It was a good run.

I’ve learned a lot from my time as a news reporter with the River Valley Media Group, but sadly that time is over. I’m headed for the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater to continue my education in journalism this fall. My last day at the weekly papers will be Friday, Aug. 18.

I tried to write this column multiple times, but I struggled to find the right words each time. When I was hired, I figured this job would be a stepping stone for me. I never expected it to be this difficult to leave.

So I would like to say thank you.

Thank you to Matt Johnson, who lobbied on my behalf when I wanted to take the next step of my career. You took a chance on the 19-year-old kid with a big dream. You saw the potential in me that I hadn’t even seen yet. I will forever remember my job interview and how it took three hours. (And, no, I don’t hold a grudge over that parking ticket for being over the time limit.)

Thank you to my editors, whether it was when I was a freelance and worked under Randy Erickson, or when I was hired as an RVMG employee and worked under Ryan Henry and Jourdan Vian. I am sure there were days that you wanted to scream at me or tell me my story was downright horrible, but instead you were always kind and instrumental in your teaching. You have had such an incredible impact on the writer that I am today and words seriously can’t say enough about the way I look up to all of you as journalists and professionals.

To my co-workers, thank you for making every single day an adventure. I never felt like I had to be at work, instead it was a place that I loved to be. That was all because of you. Whether it was Mike Tighe making fun of me because I was young enough to be his grandchild, Scott Rada and Marc Wehrs jabbing at me for not understanding their horrendous dad jokes, or Jourdan and Tobias Mann telling awful puns and jokes that I would only expect to hear from a lame clown (Editor’s Note: You’re welcome), I have enjoyed spending time and learning something from each of you, even if it was just by watching you work or listening to you conduct interviews.

Yes, Nathan Hansen, even you. I learned that never in my life will I drink my meals from a bottle. Yikes.

All joking aside, thank you for taking me under your wing and allowing me to be a part of the dysfunctional, yet incredible family that is the newsroom. I wouldn’t trade the friendships I’ve made for the world.

Thank you to all of the athletes, coaches, and fans of the La Crescent Lancers for allowing me to come in and tell the stories that mean the most to you. Coaches, I am quite sure there were plenty of times my name showed on your phone and you wanted to hit “Ignore Call” very badly. Thanks for putting up with our deadlines and for all you do for local athletes. I knew nothing about high school sports in Minnesota or the community of La Crescent (other than the fact that y’all have a weird obsession with apples) coming into this job, and now I am proud to say that I covered the area.

La Crescent Police Chief Doug Stavenau, I hope my writing of the police reports will someday get me some leniency if ever pulled over in Houston County (Kidding of course, but only if I have to be) . Thank you for all you do for your community to keep it safe.

To readers of the Coulee News and the Onalaska Holmen Courier-Life, I have thoroughly enjoyed writing stories about the communities that I grew up in. Together we helped bring a sports section to papers that had never had one before. That is incredible. Continue to lobby for your athletes and for each other, as a community is strongest when it comes together.

Finally, thank you to every reader who has enjoyed, or not enjoyed, my stories through the last year. You have motivated me to be the best writer I can be. To be able to tell my story about depression and suicide to all of you was a big step in helping both myself and others. I was again amazed by the strength the community showed when we came together over a common issue. May that strength shine on in all those battling their inner demons; you are stronger than you realize.

I will miss reporting for all of you, and I hope that you all have enjoyed at least one of the various stories I’ve written over the last twelve months. Hopefully someday you will find me on the covers of books, ESPN magazines, and New York Times issues. Everyone should dream, right? Until then, I’ll be eating ramen noodles and working for the school paper.

Thanks for the memories, it was one heck of a run.

To readers of the Coulee News and the Onalaska Holmen Courier-Life, I have thoroughly enjoyed writing stories about the communities that I grew up in.

Benjamin Pierce is a news reporter for the River Valley Media Group working for three weekly newspapers that cover Bangor, Onalaska, Holmen, and West Salem in the dairy state. He also covers La Crescent in Minnesota and can be reached at 608-791-8311.

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