For the past couple of hours I've tried thinking of a way to start this farewell column. But I’m not sure what to say. So, like you've so gracefully done for the past two years, bear with me as I figure this out.
I’m guessing you’re thinking one of two things right now: either good riddance, or, what's the deal, Patch Guy? I’m hoping for the latter.
Friday will be my last day at Patch. I've decided to take another media opportunity, starting Monday. If you want to know more or to keep in touch, email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to chat one more time I'll also spend from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at and 9 a.m. to noon Friday at .
Now, how will my departure affect you? It shouldn't, really. Patch will continue to cover the borough. With council and Board of Education elections coming up, not to mention the start of the school year, Patch believes it's more important than ever that Hopatcong residents have a trusted news source and a place to share ideas and opinions.
And I agree with Patch. I never knew the borough was so bustling. There are plenty of myths about Hopatcong. That it's a boring place is among them. You just have to know where to look to find the crazy. That was something I didn’t know while growing up here.
Speaking of growth, Hopatcong has given me two opportunities at it. Considering Ghostbusters is still among my favorite movies and that I can't get my Chevy to pass inspection, we'll say the jury is still out on my maturity. But the growth I've felt as a journalist has been undeniable.
Before Patch I spent three years as a sports reporter, covering everything from girls lacrosse to the final game at the old Yankees Stadium to an arm-wrestling competition in the middle of an alcohol showcase … at age 20. But since joining the AOL-owned hyper-local news organization I've learned so much about almost everything—education reform, government spending, public records, the judicial system, crime, volunteerism, business. Too much to rattle off at once.
And a lot of it was because of you. You didn't know me. You didn't have to speak with me—just some guy with a notebook and a website you'd never heard of.
But you did. You gave me your time. If you're reading this, there's a good chance we've spoken before and even a decent chance I've quoted you. That's one of the best things about Patch: the community connection. I've gained so many friends since starting here in June 2010, since making that year's Hopatcong Days my first assignment.
. The site had still yet to launch, but my boss at the time asked me to set up a table and pass out generic flyers detailing Patch's mission. If you wanted to know what Hopatcong.Patch.com was going to look like—because why would you take the word of some over-caffeinated stranger?—I had to pull out my laptop and show you Westfield Patch.
Still, some people didn't totally ignore me. Some even let me take their picture. And that welcome-you-in sentiment has been what I've felt in Hopatcong since that afternoon.
And I've seen that sense of community translate from borough streets and parks onto Hopatcong.Patch.com. Sure, almost everyone—even you—complains about the comments section, how users get nasty behind fake names for reasons ranging from absurd to understandable. But there have been many examples of the borough banding together around good causes on the site.
The three that stuck out to me: , and when .
When the 2011 storm rocked the borough, I hit the streets, taking a ride with a pair of police officials to , rushing to hardware and convenience stores , and camping out to provide minute-by-minute reports of the effects of the downpour. But you helped me, jumping into the comments section to say which areas were without electricity, where roads were closed or trees had fallen and to share tips on keeping safe.
You showed similar outpourings of support for Connolly, who worried people thought he was a serial killer for walking the borough streets, and Rosco, who served the his entire life.
It was during those moments I felt I had served a real purpose with Patch. Had made real connections with many of you. Had at least in a small way helped the place in which I grew.
And I believe I'm going to enjoy watching Hopatcong Patch grow with the rest of you.
Send news tips to to Regional Editor Mike Pignataro at email@example.com or Associate Regional Editor Rick Burchfield at firstname.lastname@example.org.