It was almost two years ago that Erik Liljegren breezed into the newsroom, twelve months removed from a six year stint producing at Fox News Channel. Despite the pedigree, we lensmen were skeptical. He had the hair and the suits, but could this big city scribbler cut it on the mean streets of the Piedmont? Laugh if you want, but the Triad is a hotbed of electronic newsgathering - a smattering of cities and towns where the local news cycle can kick into overdrive with the flip of a single school bus. In the daily hunt, the well-groomed goob riding shotgun in the live truck can make the difference between going hungry or eating the competition’s lunch. Don’t get me wrong - I‘ve worked with some masterful storytellers, but I’ve also carried more prom queens than a dozen parade floats.
Which brings me back to Erik Liljegren. Before we ever learned how to spell his name, this affable and erudite chap from New Jersey proved he didn’t just fall off the hairspray truck. With his poker face, sharp suits and just-the-facts demeanor, Lilly quickly earned a spot as The Photog's Favorite - a hard title to win among the seen-it-all shooters that populate our shop. The reason was simple: Erik didn't sweat. No matter what absurd assignment the desk threw his way, he delivered - often exceeding the most unrealistic of expectations. Aside from his considerable writing skills and on-camera presence, it was Erik's unflappable nature and easy-going eye-roll that endeared him to photogs, producers and viewers alike. If all reporters were this cool under the gun, my blood pressure would be a good deal lower.
Now he's leaving us, taking his polished shtick and sculptured hair back to the Big Apple, where he'll return to his roots at Fox News Channel. This time however, he'll be in front of the camera, a gig he’s had his eye on since the very first day he sauntered into Rupert Murdoch’s kingdom. We here on the local level are thrilled for him, but more than a little bummed at losing such an all-around stand-up guy. Especially me. As the crusty veteran of a thousand news wars who‘s something of a scribbler himself, I’m especially hard on the talking-hair-do set. But I’ve coem to know Erik as a trusted colleague and genuine friend, one with whom I’ve shared many a newsgathering misadventure. From the dicey neighborhoods to the icy overpass to the unlikely path of a speeding truck, this intensely casual young man has proven he has the chops to handle it all.
I’ve seen scores of reporters come and go. This time, it’s personal.