I’m not the sentimental type, so I’ll just dive right in.
After having the privilege of being the primary columnist for The Sun News for the past decade, I will be relinquishing this post this week. Friday will be my final day.
I’m making the move now for a variety of reasons, including that things in my family’s life lined up well enough to make it feasible and a bit necessary.
Mostly, though, as I told a friend, I simply have other things I need to do and have put them off for far too long. I will still be writing, including finishing up a book I’ve been working on in a haphazard fashion, as well as a few pieces for national outlets. And I’m probing other possibilities that might mean more teaching and lecturing and restarting a seminar created years ago to deal with the thorny issue of race for churches, schools, businesses and other groups. (If you are interested in learning more about that, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Facebook or via Twitter at @ijbailey.)
I have one more offering, though, a five-part series about the criminal justice system that is scheduled to be published in The Sun News beginning Sept. 20. It is an issue I’m passionate about and will help shape my post-newspaper life.
There are too many people I need to thank so I won’t list too many names, except for our executive editor, Carolyn Murray, and publisher Mark Webster, who took the fire every day from passionate readers upset by something I had written. I could not have done my job the way it needed to be done without their willingness to do that.
And, of course, there’s my brilliant wife of 17 years, Tracy Bailey, founder of Freedom Readers literacy non-profit and perfect mom. I’m not sure I can do much of anything without her.
My 18 years here, beginning as a part-time reporter, part-time calendar clerk, have been challenging and extremely rewarding.
I appreciated all the feedback I got from readers, including those not too happy about something I had written, but especially those who often provided quiet support during particularly difficult moments.
It made me a better journalist. Thank you for that.
People have allowed me into their homes — literally and figuratively — while they were dealing with some of life’s great struggles, including Devin and Paige Pate of Aynor as Devin fought and eventually succumbed to a rare cancer; Brenda Williams, who was paralyzed while trying to stop a purse snatching at Kmart in Myrtle Beach; Johnny Smith as he fought unfair laws and regulations while trying to get his daughter back; the S.C. Mother’s Against Violence, who let me share the stories of their murdered children; a teenage girl who unflinchingly shared details of her sexual assault; and high-profile politicians in South Carolina who were often more candid off-the-record during shoot-the-bull sessions than for quotes.
I’ve disappointed people, individuals and groups, for-profits and non-profits, and received my fair share of threats. I won’t ever forget the man who said he had his shotgun ready for me if I printed his name. I did any way — because he was a thief — and that piece helped lead to the shuttering of what was a criminal enterprise.
I think maybe I made some folks happy and proud, too.
Mostly, I wanted people to think, to consider things anew, no matter how much they agreed or disagreed.
I believe it would have been a waste of space to do it any differently.
My motto is to purposefully offend no one while being unafraid to offend everyone if that's what it took to properly explore an issue.
In my post Sun News life, I plan to do the same.