Sellers Earl was a newsroom innovator

Oct 30, 2020

Laura Sellers Earl, as president of the Associated Press Media Editors, welcomes attendees to the #newsleaders2016 conference in Philadelphia.

Laura Sellers Earl, a former managing editor of The Daily Astorian in Astoria, Oregon, who led the newspaper into the digital era, died Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, after a sudden illness. She was 57.

Her family said her blood pressure dropped dramatically, leading to kidney and liver failure.

Carl Earl, systems manager at The Astorian, described his wife of 31 years as “a champion of journalism. So much of her time was spent in making and promoting excellence in journalism.

“She loved life and her puppies. Sitting on the couch with a dog in her lap reading a book was a common sight in our house. She liked doing things her way. She learned to drive a motorcycle because she did not think I was doing it right. So, she was going to show me how.

“We loved to travel and were planning our next trips for when travel restrictions were lifted. She loved giving out Super Awesome cards. She carried them with her all the time ready to reward anyone she felt was Super Awesome. These always brought a smile to the face of anyone receiving them.”

The couple moved to Astoria in 1992 when Carl Earl became the newspaper’s production manager. Sellers Earl worked as an advertising designer and editorial assistant before being promoted to managing editor in 1995, the first woman to earn the title.

She and her husband helped build the newspaper’s first website, and in 2000, she became the first internet editor for EO Media Group, The Astorian’s parent company.

Sellers Earl helped guide the company’s daily and weekly publications into digital publishing for 14 years before returning to The Astorian as managing editor in 2014.

She was also influential in the Associated Press Media Editors, a national group of newsroom leaders and educators. She was chosen as the APME president in 2016, a coup for an editor at a small-town newspaper. She was the co-director of NewsTrain, an initiative to provide training to journalists to improve their digital skills.

“The heart and soul of all journalism is in the belly of the newsroom,” she wrote in a column when she returned as managing editor. “I’m back in the guts of the news. Thank goodness.”

Sellers Earl stepped down as managing editor in 2017 but continued to work at The Astorian and other EO Media Group newspapers as an on-call editor and on special projects.

“We’re heartbroken,” Derrick DePledge, the editor of The Astorian, said. “Laura was an innovator in digital publishing. She led by example through her work ethic and dedication to community journalism.

“Above all, though, she was kind. She nurtured her fellow managers as well as our reporters.”

Steve Forrester, the former editor and publisher of The Daily Astorian, who serves as president and CEO of EO Media Group, promoted Sellers Earl to managing editor. “When our managing editor Dan Carter left us, I thought Laura was my obvious choice,” he said in an email. “In her three years on the news desk, she had showed excellent news sense, and she was a good writer.

“Most importantly, her emotional intelligence and calm demeanor would make her a durable newsroom leader.”

Born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Sellers Earl graduated from Seagoville High School in Dallas, Texas, and went to North Texas State University. She met Carl Earl while directing a production at Southern Methodist University. They married in July 1989.

The couple enjoyed riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles and were active with the North Coast chapter of ABATE, a group that promotes motorcycle awareness, education and safety. They also loved their Welsh terriers, Barley and Copper.

Sellers Earl is survived by her husband, Carl Earl; her son, Jon Adam Calzada of Portland, Oregon; her stepson, Carl Earl Jr. of Harrison, Arkansas; her stepdaughter, Crystal Earl of Harrison, Arkansas; her mother, Jonnie Baker, of Hammond; her brother, Patrick Shawn Sellers of San Angelo, Texas; her sister, Kim Sellers Gillies of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada; and her sister, Jana Jackson of Aiken, South Carolina.

Her family held a private service. Memorials in Sellers Earl’s name can be made in support of journalism training through the APME Foundation, via Paula Froke, 530 E. Allens Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19119.