“I put a dollar in one of those change machines,” George Carlin used to say. “Nothing changed.”

Carlin must never have worked at a weekly community newspaper. Here, change is inevitable, and recently it has seemed like someone has been stuffing lots of dollars into the change machine.

In December, staff writer Randy Billings moved on. This month, two more reporters, Emily Parkhurst and Amy Anderson, have said goodbye.

Emily earned regional and national awards for investigative reporting and her coverage of education issues. More importantly, her work helped prompt the state to re-examine its rules governing the use of therapeutic physical restraints in schools. She’s taking her skills to Seattle and the Puget Sound Business Journal, where she’ll be covering the tech industry.

It’s a big move, to a big city and a new specialty, but I’m sure Emily can handle it. It all depends on two things: coffee and tofu. I know Seattle has plenty of coffee. It’s the tofu supply that concerns me.

Amy became a staff writer at The Forecaster after working in restaurants, which made her the ideal person to eventually take over our Dining Dish column. Now she’s going back to restaurants and will pursue freelance food writing. Fortunately for us, she’ll continue to write Dining Dish on a regular basis.

I’ll miss Amy’s coverage of Cape Elizabeth, Freeport and Yarmouth. But I’ll also miss the almost daily discussions we had about – what else? – food and dining. Only Amy could sit five people away from me at a lunch, eating her Caesar salad with grilled chicken, and later confess she watched me as I closed my eyes and savored what she knew was the “perfect bite” of a Reuben sandwich.

It isn’t easy to replace one experienced reporter these days, let alone three. But we’ve been able to do it – in part because the standard set by Randy, Emily and Amy helps make The Forecaster attractive to like-minded journalists.

Journalists like Andrew Cullen, who this week takes over our Portland City Hall beat. Andrew previously wrote for the Sun Journal in Lewiston, where his recent work included an in-depth story-and-photos package about that city’s Somali population.

And like Gillian Graham, formerly of the Mainely Media papers in Biddeford, who replaces Emily, covering Portland schools and the town of Falmouth. Gillian has won several recent awards from the New England Newspaper & Press Association, including a Freedom of Information award for her work on Maine Educational Assessment test scores that were thrown out by the state Department of Education.

And David Harry, who replaces Amy. David’s byline should be familiar to readers throughout southern Maine: he’s been covering cities and towns throughout the region for Current Publishing, Beacon Press and Mainely Media for nearly seven years, and shared a NENPA award for History Reporting with Graham. It won’t take David long to get up to speed in Cape Elizabeth, Freeport and Yarmouth.

Andrew, Gillian and David have big shoes to fill. But that’s part of what makes this job so much fun. When you put in your dollar, change always comes out.

Sidebar Elements

Mo Mehlsak is editor of The Forecaster. He can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 107 or [email protected]. You can also follow Mo on Twitter: @mmehlsak.

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