EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of stories about the people who make up the Clarion news team.
After just over a year in Alaska, Peninsula Clarion’s editor-in-chief Erin Thompson has decided that the state is the crossroads between natural beauty and fear of death.
“I recently drove to Fairbanks to go to the hot springs, which was totally worth it. We decided on a whim to drive the Steese Highway to Circle,” Thompson said. “I got about 80 miles in before I had a panic attack on an icy road that was at the very top of a mountain and had no guard rail. There was an amazing view but I didn’t take any photos because I was too busy figuring out how to turn my car around without dying.”
Thompson moved to Kenai from Lincoln, Nebraska, in December 2017 to work with the Peninsula Clarion as a reporter on the cops and courts beat. She is originally from San Francisco, but as a self-described “army brat,” she moved around.
“We lived on a base in Oakland when I was a kid, and then moved to Germany when I was in middle school,” Thompson said. “I ended up in Kansas for high school, which was terrible and I would not recommend it.”
After studying in New York City at Sara Lawrence College, Thompson found herself in several “ridiculous” temp positions throughout the city.
“One of my first temp jobs was moving money around for a bank in New Jersey — but we could only make changes to the system one week a month. So three weeks a month, eight hours a day, I was in a room with 12 other people with nothing to do,” she explained. “I spent a lot of time writing fiction about the ennui of corporate life — I was 24 and thought that was very insightful.”
From New York City, Thompson found her way to Guam where she lived on and off for about seven years. First, she worked as a reporter for the weekly newspaper, the Pacific Daily News. She then worked as a freelance business reporter and as a senator’s press secretary.
“I actually lived on a ranch in the jungle for a while — we didn’t have running water inside at first, so I had to bathe and wash dishes with a hose, and I spent most of my time warding the house from spiders — which are plentiful, huge and terrifying,” she said.
Guam is an American territory, so parts of it felt like the United States, according to Thompson.
“But it’s also in the Pacific with a very unique island culture,” she said. “There are beaches and luxury hotels for tourists, but also small villages and family ranches and large areas of relatively undeveloped jungle and wilderness.”
Thompson left the spider-laden jungles of Guam and landed in Kenai, where she can often be found running errands with her dog, Rusty, by her side.
“He’s very old and has a heart condition so he makes terrible wheezing sounds when he wants attention,” Thompson explained of her dog. “We like to go to the landfill to drop off trash and see the eagles circling the refuse. Rusty stays in the car because otherwise he would get eaten by an eagle.”
Thompson is also known for making elaborate meals that end up going uneaten, or painting while watching science fiction shows on Netflix.
When not meandering around the landfill, Thompson is the public’s go-to person when they have thoughts on the Peninsula Clarion.
“I’m the editor — so I read and edit stories before they go on the page, copy edit, lay out articles and photos, work with reporters to develop content and generally field queries from the public,” Thompson said. “If someone has thoughts about our newspaper — good or bad — I’m the person who gets the call.”