’t talked much about and Rep. James Smith.
But today I say my good-byes. And my thank yous.
This newspaper, through a succession of publishers, has given me this forum for nearly 20 years to express my political opinions, with no allegiance to any person or political philosophy. I can count on one hand the times I was discouraged from writing something; it was never on a topic that I believed was vitally important to our state. I could probably count on one hand, two at most, the number of people I know who have been so privileged. So thank you to The State, and especially to my longtime editor, mentor and friend, Brad Warthen, who sadly had to write a similar column nine years ago.
Most of all, thank you to you, everyone who has read my columns, either loyally or sporadically, for inviting me into your mind. For allowing me to serve as a tour guide through our government, to challenge your preconceived notions. Sometimes I offended you, and you let me know — occasionally in crass terms, but usually quite civilly. Mostly, your responses to me have been positive — and amazingly kind and gracious and supportive.
Human beings have a tendency to remember the negative so much more vividly than the positive, and so it was difficult to remember, when I was reading that one insulting email, the 30 encouraging and even at times grateful ones I had read just before it. Please remember this in all aspects of your lives: Most people are good.
Newspapers the nation over are making a rapid transition into an all-digital future, and right now, there’s not a huge market online for fact-based opinion journalism, particularly when it isn’t extreme, or at least aligned with one side in our culture wars. People like me the nation over are trying to find ways to maintain their integrity, and their pragmatism, while creating a stronger following, and I wish them nothing but the best with this. Unfortunately, the next round of layoffs came too soon for me.
The good news is that there is a strong and growing online market for fact-based, local reporting, and I urge you to support the reporters here who provide you with that every day, under difficult circumstances. Their work, and the work of others like them across the state and nation, is vital to our republic.
When I made that decision to stay in the profession I loved, I started praying that this would remain a job that I wanted to do and that I was able to do, and if not, that God would help me to prepare for whatever comes next. I asked God for that every day for the past 15 years.
I have no idea what next is, but I trust that God has helped me to prepare for it. Whatever it is.
Ms. Scoppe writes editorials and columns for The State. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook @CindiScoppe.