The Steve Smith Explosion  | American Journalism Review
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From AJR,   April/May 2006

The Steve Smith Explosion   

By Robin T. Reid
Robin T. Reid (rreid@ajr.umd.edu) is a former AJR associate editor.     


After two decades in journalism, Stephen Smith decided in 1991 that it was time to change his byline. He added his middle initial, G, to a story he'd written for The New Yorker, to distinguish himself from other men who had the same name.

Fifteen years later, Smith, 57, now the Houston Chronicle's Washington bureau chief, says there are so many Steve Smiths out there that maybe he should have added his entire middle name, Grant.

"I went through the first 35 years of my life meeting only one other Steve Smith, at a swim meet when I was 13 years old," he says. But now, "every time I turn on TV, there's a basketball game with a Steve Smith playing. I feel like I'm at the bottom of the great pile of Steve Smiths."

One of those in the pile is Steven Smith, 22, the 6-foot-9-inch forward for the La Salle Explorers, the Atlantic 10 Conference's player of the year. Then there is Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith, 26, and former NBA All-Star Steve Smith, 37, now an on-air analyst for his old team, the Atlanta Hawks. Not to mention two sports columnists, Stephen A. Smith, 38, of the Philadelphia Inquirer and ESPN, often known as "Screamin' A." Smith, and Stephen C. Smith Sr., 40, of Texas' Wichita Falls Times Record News. The latter says his pals in the newsroom often call him "Screamin' C." to differentiate him from his better-known, high-decibel namesake. The Texas columnist describes his colleague more reverentially as "the taller and better-dressed Stephen."

"On any given day, I'm playing basketball or football," says Steven A. Smith, 55, editor of Spokane, Washington's Spokesman-Review. And in addition to all of those athletes, he estimates, there are 2,743 Steve Smiths in journalism. When I told him my Web research had uncovered a mere 12, he replied darkly, "There have been layoffs."

The only Steve Smith that people ever confuse Time Out New York Associate Music Editor Steve Smith with is the former drummer for the rock band Journey; both were trained as drummers. "My girlfriend has it in mind that I should write a composite memoir and somehow interweave all the Steve Smiths," says Smith, 39. "I'd be finishing the latest Journey tour and suiting up to go to the Olympics with the Dream Team."

Smith covers classical music as a freelance reviewer for "Weekend America," a radio program produced by American Public Media. Good luck trying to reach him there, though; the Steve Smith who first comes to mind at the radio network's headquarters is Stephen Smith, executive editor of the documentary unit.

The roster of Steve Smiths in journalism also includes Stephen Smith, medical reporter for the Boston Globe; Steve Smith, weather anchor for "First Coast News" in Jacksonville on channels NBC-12 and ABC-25; Steve Smith, online editor for JournalStar.com in Lincoln, Nebraska; Stephen Smith, culture correspondent for BBC's "Newsnight Review"; Steven Smith, chairman of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; and Steve Smith, senior editor of Wireless Business Forecast.

Looking toward the future, there's at least one young Steve Smith who's expressed an interest in the world of words. Stephen C. Smith Jr., 11, likes to write short stories, says his father.

"Recently, he was tossing about an idea for a novel/movie called 'The Christmas Murders,'" Smith Sr. wrote in an e-mail. "So, that's at least in the mass communications neck of the woods."

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