Yellow Farmhouse, White Rocking Chair

By Kayleigh Rahn
It was a small off-white card taped to the cement wall of Colleen Lehmann’s office.

I’d been in the office once before as a sixth grader from Mrs. Fogerson’s class while job shadowing Colleen as a journalist. Though this particular card did not strike me as a child.

It wasn’t until years later when I reported for my first day of work at The Journal that I noticed this particular notation. 

It wasn’t a traditional motivational poster quote or a reminder of office birthdays. 

No, this card hanging at eye level above Colleen’s computer was covered in beautiful handwritten script and simply stated:

1. Is it the truth?

2. Is it fair to all concerned?

3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?

4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

I would later learn these questions to be the Rotary International Four-Way Test, a way of life for Rotarians, who I would eventually become, and the foundation for my work to come.

To be perfectly honest, when I was hired to take on the role of editor leading my hometown newspaper, I was in over my head. Colleen and her family were ready for their next adventure, and I was honored to be considered to fill such large shoes within our community.

The evening following my first day at The Journal, I was lying in bed listing off my new responsibilities as William listened. I’m unsure of what I expected him to say, but he simply stated, “Are you sure you’re ready for this?”

The short answer was no, but I was willing to give it my best shot. With these four questions on my heart, I was determined to become a community journalist and for half a decade I never looked back.

Now, after exactly five years of work, 260 editions, and more than 550 stories written about our communities, I’ve decided to pass on my editorship. And, honestly, I feel as though I was just hitting my stride.

This will be my final edition as editor as next week I’ll begin a new career. However, I have full intentions to continue writing and contributing to this publication. 

When I submitted my notice, I was hesitant and tearful, but I know in my heart that simpler hours will be incredibly beneficial as Nora continues to grow, and at the end of the day William and Nora are my priorities without question. I know our family has great opportunity on our horizon, and, for now, I feel pulled to take it.

Nevertheless, it’s been incredibly tough to let this work go.

During these five years, we have redesigned The Journal’s cover to provide a fresh look, created new series, and expanded our digital footprint. Though, despite the changes, I know this work and this publication have changed me more than anything I’ve attempted to change about it. 

And I’m honestly better, in every way, for it.

Now, of course, in hindsight, I realize the Four-Way Test was not properly answered with every report we published during my tenure, but I hope I’ve made clear that intentions were aligned if execution was lacking. I’m proud of our work each and every week. I’ve said before that we are not perfect, but we certainly do our best to compile our communities’ first draft of history. 

I’m anxious for our new editor, Kendra Hennis, to make her mark and to continue the stellar work coming out of our office. I have no doubt she will do great things for two communities near and dear to her heart.

William, Nora, and I will remain community members and plan to attend all of our favorite events within the county. We are simply ready to focus on our family and home, for now. 

I have no intention of giving up my volunteer work, and I’m excited to watch the great organizations, programs, and events in our county continue to evolve and grow. 

I’m so grateful to the Tuscola and, now, the Villa Grove, communities for picking up our publication each week. I’m thankful for the Hastings family who took a chance on a green journalist with a heart for newsprint. The things I’ve loved most about this job are, of course, the people, and I know that sounds cliché; however, the beauty of my job is that “the people” are not portioned to simply one area of town. 

This job has required coordination with not only every corner of our city but within our county, as well. And I do not mince words when I say this county is filled with thoughtful, talented, and dedicated humans who have become not only sources but also close acquaintances and dear friends. 

Good people are doing so much good work every single day, and it’s been a privilege to share these good deeds with others.

I plan to carry the Four-Way Test with me into my next adventure. It’s a simple reminder that simple decisions can cause great change, carelessness has implications, and kindness will take you further each and every time.

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