Goodbye, Camden!

Where to even begin?

I’ve had an incredible 2 years, 8 months and couple weeks covering the great city of Camden, NJ.  It was an honor and privilege to take over the beat that Matt Katz did such a fine job covering.

A year after getting a handle of the city and school system, I decided to start Camden Flow. I tend to over-report stories I figured a blog was the best way to get my “extra” info out to the public. But it evolved into more than that.

Eventually it became a place where people could check on upcoming meeting or events or what important actions were taken at a recent meeting. Quick hit news… except often times, me being me, my blog weren’t so “quick”. How could I not give you ALL the needed background?!

The funny thing was that I would get more responses to my blog items than my actual articles that appeared in the paper and online. I was so happy that my little blog became a go-to place for people living in, working in or simply interested in Camden. I can’t thank you enough for your readership and feedback. It all helped me grow as a reporter and writer.

I covered the good, the bad and the ugly in Camden. The thing that I found so amazing was the Camden people’s resilience. The headlines summarized Camden’s conditions: poorest and most dangerous city in the country. That ought to depress anyone living there, right? But every person I met in the city had something positive to say about their beloved Camden. Whether it was the sneaker shop owners trying to get kids off the street or the former drug-dealer trying raise his two teenage kids the right way or the 14-year-old pageant girls trying to make a difference in their neighborhoods. They told it how it was and didn’t sugar coat their words. As a journalist, that was so refreshing and inspiring.

Covering the administration in city hall and on the school board was not easy. Often times, I wanted to yell and bang my head against the wall (I don’t doubt they felt the same after dealing with me many times). But I can say that we all treated each other with respect and I can happily walk away from this beat knowing I can go back to Camden City Hall or the Camden Board of Education and say hello to my old new friends. Mayor Redd reminded me of that when she sent her Chief of Staff Novella Stark Hinson and spokesman Robert Corrales to my going-away luncheon Wednesday to congratulate me on my new assignment- covering Philadelphia City Hall.

“Even though Ms. Vargas was known to make the frequent and dreaded 4:30 p.m. call for “additional” information or comment for her story running on the front page of the weekend paper, she will be sorely missed by Mayor Dana L. Redd, Communications Director Robert Corrales, City Attorney Marc Riondino, Finance Director Glynn Jones, and “most of all” by Chief of Staff Novella Hinson. We will be sure to alert Mayor Nutter and his staff of what pleasures are headed his way,” part of the proclamation read.

My favorite part came just before that, “One can truly say that if you can make it in Camden, NJ, you can make it anywhere.”

I think that applies to anyone who has ever worked or lived in Camden. It was an honor and a pleasure and I couldn't have done it with everyone I met along the way. Thank you.