Veteran Mizzou scribe is 11th recipient of the award
DALLAS — Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has been named the FWAA Steve Ellis Beat Writer of the Year for his coverage of the University of Missouri football team during a pandemic-ravaged 2020-21.
The FWAA has awarded out a Beat Writer of the Year since the 2011 season in honor of Steve Ellis, long-time Tallahassee Democrat writer who passed away in 2009. Democrat sports editor Jim Henry once wrote of Ellis: “Nobody covered Florida State athletics with the passion and ferocity that Ellis did for 30 years.”
“As our industry evolves, I take more pride in being a newspaper beat writer in 2021 than ever before,” said Matter, who has covered the Missouri football beat for more than two decades. “To be recognized for that work is deeply appreciated, especially by my peers in the FWAA.
“Writers make our way with words, but I’ve struggled to find the best ones to describe how incredibly touched and honored I am to win this award,” Matter added. “Just to be mentioned with the past winners — some I know well and some only by their work and reputation — is the honor of a lifetime.”
Previous winners of the FWAA’s Beat Writer Award: Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (2011), Mark Blaudschun of the Boston Globe and Steve Wieberg of USA Today (2012), Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News (2013), Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch (2014), Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times (2015), Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman (2016), Mike Griffith of SEC Country (2017), Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com and Chris Vannini of The Athletic (2018), Brett McMurphy of Stadium Network (2019) and Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated (2020).
Matter has lived the Missouri beat — now on his fourth football coach (Larry Smith, Gary Pinkel, Barry Odom and the current head football coach Eliah Drinkwitz) — since the late 1990s when he still was a student at Missouri. He was a staple at the Columbia Daily Tribune until 2013 when he went to work for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, his current employer.
“Before he became such a fixture around Mizzou athletics that the Antlers (Missouri student group) started chanting his name at basketball games, Dave Matter made a name for himself by willing to stand in the sun longer than anyone else,” said Joe Walljasper, former Columbia Daily Tribune Sports Editor. “He watched every minute of every broiling preseason football practice, interviewed everyone who would speak to him, and then wrote long blog posts — thousands and thousands of words — that put the whole sweaty mess into context.
“I would prefer not to know how much unpaid overtime he worked, but he built a strong reader following and earned the respect of the people he covered,” Walljasper added. “Through the years, he’s developed sources, honed his writing style and accumulated the institutional knowledge that turns a good reporter into a great reporter. But he never lost the willingness to put in the work.”
Matter has won writing awards in the FWAA Best Writing Contest and others: Associated Press Sports Editors Top Ten twice and National Sports Media Association three times. He has had three books published, including “The 100-Yard Journey: A Life in Coaching and Battling for the Win” (Triumph Books), co-authored with former Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, whom he covered from 2001 to 2015.
He is a 2000s jack-of-all trades beat writer. In addition to writing game stories, features, analysis pieces, columns, blogs, he hosts weekly on-line chats, a podcast, a weekly TV show covering University of Missouri Athletics available statewide via cable and on-line.
To top that off, Matter is an adjunct instructor at the MU School of Journalism. He teaches an introduction to writing course, “instructing first-year undergraduates how to compose news stories and press releases in multiple formats and media, including print, online, TV/radio and podcasts.”
“He is relentless as a journalist, selfless as a teammate and totally on top of what is going on at Mizzou,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist BenFrederickson said. “Yes, sometimes even more so than the folks who work there. I’ve learned so much from watching Dave work, and his strengths truly set him apart when the pandemic’s challenge arrived. During a time when Zoom ruled and creativity suffered, Dave didn’t settle. He blazed his own path, rewarding his readers with quality coverage. He can hit you in the feels with a feature, teach you something about the sport in an analysis piece, and break big news. All in one day.”
Frederickson added that Matter had been instrumental in reviving the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s campus correspondent’s job, which “gives Mizzou students an opportunity to get valuable experience covering the Tigers while still in school. He (Matter) is an advocate for the next generation while providing a great example to follow every day.”
Matter summed up the FWAA award this way: “This award isn’t possible without the editors who have turned me loose on the Mizzou beat over the last two decades: Roger Hensley and Cameron Hollway at the Post-Dispatch and from the Columbia Tribune, Joe Walljasper and the late Kent Heitholt, who gave me my first paying job in journalism and someone we’ve dearly missed since we lost him 20 years ago this fall. I proudly dedicate this award to his memory.”
Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or firstname.lastname@example.org.