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Sophie Erber, anchor at WLUC TV 6 in Marquette, is a Superior Woman. Erber, who arrived in the Upper Peninsula in 2014, is a Florida gal who has grown to know and love the U.P. and its people.
By Dale Hemmila
She enters Upper Peninsula homes three times each evening, five days a week, at 6, 7 and 11 p.m. For the past four years, she’s updated U.P. residents daily about what has happened that might affect their lives. She is a Florida girl living nearly as far north in the United States from Florida as possible. And she has no plans to leave anytime soon.
Sophie Erber co-anchors the news on WLUC-TV6 Monday through Friday. She has found a niche that is fulfilling and challenging, but if you think she’s just someone who reads from a teleprompter for a living, well, you are probably in for a surprise.
From shore to shore
How is it that someone from the shores of the Gulf of Mexico ended up working and living on the shores of Lake Superior?
Erber’s story began in Sarasota, Florida, where she moved when she was 13. Through her high school years, she anchored her school’s in-house news program, reporting “everything from the tennis scores to the lunch menu.”
Upon graduation, she pursued a professional career in broadcast journalism. She completed her undergraduate work at the University of Tampa. She received a master’s degree at the University of South Florida – St. Petersburg. While in school, she continued her work in broadcast journalism, picking up internships with local TV stations.
“It’s slave labor,” she said of the grueling, low-paying work, “but it is something everyone should do.”
Key internships involved working with investigative reporting teams at Tampa’s ABC and NBC affiliates. She also garnered an internship with ABC News during the 2012 Republican National Convention.
After receiving her master’s degree in May, 2014, Erber began to send out resumes, not knowing where she might end up. Maybe close to home?
“I originally had the naiveté that college kids have,” she said. “But in news, you have to go somewhere else, usually not home.”
Erber said she got a good vibe when she received a call from TV6 News Director Steve Asplund in June and scheduled a visit for July, but really didn’t know much about the area.
“I knew nothing,” she said. Like a true investigative reporter, though, she learned. A Google search showed the station was across from the State Police post, which was comforting, and she found that yes, there was a Starbucks nearby, and she noted the proximity to Lake Superior.
“I need to be near water,” she said. “Being away from water was horrifying to me.”
When asked if she knew about the vast amount of snow that falls in the region, she said she was aware, based on her research, and pointed out that on an area tour with Asplund in July 2014, he noted that she had just missed ice in Lake Superior in June. With Michigan weather not necessarily a deterrent, Erber accepted a job offer.
“When I came here it felt like a safe, beautiful place for a girl,” she explained. “It felt welcoming. The team here was something I could learn from. It felt good to join an established team.”
Her first few weeks on the job had her rotating between field reporting, the assignment desk and producing newscasts. She dropped into the anchor desk next to Asplund in October 2014.
Since then, it has been a whirlwind of responsibilities that go beyond reading from a teleprompter.
A Typical Day-in-the-Life
A typical day begins with a 3 p.m. editorial meeting with producers and her co-anchors, Asplund for the 6 p.m. news and Greg Trick for the 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts.
By 3:45 p.m., she is writing updates of the day’s top stories for recording by 4:30 p.m. By 5 p.m., she’s prepared to do a live update to tease the 6 p.m. news. As producer of the early news, she is also pulling video to match other national and regional news stories, creating graphics, approving reporter’s scripts, writing news copy and news “bumpers.”
“Most of the day is writing,” she said. “The easy part is when I am out there (on the set).”
Along with delivering the news at 6 p.m., she joins Trick to prepare for the 7 p.m. newscast. After that show, she is busy linking video to news stories on the TV6 website, editing national stories, and again, writing and preparing for the 11 p.m. newscast.
So the job, she says, is not what a lot of people think it is, but it is what she enjoys.
“I love the anchoring and producing because I love writing,” she said. “If I thought all I would do is sit there, I wouldn’t have taken the job. I like having creative control.”
Though she is the only woman at an anchor desk otherwise populated by men, gender isn’t an issue she said.
“I’ve never thought of ‘am I doing a good job as a woman;’ just am I doing a good job? As a result I feel accepted by what’s essentially a boys club here,” she said with a laugh. “They saw something in me that I could do all the work.”
Recently mainstream media has been under fire for delivering “Fake News.” As a journalist in the U.P., Erber doesn’t put much stock into that phrase.
“I don’t take offense because we are not the national news,” she said. “I don’t get offended because this is someplace special. When they say ‘Fake News,’ I’m not a purveyor of that.
“U.P. viewers are totally different, they get that. We need to be sure we are fair and balanced, but that’s second nature here. It’s one of the reasons I like working in local news.”
And it seems that the locals have taken well to Erber’s work, also.
Building a Life
“People here have been really nice,” she said. “I’ve had nothing but positive experiences. People are really engaged in what is going on in their community, so it’s meaningful to work in local news.”
While the community has been welcoming to Erber, she has also embraced the U.P. lifestyle.
Noting her weekends are spent away from the station, she has enjoyed waterfall hunting, berry picking and the beach in the summer, where she enjoys Lake Superior.
“I still get nervous when I see someone swimming (in the lake) at sunset,” said the young woman from Florida. “Then I remember: there are no sharks.”
She added to her community involvement by teaming up with Marquette businessman Ryan Nummela and bringing in more than $10,000 in contributions for local hospice care during the most recent Dancing with Our Stars fundraiser.
She has also added to her support system locally. When her sister was looking into colleges after a stint in the Navy, Erber suggested Marquette’s Northern Michigan University. Her sister is now enrolled. Erber also convinced her mother to move to the U.P. from Florida to join her, as well.
And while TV6 viewers have seen many news co-anchors arrive and leave after short periods of time, she says that isn’t her plan.
“It’s sad that the people of the U.P. are so used to a revolving door,” she said. “I’m like, gosh, I’m not looking to do that. I have no idea how long I will stay, but I’m very happy working here.”