DNT pair ran for the agesRobin Washington column: Given that their 35 years apiece add up to seven decades at the News Tribune, don’t think for a minute that the greatest moments of reporters Kevin Pates and Mark Stodghill could be summed up in a single column. I’m not even going to try.
Given that their 35 years apiece add up to seven decades at the News Tribune, don’t think for a minute that the greatest moments of reporters Kevin Pates and Mark Stodghill could be summed up in a single column. I’m not even going to try.
But I will tell you that their upcoming retirements — Pates on July 2 and Stodghill exactly a month later — will leave some serious shoes to fill.
Especially running shoes.*
“Well, he’s a better runner than me,” Stodghill said of Pates. “He ran a sub-3-hour marathon more than once. I ran a 3-hour, 32-second marathon.”
Mind you, Stodghill is leaving out the fact that he’s run 311 races of 26.2 miles or longer (he’s scheduled to run No. 312 in Minneapolis today.) Pates has completed about 25 but, as Stodghill notes, is better known, if not forever enshrined, in running circles as the voice and pen of Grandma’s Marathon.
“Mark came here in March of ’78 and I came in April of ’78,” Pates said of their beginnings on the DNT sports staff, when Grandma’s Marathon was in its second year. “He said, ‘We’ve got a marathon in town. I’m training for that. It would be fun to (train) with somebody else.’”
Pates took up the offer, and the next year entered the race, sticking with it into the early ’80s, he recalls, before going back to covering it — leading to his 2010 induction in Grandma’s Marathon Hall of Fame. He similarly has received accolades for his coverage of University of Minnesota Duluth hockey and other sports over the decades, though his first News Tribune byline was more humbling: about someone else’s accomplishment.
“That was at the end of April of ’78,” Pates said, “about Mickey MacDonell, a local football player going into (what is now) the DECC Athletic Hall of Fame.”
By then, Stodghill had a month’s worth of stories in the paper, though the first — a Grand Rapids-Hibbing hockey game he called in and dictated — ran without his byline.
“I was still sports editor of the Hibbing Tribune then,” he said.
While the two covered the lower rungs of local sports, the big stories in the world included O.J. Simpson’s trade from Buffalo to San Francisco and an impasse between President Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin over Middle East peace. England Dan and John Ford Coley were playing the Duluth Arena and a young man named Alan L. Mitchell ran an ad announcing the opening of his law practice in Duluth.
Quietly plodding ahead was Stodghill, going on to complete about 20 Grandma’s over the years while professionally making the switch from sports to the cops and courts beat. His chronicling of the worst examples of inhumanity in the Northland as well as the area’s most compelling tales of strength and survival earned him a reputation for fairness, along with state and national journalistic honors from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Scripps Howard Awards and Investigative Reporters and Editors.
Joining the sports staff as Pates departs is Louie St. George, a Denfeld and 2004 University of Wisconsin-Superior grad who’s already a copy editor at the paper. He was previously the sports columnist for the Duluth Budgeteer and sports editor of the Daily Times in Farmington, N.M.
A search is underway for a reporter to replace Stodghill, who offered this thought to his successor: “I think the best thing about this profession is for 35 years, all I’ve been asked is to seek the truth.”
What more can you say? Except that for both of them, it’s been a great run.
Robin Washington is editor of the News Tribune. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Stodghill is size 12. Pates is a 7. Well-wishers may reach them at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org respectively.