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Goodbye Turlock: Government reporter reflects on time at the Journal
goodbye liz pic
Journal reporter Elizabeth Arakelian took first place at this year's California Newspaper Publishers Association Better Newspapers Contest in the category of Agriculture Reporting. - photo by Journal file photo

Today is the last day that I will pick up a copy of the Turlock Journal and get that fluttery feeling when I see my byline. Nearly two years at the paper and that feeling has yet to wane. I love picking up the latest edition at the office or catching a glimpse of it in the racks outside the grocery store, always curious to see the headlines as if I wasn't a part of the editorial team. It is bittersweet to be leaving.

My chapter at the Turlock Journal is coming to a close as I am leaving to return to school this fall to pursue my master’s in journalism. When my editor requested I write a goodbye column, I was happy to take a moment to reflect on my time at the Turlock Journal and sincerely thank the community for their support over the past two years.

When I first started at the Turlock Journal I had practically no journalism experience except for a short stint as a sports reporter for my college paper — which I didn't particularly enjoy (though I think I downplayed that in my interview). Nonetheless, upon being hired at the Journal I soon realized that a degree in English Literature does not necessarily qualify one to be a journalist! It was slow starting, but I worked hard to learn the craft and was fortunate to have the support of my fellow editorial staff along the way. We really are a team in the newsroom and I loved those moments where we all sat at our desk typing away. Reporting is demanding in more ways than one, but I have found that if you have the heart for it, the rewards far outweigh the effort.

I have experienced many rewards in my time at the Journal, namely connecting with new acquaintances as well as familiar faces. I enjoyed watching the downtown develop and learning about so many events and traditions in our town I was not privy to before. As far as stories go, some in particular that stand out to me include covering the election of our new mayor and city council members last fall, following the development of the drought and its ensuing impact on our community, and traveling to Sacramento for a press convention and to connect with our local legislators.

Prior to covering the business and government beats I was the education and agriculture reporter. During that time I especially enjoyed covering local farmers who would drive me around in their trucks to different parts of their properties as they explained the difficulties they were facing and their predictions for harvest. Those are my favorite kinds of stories – when I get to step in the shoes of someone and experience their daily life. One of these stories I wrote titled "Farming Smarter with Less Water" even placed first in the California Newspaper Publishers Association's Better Newspapers Contest. I was surprised and honored to be recognized, but I was even happier to spotlight our local region when the Almond Board of California picked the piece up for their newsletter and website. I am very proud of Turlock and happy any chance I get to highlight our community and the good people that exist here.

Now that my time at the Journal has come to a close, there will be no more deadlines for me, no more city council meetings to cover, no more accosting people on the streets of downtown Turlock for the weekly Street Survey, and my consumption of coffee will likely decline. I know I will face new challenges as I adjust to a new city and return to school, but my experience at the Turlock Journal has given me the gift of confidence that I am moving in the right direction.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that I recently read a vignette titled "Journalism: A Love Story" by Norah Efron about her move to New York City in pursuit of a career in journalism after college. She arrived in 1962 with fervor to report, a feeling with which most new reporters can identify. She was thrilled to receive an interview at Newsweek and was told that she was hired – hooray! The catch? She would be a mail girl. Efron found out that women weren't journalists in 1962. Not in New York City. Not at Newsweek.

While it's not 1962 and I am not going to work at Newsweek, one thing Norah and I have in common is that I too am moving to New York and I too would like to be a journalist. Many things have changed since the Kennedy era and clearly I am living in a different social and political landscape than Norah. However, it is not lost on me what a privilege it is to have such witty and intelligent women go before me so that I can pursue a career in this industry. (Rest assured, Norah soon got a job at the New York Post and became an accomplished author and screen writer.)

I must say again a thousand thanks to those in the community who have been so supportive, commented on stories, pitched ideas or just came in the office to chat. Getting to interact and learn from so many people has been one of the chief pleasures of this job. I will always fondly reflect upon my time at the Turlock Journal, so thank you to my coworkers and the community that have made it such an unforgettable experience.