Staff profile: Meet Jeff Kirik of the Erie Times-News and

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Western Pennsylvania sports editor/Erie Times-News sports editor Jeff Kirik.
Western Pennsylvania sports editor/Erie Times-News sports editor Jeff Kirik.

Meet Jeff Kirik

I'm the sports editor for the Erie Times-News and Gannett's Western Pennsylvania Region. I attended Northern Illinois University and earned a journalism degree in December 1989. I landed my first full-time job as a sports reporter in early 1990 with the New Castle News. In 1995, the Erie Times-News hired me as a sports reporter and copy editor. In addition to those roles, I served as the outdoors editor and assistant sports editor before becoming the Times-News sports editor in 2012.

I was born in the Cleveland area, but my family moved to Irwin, Westmoreland County, when I was a toddler. My dad was later hired by the aviation division of John Deere, and we moved to Moline, Illinois, before I reached the first grade. I grew up in Moline, one of the Quad Cities, and attended Alleman High School, a Catholic school in Rock Island, Illinois. I was a strong safety on the football team, which reached the state semifinals my senior year.

During my childhood, my family would frequently travel to Pennsylvania, where we would visit extended family southeast of Pittsburgh. During those many visits, I developed a love for western Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh. I also became a big fan of the Steelers and Pirates.

Why I became a journalist

I'm a lifelong sports fan who grew up in an aviation family. My father and older brother are pilots — my brother Steve was an Air Force fighter pilot and now flies for United Airlines. My father and brother built a Thorp T-18 airplane in our basement during my childhood. That was a cool thing to tell friends. The problem was I hated flying, so I rarely bucked a rivet on that plane.

Instead, I was obsessed with sports at an early age. I remember frequently waiting on my front porch for our newspaper carrier to bring our afternoon edition of the Daily Dispatch down the street. Sometimes I would race to meet him just so I could get to the sports page a little earlier. When I was a senior in high school and had no idea what to study in college, my mom suggested that I combine my love of sports and my knack for English classes to become a sports writer.

During my first week on the Northern Illinois campus, I joined the staff of the student newspaper, The Northern Star. I spent four years — and many long nights — working as a sports reporter, sports editor and, eventually, the managing editor. In that makeshift newsroom, I learned so many journalistic lessons that I still apply today.

What I like best about my job

I know it's cliche, but what I love most about this job is the people — meeting people, learning about their lives and relaying their stories to the public. The Erie area has so many interesting people with so many fascinating stories to tell. It's a challenging but rewarding job to write about area residents and their impact on their neighbors, their schools and their communities.

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic caused many of us to forego close contact with our fellow citizens. I look forward to engaging with them in the same way we did before the pandemic.

A story I worked on that has had a lasting impact on me

It's not one story, but many stories. One of my favorite things about my job over the past 27 years has been telling the stories of people who overcome adversity. I'm so inspired by someone who is able to survive cancer and other serious illnesses or tragedies and move forward. Megan Mingarelle, James Conner and Ian Malesiewski are a few unforgettable ones.

We've told many stories about athletes and other people who faced dark times with their health but persevered and continued to make an impact on their teams and communities.

What is the biggest challenge I face?

A sports editor's job is seemingly never done, so time management and life balance can become difficult issues. Weekends are always the busiest times for sports, so journalists often give up weekend time with their spouses and children. That has been the biggest challenge for me throughout my three decades of journalism.

What I like to do when I’m not working

I love to spend to time with Patty, my wife of 27 years, and our four children, Mary, Jacob, Grace and Paula. Game nights, movie nights or time in the outdoors are always our most memorable moments. When I'm not with my family, I love to fish, hunt and attend sporting events of all kinds. When I retire, I hope to spend a lot of time coaching future grandkids' sports teams.

Favorite event or Erie-area tradition

I'm not sure if I would characterize it as an event or tradition, but the entire Presque Isle area is a true treasure. I love bass fishing in the many bays and coves of Presque Isle State Park, and my children cherish any trip to the beach, especially on Father's Day with their grandfather.

At the entrance of Presque Isle, Waldameer Park was a constant for our children while they were growing up, from the kiddie rides to Wacky Shack and eventually the Ravine Flyer. Of course, the kids' faces lit up and they cheered any time we would announce a trip to Sara's Restaurant for a hotdog or a peanut butter shake.

Why journalism matters

Communities need local newspapers to document their histories, hold people in power accountable and tell the inspiring stories of the people who live there. I've been proud to be able to help in that effort for almost three decades with the Times-News and

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Contact Jeff Kirik at Follow him on Twitter @ETNkirik.

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This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Meet Jeff Kirik of the Erie Times-News and