Longtime sports writer leaves ADE
After 26+ years at the paper, Reuter becomes garden center manager
SARANAC LAKE — Lou Reuter said he was maybe 7 or 8 years old when he started planting seeds and watching them grow. That was also the age when he got his first camera, a Kodak Instamatic.
His father was a high school football coach in the Buffalo suburbs where he grew up, and his mother’s side of the family was full of newspaper people. His great-grandfather had been a founder of the Dunkirk Evening Observer, a daily south of Buffalo, and a grandfather and an uncle worked there.
“I’ve got journalism in my blood,” Reuter said in an interview Wednesday evening, after Thursday’s Adirondack Daily Enterprise and Lake Placid News were put to bed, “but I’ve also been into flowers since I was a little kid.” At age 60, those are still his “two passions,” he said.
Now the flowers are calling him to join them full-time. He’s been hired to manage the Hhott House garden center in Saranac Lake. Friday was his last day at the Enterprise and News after 26-and-a-half years here as a sports writer.
“Kids I covered back in the day, I’m covering their kids now,” Reuter said. A new sports editor is being hired.
“His love of community and the role of athletics within it are abundantly clear,” said Eric Bennett, athletic director and head football coach for the Saranac Lake Central School District.
“He loves it, and it shows,” said veteran Lake Placid photojournalist Nancie Battaglia.
“Lou was the epitome of what an outstanding sports journalist encompasses: knowledge, talent, drive and personality,” said Bill Johnson, who worked with Reuter as Enterprise sports editor from 2000 to 2007.
“His command of the language, his rapport with the Tri-Lakes sports community, and his exhaustive knowledge of every sport he covered made him an invaluable part of the team,” said Doug Buchanan, who was Enterprise sports editor and then managing editor between 1997 and 1999.
While Reuter is best known for his sports journalism, he’s actually been a plant professional for longer, starting as a landscaper in the 1980s. He started at the Hhott House in 1988 and continued to work there part-time ever since. In the newsroom he was a reliable resource for identifying flowers and trees in photos.
Now, instead of just tending and selling plants, he’s in charge of ordering product and managing staff.
“There’s a lot to learn for sure,” he said of his new job. He said he appreciates the work of his predecessor Ann Costigan, who ran the Hhott House for the last 22 years. Once his initial summer season winds down, he hopes to cover some games for the Enterprise and News this fall, on a freelance basis.
Reuter first visited the Adirondacks in summer 1981, when he was attending SUNY Albany and his younger brother Peter was at Paul Smith’s College.
“I’m out at the potato fields and I see the northern lights going crazy, and I said to myself, ‘I could live here,'” he said.
He later graduated from Buffalo State College with a journalism degree, writing for the college paper and as an intern with the Dunkirk Observer. A few years later, he was working as a landscaper in Connecticut when he and his wife at the time found out they were pregnant. They decided they wanted to raise their child in a more rural environment, so they packed up the 1976 Chevy Nova he had bought for $400 and moved here in November 1987.
He often speaks of his first job here, as a race announcer at Lake Placid’s old bobsled track. As a kid he had been captivated by watching bobsled on TV’s “Wide World of Sports.”
“If I grew up here, I would’ve been a bobsledder, no doubt about it,” he said.
As the weather got warm and the seasonal job ended, he started work at the Hhott House, around the time his daughter Sienna was born on June 3, 1988. The Hhott House’s parent organization, North Star Industries (now Citizen Advocates) kept him on year-round. Then a few years later, he met Enterprise Managing Editor John Penney at a local concert. When Penney heard Reuter had done some journalism, he invited him to write for the paper.
“Wow, did that turn out to be a good decision for the Enterprise!” Penney said this week.
Reuter said he started as a part-time sports writer in November 1994. His first assignment was a high school girls basketball game. It was only about 300 words long, but he said it took him about three hours to write. He had been out of writing for a decade. He got faster.
He went full-time in early 1998. Since then he has covered three Winter Olympics, every Ironman Lake Placid triathlon, various other big sporting events, and countless high school and college games.
Bill Demong, the director of USA Nordic who grew up in Vermontville, said Reuter covered his whole Nordic combined skiing career. Reuter was there in person for three of Demong’s five Olympics, including the 2010 Winter Games in Canada where Demong won a gold and a silver medal.
“My grandmother, Mary Demong, was a high school English teacher who could knock out a [New York Times] Sunday crossword on demand and was a huge fan of Lou and his penchant for great reporting and grammar,” Demong wrote.
It wasn’t just sports Reuter covered. He also wrote occasional features and took countless non-sports photos for the Enterprise and News, which have not had a full-time photographer since 2003. His photos won at least 18 awards from state journalism organizations, and might have won more if he had submitted entries every year. For 2006 he swept the news, feature and sports photo categories of the New York News Publishers Association contest, and he took home four photo awards for 2017 from the New York State Associated Press Association.
Asked about highlights, the first one out of his mouth was covering his daughter’s Saranac Lake High School soccer team as they made a run to the state quarterfinals in 2004.
“Best girls soccer team ever at Saranac Lake,” he said. “They had two girls go D-1 [college Division 1]. … They got great press that year.”
He also mentioned Erin Hamlin winning the luge World Championship in Lake Placid in 2009 — that story ran even above the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Coronation on page 1 — and another World Championship that same year by the USA’s “Night Train” four-man bobsled team, piloted by Steve Holcomb.
“I remember it was a nice warm March day, and they had an incredible tailgate party in the parking lot after that,” Reuter said.
He said he enjoyed many road trips to cover local athletes in state playoffs, and said covering high school sports “might be the most important thing I’ve done for the community.” But the Olympics were a whole other level.
“It was the hardest I have ever worked in my life,” he said, “and definitely the most rewarding, too.”
The Enterprise sent Reuter on his own to cover the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, then to the 2010 games in Vancouver, Canada, with editor Peter Crowley, and then to Sochi, Russia, in 2014 with reporter Chris Knight.
Every Winter Olympics in history has had at least one athlete from Lake Placid and the surrounding area, and usually there are multiple locals — plus members of the U.S. teams based in Lake Placid, such as bobsled and luge. Just like the Enterprise and News were there at the 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid to cover the homegrown Jack Shea win two gold medals in speedskating, Reuter was there in 2002 to cover Shea’s grandson Jim Shea Jr. win gold in skeleton, the face-first sliding sport that had been absent from the Olympics since 1948.
“I mean, there were like probably 200 reporters at the press conference,” Reuter said. “It was weird because we knew each other, and [he] was like, ‘Lou!’ in front of all the media from all over the world.”
At the 2010 Olympics Reuter not only covered Demong’s two medals, but also Lake Placid native Andrew Weibrecht’s unexpected bronze in Alpine skiing and Holcomb’s crew winning gold in four-man bobsled — something the U.S. hadn’t done since 1948.
In Sochi he covered Hamlin winning bronze — the first Olympic medal ever for a U.S. singles luger — Holcomb’s sleds winning two silvers and U.S. women bobsledders taking silver and bronze. He also covered Olympians from all over New York for member papers of the New York Press Association, which meant he got to cover hockey and interview NHL players such as Buffalo native Patrick Kane. He saw Russian President Vladimir Putin at the opening ceremonies and then at a U.S.-Russia hockey match. Reuter remembers Putin’s face clouding over when the U.S.’s T.J. Oshie buried four goals in the shootout to win the game.
The last year has been tough for sports writers. Games were canceled during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Reuter temporarily became the Enterprise’s copy editor. Sports eventually returned, but Reuter was by that point the Enterprise’s only sports staffer, and an earlier deadline makes it hard to get game results in the paper the next day. Still, he said, “I’m going to miss this big-time, I really will. But I’m not going to have any regrets.
“We’ll see how it shakes out.”
Also in today’s Enterprise: