Get to know the local journalists behind the bylines in the Erie Times-News.
Meet Mike Copper
I’m an Erie native who has worked in the Erie Times-News editorial department for 24 years.
That doesn’t count part-time experience, which nudges the total closer to 30 years.
I’m a 1991 Edinboro University of Pennsylvania graduate who was hired as the Titusville Herald’s sports editor later that year. I returned to the Times-News in late 1993, where I worked in various capacities until rejoining its sports department in August 2004.
Why I became a journalist
I’ll defer to the final scene of “Rescue Me,” a comedy-drama series about post-9/11 firefighters that was televised during the decade that followed.
I’m wise enough not to compare what I do to those guys, be they imagined or real.
However, I instinctively related to the sentiment the show’s main character bluntly informed a new batch of New York City Fire Department recruits:
“This ain’t a job. It ain’t an occupation. It’s a calling. A need.”
I never chose to be a journalist, and specifically a sports journalist.
I was chosen to be a journalist, and specifically a sports journalist.
What I like best about my job
That it still doesn’t seem like one despite mounting challenges to make it feel like one.
Story I worked on that had a lasting impact
Memorial Day weekend of 2009.
Harbor Creek Senior High School senior Lauren Zarger won every significant regular season and postseason gold medal during her career with the school’s track and field program.
A PIAA gold medal was the lone exception. Zarger’s last chance to be presented one was during that year’s Class 2A 3,200 girls final at Shippensburg University.
Chris Carpin, another Harbor Creek athlete, won the state’s 2A boys pole vault competition the day before Zarger was to run. While talking with Huskies coach Marty Dale about Carpin’s result, he mentioned in passing how the team would have another state champion the next day.
Those in sports media quickly learn coaches never make comments like that to us, at least on the record. Dale, though, did in this case because he had that kind of confidence Zarger would win that race.
Dale’s faith was warranted. Zarger won the 3,200 more than 12 seconds faster than the next runner across the finish line.
It wasn’t Zarger’s torrent of tears — happy tears — during a postrace interview with her that made the weekend memorable.
It wasn’t learning that some of Zarger’s friends who paid for a nonrefundable school trip to Cedar Point’s amusement park that weekend skipped it to support her in person, which made that weekend memorable.
It wasn’t asking Dale when he sensed Zarger had the race won, and had him answer without pause, “When the starter’s gun was fired,” which made that weekend memorable.
It was all of that.
What’s the biggest challenge I face
Multi-tasking, since I can only list one. As someone diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, the growing frequency of doing three or four tasks well at the same time is daunting at the least.
That English reading major and journalism minor from Edinboro 30 years ago didn’t truly prepare me for all the technological advancements, social media, video, etc., which we’re now accustomed to.
I’m still learning that you never truly do stop learning.
What I like to do when not working
Golf. Travel. Comedy.
Don’t believe me?
I played a course in extremely rural Green River, Utah, where — over a three-hole stretch — I wrote 9-2-9 on my scorecard.
Golf. Travel. Comedy.
Still don’t believe me?
I played a former PGA Tour course in La Quinta, California, with a family friend. We teed off late in the day, armed with the knowledge we’d never get the opportunity to play there again.
Thus, we were determined to finish all 18 holes.
Yes, even if that meant completing the final two in complete darkness.
Question from a home owner whose backyard bordered the 18th hole: Are you guys playing golf in the dark?
Us: Of course we’re playing golf in the dark!
Golf. Travel. Comedy.
Favorite event or Erie tradition
When possible, Tuesday Night Trivia at the Plymouth Tavern.
Why journalism matters
To quote Mr. X from “JFK,” “Fundamentally, people are suckers for the truth.”
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This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Staff profile: Meet Mike Copper of the Erie Times-News / GoErie.com
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