Scrolling through social media this weekend, I ran across a posting about Roberta’s House and a new grief support center it was opening for Baltimore families. The new center will offer more help to a violent city where grief runs deep. I wrote about Roberta’s House back in 2014, in a story looking at the relatives of murder victims left behind to deal with emotionally debilitating losses. Annette March-Grier, president of the nonprofit, started the center after seeing too few support services for people coming through the family funeral home business, March Funeral Homes. “We need to address the rippling effect and the emotional scars that are left behind from violence — because it will only replicate violence again. Anger turns to rage, and then it becomes self-destructive if that anger is not resolved in a healthy way,” she told me at the time. For years, she has done yeoman’s work helping families often forgotten in the backdrop of solving murders and I was glad to see her dream of an expanded center realized.
These are the types of stories I have most enjoyed writing since starting at The Sun as a business reporter in January 2001. Stories about people doing good work in the community, showing strength and courage, but not necessarily looking for accolades. (They still got them in many cases, and that was a great thing.) And I found that readers always liked a feel-good, people story. I often got lots of feedback about those narratives. But I will no longer get to write those stories as an employee at The Sun. I have made the very thought-out decision to take a “voluntary separation” to try my hand at something new or somewhere new.
I started at The Sun a small step above a cub reporter in my 20s and have had the privilege of chronicling life in Baltimore and Maryland. You could say I grew up at The Sun. I have covered nearly a dozen beats: retail, marketing, small and minority business, health and medicine, business of health, manufacturing, biotechnology for a very short stint and now opinion writing. In my latest gig, I also stepped into editing, something as a hard-core reporter I swore I’d never do, but quickly learned I enjoyed, thanks to some amazing writers who, as seasoned as they were, were open to my thoughts. Being a journalist at The Sun opened doors and offered access to people I otherwise wouldn’t have had. I wrote about Under Armour as it transformed from a small local company to a large publicly traded, national player. I covered the world-renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital and all of its innovative and groundbreaking research. I wrote about the state’s shaky transition to health reform and gave voice to small businesses. I traveled to Chicago, Rhode Island and even Lebanon for stories. There were so many adventures.
Of course, The Sun is not perfect, no big institution is — and no person, either, for that matter. The relationship with the African American community needs improvement, as does the diversity of people represented within its pages and on its staff. The good thing is leadership wants to make that better. As a member of a diversity committee at The Sun, I was offered the opportunity to play a role, helping to identify new hires of color and work on ways to improve coverage. I have always incorporated some form of race coverage in every beat I covered, even if it meant intentionally interviewing African Americans shoppers for retail stories. Every third Wednesday, I wrote a personal column where I focused mostly on issues of race. This was probably my most challenging job to date. It’s not for the faint of heart or thin-skinned putting one’s deepest thoughts out there for all to read, with a picture of your smiling face above the words — and especially on a topic as controversial as race. And I heard from many readers, some who agreed with me and many who didn’t. No matter the perspective, I appreciated the opportunity to start important conversations.
I will always value my years at The Sun, a place with editors who offered me so many opportunities, a place where I made so many friends. I’ve seen a lot of change in my two decades, but the dedication to journalism is still as strong as it was when I first came, no matter how challenging the industry has become. I will continue to subscribe to The Sun and support my fellow journalists who will continue to ask the tough questions. And, as I figure out my next phase in life, Baltimore will continue to have a special place in my heart. I have lived in this city more years than anywhere else in my life. It is home. So I say goodbye, but for now I am not going too far.
Andrea K. McDaniels is The Sun’s deputy editorial page editor. This is her last column for newspaper. Her Twitter address is @ankwalker.