A longtime reporter for The Corry Journal is starting a new chapter in her professional career.
Erin Passinger, 41, of Concord Township, who has been a reporter for The Corry Journal since 2002, has accepted a position as project administrator for the Corry Redevelopment Authority with additional support for Impact Corry.
Wednesday was her last day at The Journal.
In her new role, Passinger will be focused on helping to promote economic development in Corry.
"I am really excited for this opportunity," Passinger said. "I will be working with another group of wonderful people who dedicate their time toward the success of Corry."
During her time at The Journal, Passinger has written articles, taken pictures, been the editor of the Hometown page and worked as a paginator laying out portions of the paper — every day on a noon deadline.
Passinger graduated from Eisenhower High School in 1996 and Penn State University in 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism. She minored in speech communication.
Talking to people and listening to their stories fueled her passion for journalism.
"I enjoy being a listener for people, and it just seemed to come naturally for this type of work," Passinger said. "My big dream as a high school student was to have my own talk show one day. I would even pretend to interview my roommates in college."
To that end, Passinger worked as a production assistant for the "Jerry Springer Show" in Chicago for one year after college.
"I started as an intern and worked my way in," she quipped.
Passinger said at the time she had been excited to work at a real TV talk show, though it wasn't the type of content she personally wanted to pursue.
"It was experience, and that's what I needed," she said. "That job taught me a lot about hard work and instilled in me a lot of strong work ethics."
Passinger's next move was coming back to the area. She decided to move to Corry and was intent on working and saving money to go to California in pursuit of her talk show and journalism dreams.
Upon her return, she was notified by The Journal that a reporter position was open. Days later, she interviewed and was hired.
Just a few months into the job, Passinger met, or re-met, her now husband, Andy Passinger. The two graduated from Eisenhower and had some mutual friends, but never dated.
She had discovered he was a teacher in the Corry Area School District. Not knowing many people in Corry yet at that time, she thought it would be fun to get in touch with him and reconnect.
Fourteen years later, they are married with two daughters, Kendall, 12, and Emry, 9.
"It was the best decision I ever made," she said.
Over the years, Passinger has covered just about every reportable news item there has been in the area. From the tug-at-your-heartstrings stories of families in their struggles and triumphs, to the hard-hitting stories of school mergers, sex offenders and homicide, Passinger has reported on it. And, she said she is most proud of those that shed light on an issue and helped bring about change for the good in the community.
"While my favorite stories to write about have always been the ones that have a happy ending, the job did come with me getting involved in a handful of controversial topics and situations — with not so happy endings," she said. "Some people love what I do and some people hate it, but I've been lucky enough to be surrounded by a whole team of amazing people at The Journal, and I truly consider them a second family."
Passinger added that her support has come from the top down.
"Both professionally and personally, my boss Publisher Bob Williams has always been one of my biggest supporters of my work at The Journal. And, any goal I have ever set for myself. Bob has always backed me up 100 percent on my writing and my reporting. That means a lot, and I know it has helped me be a more confident and successful writer."
Williams’ confidence in Passinger has never wavered.
“Erin has been very dedicated to the community and has always reported her stories with truth and non-bias,” Williams said. “Looking back, she has been a part of some of the best local stories during my time in the newspaper business.”
Williams added that Passinger’s contribution to the paper has been bigger than reporting.
“Erin has also done a wonderful job helping in the development of our current reporters,” he said. “She has given them the direction and guidance they need to make The Journal better for years to come.
“We have been very blessed to have Erin with us for so long. We will miss her commitment to The Journal, but I’m proud of what she has accomplished and can’t wait to see how she helps in her new position. She will succeed without any problems,” he added.
Along with everything else, the job of a reporter requires a keen eye for photography. Passinger has been on the scene of countless events with her camera.
"Here is how I know I have been at the Journal for a long time," she said. "Some of my favorite things to photograph are kids. They just have the cutest expressions and are truly enamored with life. When I take their picture, I always ask their age. It’s funny now to look back. A lot of those ‘kids’ that I have photographed over the years are now graduating from high school and college. And, some of them are even babysitting for my kids!"
As Passinger moves on to this next phase of her career, she will be able to remain steeped in the community and ever in touch with the people and stories that make the city tick. Her years of experience at the newspaper leave her aptly equipped for the next challenge.
"Erin is highly intelligent and immensely qualified for this job," said Rick Novotny, executive director of the Corry Redevelopment Authority. "The future looks good for her."
Looking ahead but reflecting back on her time at The Journal, Passinger never loses sight of the people she's connected with through interviews and community events.
"I have met so many people through this job and often feel grateful and appreciative of how many took the time to answer my questions and my phone calls," Passinger said. "Corry has been so good to me and my family, and I am proud to call this community home. I often think back to that letter I received from the Journal, all those years ago, asking me to come in and talk to them about a possible reporter position. And, I often think about how thankful I am to have received it.
“My goal is to continue to work hard for a community that has already given me so much,” she said.