Erik Hall: What made you want to get into sports journalism?
Stef Loh: I always liked sports, and I always liked writing, so I figured it was kind of a no-brainer to combine the two.
EH: How’d you get started in it?
SL: I grew up in Singapore. I kind of watched a lot of sports back then. I remember waking up at weird hours to watch NFL games, just because as a 17-year-old, that seemed fun to me. I kind of taught myself to understand American football in a place where like no one actually watches American football.
Then I realized that I wanted to go to school in the U.S. because it’s the country where sports is a huge industry. I figured if I wanted to make my career in sports, that was the place to go do it.
I picked Oregon in part because I wanted to go to a place that had big-time DI sports and football program, because I wanted that whole experience.
When I was in school, I worked for the Daily Emerald, the school paper, and really just tried to climb the ladder. I got an internship out of college at The Spokesman-Review in Spokane (Washington).
Thereafter, I tried to blanket the country with my resume. My first job was covering West Virginia football at the Morgantown Dominion Post in West Virginia.
EH: What’s a story in your career that you’ve enjoyed doing the most?
SL: There are a lot of them. I guess it matters what constitutes enjoyment. There have been a lot of stories that have resonated with me for different reasons.
I guess the one that sticks out most recently was a series of stories I did on the Washington State University student conduct code, which is not remotely the most sexy thing that anybody can be writing about. But what kind of stuck with me was that it was about how the student conduct code there was flawed and resulted in the expulsion of one of their football players.
There were things about the code that were unfair and not really consistent with what was acknowledged as the best practices nationally. And through my reporting of that stuff, the school conducted an investigation into their student conduct laws, and the kid ended up being able to graduate, and he was recently acquitted of an assault charge. That kind of stuck with me. That’s kind of cool that I was able to shed light on something like that and sort of help to right a wrong.
There have been a bunch of features that I enjoyed writing. One was a profile of WSU quarterback Luke Falk. He’s the WSU starter. What makes him tick. He’s kind of a quirky dude, I guess you could say. He uses frankincense before games, and he has some Bulletproof Diet. That was fun to report.
I did a lot of things issue-based when I was in San Diego (at the Union-Tribune) because I was doing more of a sports enterprise role there. I spent a lot of time on one story about just the opioid addiction in sports and how there is a faction of advocates for legalizing marijuana use in sports because they feel like that would be a good alternative to the opioid epidemic. Stuff like that, I found very fulfilling.
EH: Who is someone that helped you grow in your career in sports journalism?
SL: There are a number of people. My sports editor at the Patriot-News (in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania). His name was Paul Vigna. He was a tremendous influence to me early on because we worked well together. He helped me grow as a sport writer. He encouraged that big-picture thinking that goes along with conceptualizing a lot of these issues and trend stories.
Currently, Don Shelton at the (Seattle) Times is someone I always kept in touch with because I admired what he was doing up here. I looked upon him as a mentor.
Ed Guzman, the assistant sports editor at the Times, currently. He was the guy I worked with when I got here at The Seattle Times before we had a little bit of reshuffling. He was an incredible line editor and really helped me in that first year that I was here, too.
EH: What’s a compelling story you’ve read recently or one you’ve really enjoyed?
SL: Seth Wickersham from ESPN had this really fascinating behind-the-curtain look at the dynamics between Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll and the affect that 1-yard-line, Super Bowl loss against the Patriots has had on this team in an enduring way. He did a lot of reporting. He got sort of behind the scenes and was able to put together this picture of this fractured franchise that’s trying to heal and trying to move forward as they go into this season. I thought that was fascinating. That was a really well-done piece.
EH: What’s one thing that you think most people don’t know about you?
SL: That’s a hard question to answer. I guess I’m kind of an open book. I can clean and jerk my body weight. I’ll go with that.
EH: What made you want to be part of the APSE Diversity Fellowship this year?
SL: I’m at a point in my career where I hit the first big goal that I had for myself, which was to work at The Seattle Times. I’m trying to figure out what I want to do next as far as like an immediate future goal. I’ve been exploring the idea of trying to get into the management side of things. I thought this would be a good way to test the waters and see if that is something I’d be interested in.
EH: Is there anything in particular you hope to get out of the Diversity Fellowship or that you’ve gotten out of it so far?
SL: When we did that weekend in Nashville, Michael Anastasi brought in mangers who were able to talk about what makes a good and a bad manager. I think that was pretty enlightening. That was pretty helpful.