It’s been a tough week at the Itemizer-Observer.
Late Friday night, I learned that IO sportswriter Steve Brandon had died of an apparent heart attack.
Big blow for the readers of the IO, my staff and me.
As the owner of several newspapers in the past, I’ve learned that sometimes you hit a hit when hiring employees and sometimes you hit a home run. In Steve’s case, I scored a grand slam.
I could hardly believe my eyes, in the spring of 2021, when his resume and cover letter arrived in my email. Here is a guy who worked for the Oregon Journal, the Oregonian and the Portland Tribune, who wanted to come and work at a much smaller weekly to cover sports.
At the time, we were still in the middle of COVID and I was still trying to figure out how to make things work financially at IO, so I put Steve’s resume on the back burner. Then summer turned into fall and I started wondering how the newspaper was going to cover the upcoming fall sports season. I remembered I had Steve’s resume so I called. To my surprise, Steve was still very interested in the position and made an appointment to come and meet with me to discuss the type of coverage I was looking for.
I will never forget our first meeting. He walked into my office, took a look at my sports photos and gear, and started asking questions. He was very kind and friendly. At that moment, I knew I had to have him on the IO news team.
It didn’t matter that he lived in Portland. Steve was an accomplished journalist, which is really, really hard to find these days. He did most of his interviews over the phone and came to Polk County almost weekly to cover games, take pictures and talk with people.
I never had to tell Steve what to cover, because every Sunday night came a slew of stories and photos that he sent in for the next issue. Usually I had to fiddle with the start and kerning of the text to get all of its stories for the week. He was the most prolific, error-free writer I have ever worked with.
Besides being an outstanding sportswriter, Steve was an outstanding representative of the Itemizer-Observer. He genuinely cared about the people he interviewed and showed great respect and interest in everyone he covered.
His exceptional trait of being a gentle, caring person was evident in the tributes people wrote about him on our Facebook page after learning that he passed away Friday night after covering the Dallas High School track signing.
Needless to say, there will never be another Steve Brandon. There are a limited number of these types of people. I am so grateful and blessed that Steve was part of the IO team for the past year. He brought readers back to the paper and made everyone feel good about themselves.
My sincere thoughts go out to the Brandon family for the wonderful man who is no longer with us.