Our Amazing & Creative Alumni: Michael Hiestand '75

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Sports media journalist

By Nadine Fiedler

From the Summer 2011 Caller

Michael Hiestand ’75 is crazy about writing. He could write well about anything, and pretty much has. But he invented his own niche in journalism: he’s been writing for 20 years about sports media and the business side of sports for USA Today. He’s created a strong presence, with a focused voice in print and a trenchant, funny persona on the air.
Sports wasn’t his first choice for his career topic. He wrote at Catlin Gabel, including book reviews for the 2nd grade librarian that were published by the Oregonian and “nutty stuff for the school newspaper,” wrote more at Stanford, did a publishing course at Harvard, then wrote book copy for Simon & Schuster in New York while he freelanced more writing.
“I’d write any article that popped into my head and send it off to magazines,” says Michael. “I got great practice making the most boring topic interesting reporting on business for Adweek—and that’s always the goal. I suggested writing about the business side of sports—which is everything besides the game—and they loved the idea. People thought that sports was not a part of capitalism, so I found my niche.”
Michael spent a memorable year in Sydney, Australia, covering preparations for the Olympics. “I thought up my own stories to do, which were basically anything I could talk my way into. I would look for an exception to the norm, because that’s always more interesting. I loved Australia. I told them it did wonders for the U.S. self-esteem to break from Great Britain. I said I would stay and cover it if they had a revolution.”
“Now, with Facebook and other social media, people think everyone should be passionate or opinionated,” says Michael. “But when I write, I don’t have a dog in that fight. If you’re into sheer storytelling you can do it for a long time, adapting as you go.”

“I got a D in French my senior year. I told a French teacher, Jean-Claude Lachkar, that I was sort of challenged. At a basketball game, he came out on the court and said, ‘I found out that you’re not stupid!’ I said that was just a rumor.”