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14 Aug 2022

Proud to have been part of a publication that is an institution in Longford for 125 years, says departing Leader journalist

Jessica Thompson

Jessica Thompson

It's a surreal feeling leaving a job that has been a part of me for half a decade, with a paper that has been part of my life since the 90s.

In fact, the Longford Leader is 125 years old this year and, to celebrate, my colleagues and I produced an amazing supplement with last week's paper. In the entire history of the Leader's existence, my short time here (2017 - 2022) fits into just one page of that supplement and that's humbling.

My first experience working with the Longford Leader was actually twelve years ago in August 2010 before I returned to UCD for the final year of my undergraduate degree. The then editor, Sheila Reilly, took me on for a month and a seed was planted. That single month changed my whole career path and, by the end of that final year in college, I had secured a spot on the Masters in Journalism programme at NUI Galway.

I never thought I'd return to Longford, nevermind write for the Leader but it was the best path for me and, as it turns out, for my husband, John, who left Galway for me and continues to support and encourage me in all my decisions. We got out of the city and returned home to a county that has flourished in so many ways and I have been so thrilled to watch it continue to thrive.

The last five years have not been without their hardships. In March 2020, when the pandemic hit, there were measures taken to ensure the survival of the newspaper.

That first lockdown for us was a different type of isolation but it was a great honour to be a part of a small team that continued to fly the Longford Leader flag throughout one of the most traumatic and difficult times our county has seen in recent history. And, as our colleagues returned, we appreciated them more than ever.

It was, perhaps, the intensity of those two years of Covid-19 that made me realise my time with the Longford Leader was coming to an end. I had given it my all and it, in return, had given me all it could. As things started to go back to normal, I realised ‘normal’ was no longer what I wanted in life.

"Where are you going?" is the question I get asked every time someone hears I'm leaving. I'm not going anywhere. In fact, I'll still be around, writing on a freelance basis.

I've been writing a novel and will complete the second draft in the coming months. I'll travel more. I'll keep a houseplant alive... hopefully. Maybe I'll learn how to make banana bread. Most importantly, I will take some time and some space for myself, to figure out the next big step.

I will never forget the Longford Leader team, particularly current staff members, Alan, Liam, Declan, Padraic, David, Peter, Dessie, Audrey, Margie and our wonderful photographer, Shelley. We've been like a family and, pre-Covid, these were the people I saw and spoke to every day.

We've had long chats in the canteen, birthday cakes and celebrations of weddings, new babies, retirements and leaving dos, laughter, banter, relentless slaggings. We have kept each other sane on some days and probably driven each other insane more often than that. But, while there have been ups and downs, I have been extremely lucky to be a part of that team.

Longford gets a lot of negative attention and yes, there is plenty of negativity to go around. But don't blame the press for that. Read the positive headlines too. If people could only focus on those who do good every day, we would all see how lucky we really are to be living in this wonderful little county.

Thank you to everyone who has had an impact on my short time with the Longford Leader. It has been a great honour to see my byline within these pages and, if even one story I have written has made a difference in a positive way, then I can walk away, proud that I was part of a publication that has been an institution in Longford for 125 years.

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