Whitney Downard says thanks for the music


Don’t ever move to small cities because you might just fall in love.

Your favorite Thai food might be just blocks from your favorite deli, which is just steps from your favorite trivia nights at a local bar.

You might just find such a dedicated group of friends that saying goodbye takes several, heart-wrenching weeks.

Being a journalist in a small city comes with its downsides.

I can’t enjoy the beauty of Bonita Lakes or go grocery shopping without someone asking me about the latest story in the paper.

Often, the biggest naysayers in Meridian are the natives themselves. Small cities come with small-minded people, some of whom aren’t interested in much more than mud-slinging or complaining. I’ve been publicly berated more times than I can count.

But there are still people who gladly open their doors to a stranger in need or a displaced “Yankee” without a home for Thanksgiving. Sometimes they’re few and far between, but they’re there.

I’ve had barbecues on sidewalks and spent countless nights on rooftops with my fellow apartment dwellers in downtown, where I’ll be spending another Fourth of July with my Meridian family.

I know that, if I needed it, they’d give me the shirt off their backs without hesitation.

The Meridian Little Theatre allowed me to join the cast for five musicals (and help backstage for one play). I’ll forever be grateful for the safe space there, where I made my first Meridian friendships, spent late nights perfecting dance moves and celebrated each closing night. I’m afraid there’s not too many places in the world like MLT.

But, as we say, the show must go on. Another paper must be printed. 

Meridian will continue to move forward without me to cheerlead its progress. 

I know my yet-to-be-announced successor will excel in their new position and our paper will continue to break ground in new, innovative ways. If this newsroom can transform a recent, naive college graduate into a full-fledged journalist, it can empower anybody who comes through its doors.

While I’m sure I’ll grow to love Indianapolis, it’ll never be the same as Meridian. And covering the Indiana Statehouse will never be half as interesting as small-town politics.

In a funny twist of fate, I’m moving to the Meridian-Kessler neighborhood because, apparently, I’ll never be able to get this Southern city out of my bloodstream.

Thank you for all of the stories, Meridian.

It’s been a joy to serve and cover you for these last three years.

Don’t move to a small city. Because you might, just might, find yourself a place to call home.

And it might be pretty hard to leave.

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