BY JEFF FALK
Elco is the only school district in Lebanon County that doesn’t sponsor a student-run newspaper. So it is more than a bit ironic that the fastest-climbing, young sports journalist in the area is a former Raider.
Drew Weidman seems to fly in the face of the conventional thinking that secondary education is the primary molder of young adulthood. He is a testament to the power of personal choices and exploring the potential of our gifts.
In many ways, Weidman has followed his heart to become a sports editor at the ripe age of 28. Sure it’s a lot of work and his inexperience makes every day a challenge, but the self-satisfaction he derives from his job is unmatched by anything else.
“It sounds better than it is,” said Weidman. “But it helps me meet women. “What do you do for a living?’ ‘I’m a sports editor at a newspaper.’ But I’m sure there are a thousand journalists my age who would like to have this position.
“It wasn’t a goal,” Weidman continued. “But when you have a kid who has interest in things you always wonder how that’s going to equate into a job. But I had a flair for the dramatic. When I was like eight or ten, I would play nintendo and announce the game I was playing. I wanted an account of the game. I always enjoyed that.”
Ten months ago, Weidman became the sports editor at The Hummelstown Sun, a weekly newspaper with a circulation of about 10,000 that covers the Hummelstown-Hershey area. Weidman, a 2003 graduate of Elco, was a good, but not great baseball player for the Raiders and the Richland entry in the Lebanon County American Legion Baseball League.
Weidman matriculated to Penn State University, where he earned a degree in Journalism.
“It was one of those things where you follow your passion more than be practical,” said Weidman. “I always wanted to write in high school. I think kids lie when they say they know what they want to do with the rest of their lives in high school. I went to Penn State main (campus)and I thought it (journalism) was really cool. As much as I liked broadcasting, you never know if you’re going to have a career there. Then I just started picking up newspapers.
“My classic line is: ‘If I could make $100,000 at a newspaper it would be my ultimate job,” Weidman added. “I’d like to stay in journalism. I’d like to stay on this side of the fence. But I don’t know where my path will lead me.”
Weidman is the only full-time employee on his staff, although he does utilize the services of veteran stringers like Don Scott and Jerry Reigle. That means Weidman is directly and indirectly responsible for the The Sun sports section’s content, its copy, photographs and headlines.
“Having no full-time sports employees can be stressful, but it’s not all that uncommon,” said Weidman, who also helps out on the news side from time to time. “Sometimes I do feel like a one-man band. If something breaks you’ve got to get on it and it’s got to be me who does it.
“Sports are more fun than a township meeting,” Weidman continued. “A daily newspaper is a different animal than a weekly newspaper. Parents are more passionate about sports. No one gets more excited about seeing their kids’ pictures in the paper.”
Yet the most challenging aspect of Weidman’s position is that of a manager. Not only must he manage the people he oversees, he is also ultimately responsible for what The Sun covers and the direction of the sports section.
“It’s a question we ask everyday,” said Weidman. “There’s a lot to that. Sometimes I think about every sport and it makes my head spin. I want to cover it all. But it’s what people want that matters. We truly want it to be a community newspaper. Short of readers taking photos and writing stories, it’s a community newspaper. Photos are king, and they truly are worth a thousand words.
“We’re really headed in the right direction,” continued Weidman. “I like the way we’re going. I feel like there are people who don’t know who we are and I want to find a way to reach those people.”
After graduating from Penn State in 2006, Weidman covered sports and township meetings part-time for the Lebanon Daily News, and was mowing lawns to supplement his income. In October of 2006, Weidman was hired by The Hummelstown Sun, and in August of last year became the sports editor when veteran journalist Ed Ponessa stepped aside.
“It’s how newspapers used to be, but it has a lot of color,” said Weidman of The Sun. “When I first started there it was black and white, and I don’t think anyone knew I was interested in sports. But Ed Ponessa would get desperate and say, “Hey, do you want to cover a Milton Hershey basketball game?’
“It got to the point where my boss would say, “Are you a sports guy or a news guy?'” added Weidman. “I told him I think I’m both. He said, ‘That’s impossible’. I said I have a knack for both. My boss is the kind of guy who likes to stay in-house and when Ed retired he said, ‘Would you be interested in doing sports?'”
Weidman’s career goals go beyond working for the paper he grew up reading, the Lebanon Daily News. But he didn’t rule out working for it in the future, if it was the best thing for him at the time.
“The Lebanon Daily News is my hometown paper,” said Weidman. “I arguably wouldn’t have gotten a job at The Sun without my clips from the Lebanon Daily News. I do feel loyal to the Lebanon Daily News. It’s the first place I got started.
“I would work there,” Weidman added. “I’m not ruling anything out. I’m loyal to The Sun to a degree. But I’d be willing to advance my career.”