DALLAS (FWAA) – 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
"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, 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); Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated
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 the 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, who he covered from 2001-15.
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 and a weekly TV show covering
University of Missouri Athletics available statewide via cable and
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 Ben Frederickson 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
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
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