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.
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.
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.
“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: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, click here. )