Oregon Sportswriter of the Year
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Ken Goe skipped the opening ceremonies and headed to Tiananmen Square in search of human interest stories. Massive video screens attached to the sides of buildings showed dense crowds enthusiastically cheering on their athletes. “Fans of all ages were chanting the equivalent of ‘Give it the gas, China.’ It was cool to see the whole world come together,” says Goe.
A longtime sportswriter for the Oregonian, Goe retired in November after 43 years covering high school sports as well as college football, basketball, track and field—and three Olympic Games. In January, he was named Oregon Sportswriter of the Year for 2020 by the National Sports Media Association.
“It was a tremendous honor,” he says. “To be mentioned in the same breath as other winners I’ve admired over the years is humbling.”
A transplant from Denver, Goe felt at home when he visited Oregon and toured the campus. As a first-year student, fresh from serving as the sports editor at his high school newspaper, he joined the Pioneer Log. He took journalism classes taught by adjunct instructor Ron Abell, a salty local newsman, and also bonded with his advisor, Neil Sabin, professor of communication. “Other than my communication classes, I ‘majored’ in Dr. Sabin,” says Goe. He enjoyed Sabin’s sense of humor, colorful war stories, and student-directed style of teaching.
Goe’s love of history led to an overseas study program to Great Britain during his sophomore year. Jerry Baum, professor of English and program director, encouraged students to travel and study independently while abroad. “I hitchhiked to Cornwall and up through Wales,” says Goe. Navigating unfamiliar circumstances forced him to grow up and gain self-confidence. “It was the most impactful experience I had as a Lewis & Clark student.”
When he graduated, journalists were in high demand in the post-Watergate era. He landed his first job at the weekly Woodburn Independent before becoming the youngest full-time reporter at the Oregonian in 1977. Over the years, he covered hundreds of sports events, but his all-time favorite was the 800-meter men’s final at the 2008 Olympic Trials in Eugene. Oregon athletes Andrew Wheating, Nick Symmonds, and Christian Smith broke from the back of the pack to sweep the top three qualifying spots. “That never happens,” says Goe. “You can still watch it on YouTube.”
As a sportswriter who spent a lot of time on the road, he credits his wife with holding the family together. A night-shift registered nurse, she was home to tuck their four kids into bed at night and wake them for school in the morning. “Christy didn’t get much sleep back then,” he says. But on one weekend in Salt Lake City, he had an epiphany about the importance of family. He was covering an NCAA basketball tournament and missed his youngest daughter’s dance team win a state championship. “My wife held up her cell phone so I could see Courtney and her teammates celebrate. I felt a deep sense of regret and never made that mistake again.”
During his 43-year career, Goe saw many changes in the journalism field, especially in terms of digital technology. But he says the stories themselves didn’t change.
“What I love about sportswriting is the human drama,” says Goe. “Athletes are put in extraordinary situations, striving to surmount obstacles and making choices that shape who they become. Their stories are universal.”
—by Pattie Pace