BY JEFF FALK
What does Jeremy Elliott have in common with John Tuscano, Dave Bohr, Mike Gross, Chris Fidler, Pat Huggins and Drew Weidman? They are all gainfully employed sportswriters, they all work at newspapers in south central Pennsylvania and they are all natives of Lebanon County.
Not sure what to make of that exactly. But given the size of Lebanon in proportion to its surrounding counties, the fact is noteworthy somehow.
After working his way up through the ranks, Elliott is now one of the top sportswriters at the Harrisburg Patriot-News and PennLive. A 1990 graduate of Cedar Crest High School, Elliott has been toiling as a scribe/wordmaster in Harrisburg for the past 13 years.
“What I think that tells me is that Lebanon is very centrally located,” said Elliott, when informed of his place among ‘The Magnificent Seven’. “Being in the middle of everything might have something to do with it. But besides that, I don’t have anyexplanation for it.
“They all have a passion for the business in general,” Elliott continued. “You don’t do this to get rich. You do it because you love what you do. Passion is probably the biggest thing that drives me.”
Elliott mans a couple of different sportswriting beats for The Patriot.
Currently, he is engrossed in the newspaper’s coverage of local auto racing. But Elliott also regulary covers the NFL, scholastic wrestling and bowling, among other things.
“High school wrestling might be my favorite sport to cover,” said Elliott, 40. “I didn’t wrestle in high school, but looking back,I wish I would have. They’re a different breed of athlete.
“I love the rat race. It’s (sportswriting) a rat race,” Elliott added. “People think it’s glamorous. They think you get to meet professional athletes, and you do, but it’s a lot of work. I like taking a story from the conceptual standpoint, reseraching it, writing it and then seeing the finished product. When you nail it, it’s a great feeling. You don’t always hit a home run, but sometimes you hit a double.”
Growing up in Lebanon, Elliott nurtured a background in sports, but not necessarily one in sportswriting. After graduating from Cedar Crest, Elliott attend Harrisburg Area Community College and obtained an associate’s degree in business studies, with a focus on accounting.
“I’ve been interested in sports for as long as I can remember,” said Elliott, who resides in Harrisburg. “I remember going to races when I was five. I always played sports and was around sports. It’s (sportswriting) always been a dream job for me. I watch sports even when I’m not covering them.
“Racing is something I enjoy more,” added Elliott. “I went with my dad to racing and football a lot. And I bowl a lot. They’ve kind of carried over.”
In need of a second job to supplement his income, Elliott began working in the Patriot-News sports department as a clerk. His break came when the department needed someone to fill in covering an auto race.
“I never took a writing class, but I always enjoyed it,” said Elliott. “I needed a second job at nights, and they had an opening for someone to answer phones. Then one day I went to a race, and wrote something about the race, and it spiralled out of control from there.
“When I got there (the Patriot), it was very hard to work your way up,” continued Elliott. “To go from a phoner to a full-time sportswriter, it wasn’t done in the old regime at The Patriot.”
Due to the current unsettled nature of the newspaper industry, late last year Elliott survived a shake-up in the Patriot-News sports department, when the newspaper went from daily to three-days-a-week. Personnel was cut-back or let go, beats were reassigned and more of an emphasis was placed on the internet.
“With us going to three days a week, this past wrestling season I made the cut to stay there,” said Elliott. “I had to change from a print mindset to an internet mindset. It’s made me re-think how I do my job.
“It’s finding new ways to build your audience,” Elliott continued. “It’s almost like starting from Square One. You have to use new resources. You’ve got to think outside the box. It’s either sink or swim. It’s either you have a job or you don’t. I have to keep thinking of ways to get information out there. You have to re-invent yourself or you’re out of the business.”
In some ways, Elliott has been forced to be creative about being creative.
“Obviously, the biggest change now is social media and the internet,” said Elliott. “I think sometimes the business has involved into ‘this guy is first and if he’s right, it doesn’t really matter’.
“I don’t think the newspaper business knows where it’s going to be in ten years,” Elliott added. “It’s harder to be successful in the business, but it’s easier to get in. God knows where it’s going to stop. But it’s still a creative business. There’s still room to create things.”