Farewell, and long live the Observer

After 12 years, Brian McMillan leaves the Palm Coast Observer and Ormond Beach Observer, but the show goes on.

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One of the first things I learned as a journalist is that you can’t stare at a blank page for very long. If you want to survive, you just have to start writing.

But this blank page has been one of my hardest, because it is my last as the executive editor of the Observer. After July 1, I’ll be working as operations manager for my friend’s Utah-based construction company; fortunately, I’ll still be living in Palm Coast, which has been my home for the past 12 years.

The editorial side of the Observer is being left in the capable hands of Jonathan Simmons, Jarleene Almenas and Brent Woronoff, plus some talented contributing writers and photographers who have become an invaluable part of the team.

Simmons will be the second managing editor in the company’s history. Since I hired him nine years ago as a news reporter, he has witnessed Flagler County’s history unfold in person, reporting fairly and thoroughly on hundreds of government meetings. I trust his judgment and recommend him to you.

Almenas has been working for the Observer for five years, covering the Ormond Beach community in every possible aspect. Like Simmons, she is impeccably fair and thorough.

Woronoff joined the team a year ago and brought with him 30 years of daily newspaper experience and is a versatile features, School Board and general assignment reporter, in addition to the area’s expert on local sports. He is a man of integrity and drive.

In other words, the show will go on. I will transition from being the editor to instead being a loyal reader and supporter. (I will also continue to cohost “Free For All Friday” for the month of July, and I’ll help David Ayres host the Free For All Political Forums at 7 p.m. July 14, 21 and 28, at the Palm Coast Community Center, as we prepare for the primaries.)

This is a difficult time for local journalism, as profit margins shrink. You may not agree with everything the Observer does, but I invite you to imagine what it would be like without it: What if we no longer reported on the actions of your elected officials? What if your local sports team or club or school had no journalists available to tell your stories?

The Observer’s mission statement has become personal for me: To inspire the community with extraordinary local content and to help our partners prosper. The Observer is a voice of positivity as well as accountability. If you value those qualities, the easiest way to show it is to subscribe. In addition, you can pay attention to which businesses are advertising — in print and online — and then patronize them and tell those businesses thank you. Let them know you saw their ad in the Observer. Every time you do, you are supporting local journalism.

To the Walsh family — Matt and Lisa; and John, Nancy and Maureen — thank you for making my life here possible.

I’d like to share a few lessons I have learned from my interactions with the Walshes, my other journalism colleagues (including Flagler Broadcasting’s David Ayres and FlaglerLive’s Pierre Tristam), and, most importantly, from my interactions with you, the readers:

  • Do the right thing, even when it’s hard.
  • When someone has a problem, big or small, try your best to empathize.
  • Don’t complain about what’s wrong. Try to propose a solution.
  • If you don’t know the answer, don’t pretend you do.
  • Remember that everyone is a child of God — your brother, your sister, your neighbor.

My blank page is filling up. To conclude, I’ll share one more thing I’ve learned. Over the years, I’ve seen leaders leave schools, the Chamber of Commerce, City Hall — pretty much everywhere. When I find myself thinking about what we have lost, I look up to see the new leaders — like Jonathan Simmons at the Observer — as they take on new roles and help their organizations roll forward. That's the definition of a vibrant community.

I can’t wait to read the story on the next page.


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