A heartfelt goodbye from an AP loyalist

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As we reported earlier today, Associated Press reporter Harry Weber is leaving the wire service for a job on the Houston Chronicle business news desk.

His goodbye email to sources and colleagues should be required reading for anyone thinking about how to depart a news organization:

I don’t know which is harder — losing 90 pounds in eight months or making an impact and being successful as a journalist for 16 years, the last 12 at the world’s largest news organization. Thanks to the encouragement, tips, guidance, patience and friendship from all of you in one way or another, I have been fortunate to do both.

As some of you already know, I will be leaving The Associated Press on Oct. 3. I’ve accepted a job with the Houston Chronicle as an energy reporter. My first day there will be Oct. 8. In the meantime, I plan to work harder than ever for AP, a news organization I will always love.

It was an extremely difficult decision from an emotional standpoint. I am sad to be leaving AP after so many great years and stories and awards.

You all have meant so much to me personally and professionally, and I truly believe that because of your support I am a better person and a better journalist today than when I started on this incredible journey in 1996, making $8 an hour at a small daily newspaper in the Boston area. I had just finished journalism school at Columbia and I thought I had the world at my feet. But it was that paper that taught me the hard-knock lessons of journalism — the greatest lesson is you have to work hard every day if you want to get ahead. It was a prominent editor at a major newspaper that told me during a career day at Columbia that I should start at a small paper. I didn’t want to believe him then, but he sure was right. That experience gave me the tools to move to a slightly larger paper, which gave me the tools to  catch on with the AP, which has led me to where I am today.

I’ve been fortunate to cover just about every beat — from legal affairs to politics to business to the environment, and some entertainment and sports. I’ve covered mergers, bankruptcies, labor disputes and too many tragedies to count. There were the Dartmouth murders, the corporate scandal at Tyco, the Shaheen-Sununu U.S. Senate race. 9/11 and the anthrax attacks. There were prosecutors and governors, members of Congress and attorney generals. Celebrities and sports figures. Presidents and vice presidents, and even a former vice president who I gave highway directions to once. Plane crashes and the US Airways splashdown in the Hudson. The Atlanta courthouse shootings. The capture and prosecution of Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph. JonBenet Ramsey. The death of Godfather of Soul James Brown. Hurricane Katrina. And, of course, the Gulf oil spill. I’ve flown in helicopters, spent significant time at sea and even, in a solemn task, sat behind a glass partition inside a prison as seven men in Georgia and Alabama took their last breath as they were executed.

I’m amazed at just how far my words have traveled thanks to the AP. I’ve traveled all over the U.S. Newspapers and TV and radio stations on six continents have published my work. I’ve been asked to be a mentor to two other staffers.

I feel like I still have plenty left in me — and thanks to the weight-loss I am a lot lighter on my feet. I still have a few goals I want to fulfill. Another hope I have is that we all keep in touch.

There are so many people I want to thank, which is why this email string is so long. I’d like to mention a few.

I want to thank Larry Laughlin and Joe Magruder for hiring me into the AP in July 2000. Thanks to Kevin Noblet, Gary Clark and Michael Giarrusso for bringing me to Atlanta as a business writer in 2002. Thanks to Barry Bedlan and Maryann Mrowca for always believing in me and giving me so many opportunities. And thanks especially to Brian Carovillano, Brad Foss, Brian Schwaner, Lisa Pane and Ron Vample. Because of Brian Carovillano and Brad, I was asked to go to New Orleans in April 2010 to cover the Gulf of Mexico rig explosion and resulting oil spill. I thought I would only be going for maybe a week. Because of Brian Schwaner, Lisa and others I ended up staying for a year. And because of Ron, the transition that has marked the last nine months for me has been easier than it would have been without his support.

I also want to thank Kristin Gazlay, Kathleen Carroll, Mike Oreskes and Mike Silverman. At a news organization so large, it would be easy to get lost in the shuffle. To be on their radar has been very rewarding and I am very thankful for their kind words over the years. Two of the most memorable emails were from Kristin after a break early in my AP career in the Dartmouth case and another one about my coverage of the airline industry. My father is especially proud of those, and still mentions them today. A special thanks to Pete Brown for improving my writing. I don’t think I ever truly gave him the credit he deserves, but I want to make sure I do now.

I will always love the AP.

One of the things I love about it is that it is truly global and essential. It’s certainly been essential to me. It introduced me to my wife. It gave me the opportunity to buy a home. It gave me financial assistance when my home was heavily damaged by an historic flood. Thanks to Hal Ritter, it even sent my wife flowers on Mother’s Day in 2010 when I couldn’t because I was on a big boat in the middle of the Gulf. I’ll never forget dialing in to a Business News staff conference call from a satellite phone on that boat and hearing the thunder of my colleagues’ clapping when they learned I was on the phone. I will always remember that boat and what it has meant to me. I also will always remember the 11 men who died in the waters nearby. And thanks to Gerald Herbert for being my comrade at sea. He is a tremendously talented photographer and an equally good friend.

These are just a few of the many memories I will carry with me in the future as I look to create more memories.

A lot of adjectives have been used to describe me over the years. The most common are “persistent,” “aggressive,” and “passionate.” To me, that’s a badge of honor, and I want to thank everyone who has ever said those words to me. The last time I got a speeding ticket was on 9/11 — rushing to the house in Portsmouth, N.H., where the co-pilot of American Airlines Flight 11 lived. Knocking on that door was very difficult, but his family let me in. And I will always be grateful for that.

There are other adjectives, of course. I know that in my zeal to get the story, I sometimes have turned off some people I have worked with. I’m not perfect — far from it. And I’ve tried hard to learn from those experiences. I’ve always been confident in my news judgment. But my personal judgment has sometimes been lacking. Those lessons have been valuable as well.

One thing that has always been consistent is my love for our noble profession — and, of course, my love for AP.