L. Lee Janssen retiring as Sun-Gazette editor
L. Lee “Laura” Janssen has announced her retirement as editor of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette.
When she was promoted to lead the editorial department on Oct. 1, 2017, Janssen became the community newspaper’s first female editor.
As such, she has managed the newsroom and served as opinion page editor while continuing to lead and mentor young journalists.
“It’s bittersweet to see a trusted and talented co-worker retire after such a productive career. We’re sad to see her go, yet excited for her new chapter in life. I’m grateful to have worked with Laura for many years and her work ethic is amazing,” said Bob Rolley, Sun-Gazette publisher.
“The Sun-Gazette is blessed with wonderful, hardworking and dedicated employees and Laura has set that pace. She leaves with an accomplished body of work.”
Janssen joined the editorial staff of the Sun-Gazette in 1984 as a general assignment reporter.
She covered a number of major news beats, reporting on education, city government and federal courts before joining the editing staff in 1997 as region editor. She was named city editor in 2000 and news editor in 2002, where she spent 15 years coordinating coverage of news stories and photographs among the full-time staff and correspondents and planning the news digests for the daily edition.
While news editor, she also oversaw the development of a number of special projects. Those range from staffwide enterprise projects to pre-election political sections to the Sun-Gazette’s annual Person of the Year project.
Janssen is the founding editor of West Branch Life magazine, which is published quarterly and distributed to home subscribers of the Sun-Gazette.
She also researched and compiled the book, “A Community Keystone: The Official History of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette,” tracing the newspaper’s lineage since the founding of the Lycoming Gazette in 1801.
“I have had an amazing and fulfilling career here at my hometown’s local community newspaper,” Janssen said. “It has been an absolute honor to have a front-row seat to witness our community’s growth and rejuvenation. I have nothing but hope for the future of our area.”
Janssen has won numerous awards during her nearly four decades with the paper, including state Keystone Awards for “A Community Keystone,” West Branch Life magazine and online journalistic innovation in 2009, among others.
Born in Williamsport to Donald Sr. and Hazel Koch, Laura L. Koch graduated in 1974 from Williamsport Area High School.
Back then, young women for whom college was out of reach could find a direct path to employment through the courses taught by the high school business department. There, she learned Gregg shorthand from teacher Mary Miller, a skill she would use throughout her life.
“I received a really strong foundation from the courses I took at our local high school. While I ultimately went in a different career direction, I relied on the skills I learned in these business classes to help me as a journalist,” she said. “They really helped to make me successful in life.”
While she initially became a clerk-stenographer, she really wanted the opportunity to go to college.
Her path to college was paved by the Air Force, where she became a flight simulator specialist.
Stationed at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas, she was the first woman in an all-male shop there.
“The Air Force provided many life lessons and deepened my appreciation for God, country and community, something that has served me well in my chosen profession,” she said.
Four years later, Janssen returned to Williamsport with two sons, Christopher and Dana Janssen, and realized her dream of a college education.
She studied journalism at Williamsport Area Community College and then at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she graduated magna cum laude in 1984.
She joined the Williamsport Sun-Gazette shortly thereafter and hasn’t looked back.