She leads our sports team
People call. They write. And stop me on the street.
They have questions about what's going on here at Lancaster Newspapers. It's clear, they say, that things are changing, and they are interested and pretty upbeat about all of it.
But this may surprise you. One of the questions I get the most is: Who's that new sports editor?
They are particularly curious about the fact that the editor in question is, of all things, a woman. Specifically, the first woman to hold down that job here.
Or as one reader put it in a recent phone call: "Isn't a gal boss of the sports pages sort of unusual?"
Well, maybe so. Especially when you consider this is one of Pennsylvania's bigger papers and more conservative communities.
But gender, of course, was a non-factor. We simply chose the best person for the challenging job of transforming our sports coverage into a seven-day, print-and-digital, locally focused force to be reckoned with.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Laura Eckert Thompson.
The 42-year-old Berks County native lives in West Hempfield Township with her husband, Brian.
Sounds pretty normal. But her career path? Not so much.
Laura has worked for sports departments at eight newspapers from Oil City to Trenton in the 21 years since graduating from Penn State. (Coincidentally, she was the first female overall sports editor for the PSU student paper, too.)
She's been running our Sports department of a couple dozen full-timers, part-timers and correspondents for six months now.
It hasn't been easy.
She has focused on reorganizing her staff and placing a renewed emphasis on local teams and local people.
And, perhaps her toughest challenge of all, putting a brighter spotlight on digital content: In-game blogging. Prompt posting of scores and stats. Interview-and-action videos. Consistent Facebook and Twitter activity.
The result has been more vibrant and relevant coverage.
But Laura is typical of many of her colleagues here. She's pleased with the progress so far but far from satisfied.
"Oh sure," she says, "we love how well it's going. But we expect everything to keep getting better."
Laura's love of sports began as a kid. Her folks were avid weekend golfers, and her dad always had a particular passion for college basketball.
"That's always been a bonding thing for me and my dad," she explains. "My older sister went to Villanova, and we often went to games in Philly."
But Laura is not much of an athlete herself.
"I'm all thumbs. I learned early on, I made a much better fan than I did a player."
One of her primary goals is to upgrade and increase the behind-the-scenes people stories that take readers beyond the touchdowns and baskets.
"A lot of people already know the scores when they come to us in the paper or online," she says.
"So we want to do a better job of explaining how it happened, and, more importantly, tell you stuff you may not know about the people who made it happen.''
That sort of commitment to telling people-centered stories is good for us. And you.
Contact Peter Mekeel at 291-8899 or email@example.com.