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Strength in our community: Final words from our Managing Editor at The Rapidian

As I spend my final week as the caretaker of The Rapidian, I look over what we have been able to accomplish together, and why I think The Rapidian will be just as strong as ever after I leave- because its strength is in your voices.

/Holly Bechiri

Moderating for the Mayoral Debate in front of a packed house at Wealthy Theatre

Moderating for the Mayoral Debate in front of a packed house at Wealthy Theatre /Tiffany Szakal

/Courtesy of GRCMC

As exciting new career opportunities prompt my departure from my role at The Rapidian, I wanted to talk to you about what this means for The Rapidian. In essence, I believe it means just this: very little.

In my five years at The Rapidian, I've seen exponential growth in readership, but I've also seen exponential growth in the strength of our local voices. We now regularly have over 70 local citizens counted as "active reporters" at any given time, meaning that over 70 people have published at least one story in the last six months. We've educated votes on local issues, hosted the most well-attended mayoral debate and called citizens to action in urges to vote in local elections

We've tackled conversations on food access, local economy, pandering to our patriotic sentiments, rape culture, disability, breastfeeding rights and cultural appropriation- all examples just from the last year!

It has been my honor and privilege to be the caretaker for The Rapidian in this time, and it's a job I've taken seriously- perhaps too seriously sometimes.

I believe that our local citizens have access to the stories and information that is important to our entire community understanding one another. Citizen journalism is a crucial part of building a healthy community. It's why our founder Laurie Cirivello started The Rapidian in the first place.

I've had an incredible five years with you. But now it is time for me to hand over the reigns of The Rapidian to its next leadership. I've never believed that I was the only one that could take care of our local voices, and I've never believed that I'm the only one making The Rapidian as strong as it has become. My job has always been to support the strength of our community.

The Rapidian is not a one-woman show. In fact, it's about as far from that as it could be.

The Rapidian's strength is due to you, our local citizens: you who have written articles, you who have shared them, you who have kept us going with financial support. You are the ones who make The Rapidian what it is- an open and welcoming platform for all voices in our community.

I've never liked that whole "voice for the voiceless" trope. That trope is a lie. If you are a human being, you have a voice. Don't let anyone tell you that you don't, or that you need someone else to give you a voice. You are not voiceless. 

Instead, platforms like The Rapidian can work to move the needle in getting unheard or unheeded voices to be paid attention to more. If you have access to privilege- and many of us do, whether we recognize it or not- the most important thing we can do for the health of our community (and our own souls, if you ask me) is to listen to those who are not like us. 

Listening- and I don't mean just waiting your turn to talk- is the only way we are going to truly understand each other. If we don't understand one another, if we don't listen to each others' voices, we are left with a bland and too often harmful understanding of our community. 

Without listening to each other, to understand each other, the communities we build will be small, isolated and cut off from the rich diversity we could have enjoyed, had our conversations been inclusive.

Including voices not like our own- on The Rapidian and elsewhere- makes our community stronger, richer and more beautiful.

The Rapidian is not a voice for the voiceless. We are not here to take over and tell your story. We believe that you would do a much better job telling your own story. We believe that hearing your voice is much more powerful than hearing the voices we always hear. We're here to support your voice- and your right to be heard- and help that happen within the bounds of journalism. 

Journalism is a powerful tool for truth- for informing and engaging the people to be active within their own communities and to hold those in power accountable for the structures they are creating or upholding all around us. I have grown to love journalism, steadfastly championing its role and its power over my years at The Rapidian.

So it's bittersweet for me to move on from such an incredible experience. But I am confident in The Rapidian's direction and your work to keep it strong. I believe that we have created, together, a strong platform that does not depend on just one voice. 

I look forward to The Rapidian growing even stronger in my absence, as new voices and perspectives are added. I look forward to financial support growing for this essential part of our media landscape, and I'm asking each of you do to your part to ensure The Rapidian continues to champion all of our local voices.

There is no one voice that can tell the story, that can inform the public: It takes all of us.

So as I move on to new adventures, I know that the The Rapidian will remain as strong as ever- because I know that your voices are what makes The Rapidian strong. 

And I can't wait to see what you do with that strength.

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

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Thank you for your leadership and stewardship, Holly, and best wishes for your next project.

Thank you Alec!