Steve Brandon, Itemizer-Observer sports reporter, died Friday, Sept. 9 after covering the Dallas High School track dedication ceremony, he was 68.
Brandon, who had been a longtime sports editor and reporter in the Portland area, started covering sports for the Itmeizer-Observer in September, 2021.
Noted for his soft spoken, inquisative personality, Brandon became a regular figure at many Polk County sporting events.
During his short time working in Polk County, Brandon touched many lives, as was echoed by tributes posted on the Itemizer-Observer’s Facebook page this past weekend.
In tribute to our fomer sports reporter, we are rerunning an article written by former I-O editor Jolene Guzman last September, introducing Brandon to the community. Also apearing in the I-O this week is an article that Brandon wrote, that was held due to lack of space in the newspaper.
The I-O staff is mourning the loss of a wonderful person who touched many lives. We were fortunate to have him represent the newspaper this past year.
Our thoughts are with the Brandon family during this difficult time.
Brandon joins I-O, takes on sports coverage
By Jolene Guzman
DALLAS – Veteran sports writer Steve Brandon has joined the I-O staff to cover Polk County high school and Western Oregon sports.
Brandon started writing for newspapers in 1971, while still attending Cleveland High School in Portland, working for the Community Press, which had a chain of papers in the Portland area at the time.
He was the full-time sports editor – while still in high school.
“I wasn’t looking for a job, but I was complaining about their coverage and my mom convinced me to write a letter to the editor,” Brandon said. “Totally unlike me, and for God knows what reason, at the end of the letter I put a p.s. that said, ‘If you can’t find anyone else, call me.’”
The editor of the paper gave him a call a week later. “He was new in town from Tennessee and didn’t know anyone, and said my letter had intrigued him and would I be interested in coming into the office to discuss my ideas for local sports coverage. He asked what experience I had. I had to tell him, ‘Well, sir, I am 16 years old and have never had a job,’” Brandon said. “He paused for a moment and said, ‘Why don’t you come in, anyway, and we’ll talk.’ The rest is history, as someone once said.”
Brandon said he is grateful to both his Cleveland High journalism instructor, Jan Watt, and that first editor, Jim Terrell, “for his bravery in acting on a hunch and taking a chance on a raw kid.”
And, of course, Brandon thanks his mom for encouraging him to write the letter that got him his first job.
Newspapers stuck for Brandon.
After working for the Community Press, he took a sports reporter position at the Oregon Journal from 1977 to 1982. In 1982, he moved to the Oregonian, where he worked as a sportswriter until 2001. His most recent stint was at the Portland Tribune as the sports editor from 2001 to 2020.
Not quite ready to hang up this notebook, Brandon will cover sports part-time for the I-O with a focus on local high school sports. He’s spent the last few weeks attending games and connecting with coaches.
Brandon said he enjoys the challenge of writing, and meeting those involved in the athletic programs, including athletes, coaches, parents and school administrators.
“I’m convinced the athletes don’t realize how important high school sports -- just like music, drama, speech and other extracurricular activities – are to a community’s well-being. And how much entertainment they provide. And how many memories they create for everyone,” Brandon said. “It truly is about so much more than wins and losses. You appreciate that a lot more as the years go by, and I hope today’s athletes will look back fondly on their experiences, too.”
He added that he’s covered sports at all levels, and high sports can be just as exhilarating to watch and cover as any other.
“It’s fun seeing teams and individuals develop over a season and career,” Brandon said. “And that thrill of victory and agony of defeat thing can be as intense in high school sports as it is anywhere else.”