Sportsman Steve Doig

He’s won a Pulitzer Prize.  And a Bronze Star.

So you might think Steve Doig’s latest award — he’s a Sportsmen of Westport honoree — might be small potatoes.

You’d be wrong.

Stephen Doig

Steve — who captained the 1965 Staples football team, served as a combat reporter in Vietnam, pioneered the field of computer-assisted investigative reporting, and now holds the Knight Chair at Arizona State’s Cronkite School of Journalism — credits his 4 years in Westport for much of his success.

He is honored, he says, to receive the same Sportsmen award given previously to teammates (and heroes) like John Bolger, Win Headley, Matt MacVane and Bill During.  And he’ll repeat those sentiments in his acceptance speech on May24, at Continental Manor.

For a man who has achieved so much, Doig’s early years were checkered.  His very promising senior football season ended when he tore a quad in practice.  He also ran track, and played basketball against a guy named Calvin Murphy.  (On the football field, he faced a Rippowam High freshman named Bobby Valentine.)

He was recruited by Dartmouth football coach Bob Blackman, but a couple of days into pre-season practice he reinjured his thigh.  His athletic career was over.

Doig calls his 1st 2 years in Hanover “unsuccessful.”  He was “a quiet, reasonably good student” at Staples.  Then, he says, “I made up for all that in college.  I really lived the ‘Animal House’ life.”

He dropped out twice.  The 2nd time, he got a letter from Uncle Sam.

Steve Doig, Staples High School Class of 1966.

While he stood naked for his physical, a sergeant asked what he’d majored in.  English was most recent.  The Army sent him to the Defense Information School to learn journalism.

“It beat carrying a rifle,” Doig says — but he went to Vietnam anyway, as a reporter.  That’s where he earned his Bronze Star.

Back stateside, he was sent to the Defense School as an instructor.  He found he enjoyed teaching as much as writing.

Returning to Dartmouth — “grown up” — he got A’s.  And got married.

In Florida — first for the Daytona Beach News-Journal, then the Miami Herald — Doig honed his investigative skills.  Political corruption, land fraud, crime — the Sunshine State was a hotbed of bad stuff to write well about.

In the early ’80s, Doig played around with an Atari 800 computer.  He realized he could use it to analyze state budgets and roll call votes.  He taught himself to crunch data — and helped develop the nascent field of computer-aided investigative reporting.

In 1993 he and a few Herald colleagues shared a Pulitzer for Public Service, for their coverage of Hurricane Andrew.  Doig’s contribution was analyzing damage patterns.

He joined the Arizona State faculty in 1996.  It was a good move — right before the newspaper business frayed.  He still does investigative work — recently, he analyzed data for a CaliforniaWatch expose of apparent Medicade fraud — but he also loves developing the next generation of journalists.

And he’s good at it.  He spent last fall as a Fulbright Distinguished Chair, teaching precision journalism and investigative reporting in Portugal.

So what does Doig’s 30-plus-year career in newspapers have to do with sports, and the Sportsmen of Westport Award?

“The lessons I learned in athletics — teamwork, preparation, working hard for a goal — absolutely contributed to whatever success I’ve had,” he says.

Steve Doig carries the football.

“Staples was an extraordinarily rich environment.  It was a competitive school — 14 Merit semifinalists my senior year.  Just being reasonably bright and athletic was not enough to stand out.  You had to work very, very hard.”

In basic training, Doig realized what advantages he’d had.  “I had to help guys in my platoon write letters home,” he says.  “That helped me understand how the world worked.”

Though he spent only 4 years in Westport, they were formative ones.  Doig calls it “my hometown.”  Thanks to Facebook and social media, he has reunited with — and grown even closer to — many members of the Class of 1966.

He looks forward to returning for the Sportsmen ceremony.

The award, he acknowledges, “means nothing outside of Westport.”

But, he adds, “in terms of friendships, my heroes, and what the town meant to me,” it is as meaningful as any Pulitzer Prize or Bronze Star.

(Also honored at the 50th annual Sportsmen of Westport “Dinner of Champions” at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 24:  Carmen Arciola, Mark Brockwell, Mary Gail Horelick-Gristina, Nell Mullen, Nikki Zeoli-Porzio, Chief of Police Al Fiore, Staples baseball coach Jack McFarland, and Westport EMS’ Jay Paretzky. 

Tickets are $50; they’re available at Settlers & Traders Real Estate, 215 Post Road West; Junior’s Hot Dog Stand, 265 Riverside Avenue, or by emailing Karen DeFelice:  For more information, click here. )

11 responses to “Sportsman Steve Doig

  1. Another really good article about a ’60s’ guy. Steve was the only sophomore starter in the fall of ’63’. A terrific player and good person.

  2. Hi, Bobby! Steve was one of only three soph starters during my three years as a Wrecker: Win Headley in ’64 and Jeff Hooper in ’65 were the others. He burst on the scene during a pre-season scrimmage in ’63 when he scored a TD for the varsity on a long punt return. From then on he was a varsity starter. In ’64 a Rippowam frosh named Valentine shocked us by scoring on three long kick-off/punt returns and an upset appeared imminent — until Steve took a kick-off and ran it about 85 yards for a game icing TD. In the opinion of those he practiced with every day, Steve was the equal of ’64 (and future Division I) star backs John Bolger, Billy During and Buz Leavitt. By ’65, before his season-ending injury, he and Bobby Valentine were regarded as the top runners in the FCIAC. My dad, a Dartmouth recruiter, pursued Steve hard with Coach Blackman’s ardent encouragement, persuading Steve to go to Hanover instead of Virginia. Steve has had an amazing career, one I cite often to young people, especially budding journalists, who may have stumbled over a post-high school bump in the road and are convinced that they will be lifelong failures. He’s still an inspiration to his former teammates and ’66 classmates. Bobby Kyle, btw, was co-captain of the excellent ’63 Wrecker squad that also featured qb Matt MacVane. Bobby was one of the best running backs in Staples history.

    • Carl A. Swanson

      Not to be forgotten from that class of ’66 was Dale Hopkins who was a standout football lineman and basektball center. Dale was also voted “Best Athlete” by the class. “Hoppy” also served in Vietnam in Marine Reconnaisance and received two Purple Hearts during two tours of duty. Dale recently died of cancer.

      • You’re right, Dude. RIP, Hoppy. A superb receiver and db – a magnificent natural athlete who nevertheless worked hard to improve his skills. One of the finest basketball players in the FCIAC ’64-66 along with Calvin Murphy of Norwalk, Marvin Spencer of McMahon and Bobby Staak of Darien, Division I standouts all, as Dale would have been as well had he not answered the call to duty. He and Steve were great teammates.

  3. John Huminski

    I remember him very well! Way to go, Steve!

  4. Great article about a clearly accomplished person; however, the article failed to include the crowning achievement of Steve’s life’s work–his son and daughter! 🙂

  5. The combat reporters I met in Nam were fearless… looking for action [COMBAT] to uncover a story or report on a major engagement. They would beg chopper pilots to take them to a firefight.

    Good for you, Steve. Congratulations.

    Where were you in Nam? What stories did you write? Got a link for us?

  6. The Dude Abides

    Congrats to Steve on all his accomplishments and his recent accolade. Good guy and another shining star from the class of ’66.

  7. Thanks, Dan, for the way-flattering article, and for the attaboys from the rest of you. Re Tom Feeley’s question about ‘Nam, I certainly was less than fearless — I was very good at digging deep foxholes when I was upcountry. I was based in Long Binh with HQ USARV, but got to travel (hitchhiking by helicopter, in fact) to much of the rest of Viet Nam, and was along for the invasion of Laos. I got to meet many of the real combat reporters for the major papers and networks, including legendary photographers Larry Burrows and Henri Huet the night before their helicopter was shot down. The whole experience is what made me think that I might try the journalism thing as a career when I got out. (But not the war correspondent thing; I’d had enough of that!) Seeing as who I worked for, most of my stories were about the wonderful job Army soldiers were doing, sent to their hometown newspapers. No links, to my knowledge, back to those ancient times.

  8. Congratulations! And thank you for your service!