Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram sports writer Mike Lowe says he was a mediocre high school athlete. So he had to find another way to satisfy his appetite for sports.
Fortunately, he had two things going for him: an English teacher who thought he might have a future as a writer, and a local newspaper willing to hire a high school student to cover games.
For 39 years, he’s combined his love of sports and his talents as a writer. Lowe is known for getting athletes to talk about more than touchdowns or strikeouts. He wants to know what makes them tick.
A 1979 graduate of Boston University, Lowe started his career at the Concord Monitor. He left New Hampshire for Maine in 1982, and landed as a sportswriter for the Press Herald.
“To me, it’s the people I meet and the people I write about,” said Lowe, 60. “I’ve always been more interested in the people, how they react to winning and losing, what drives them.”
Lowe covers the New England Patriots for the Press Herald/Telegram, and while other reporters are questioning athletes about their performances, Lowe is looking for something different.
“I’m the guy who asks the personal questions,” he said. “I’m always asking them, ‘What’s your family like?’ ‘Did you have a role model growing up?’ ”
In his time with the Press Herald, Lowe has covered seven Super Bowls (five Patriots victories; two Giants victories), the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the first UMaine ice hockey national championship, the Portland Pirates’ Calder Cup championship and a Little League World Series.
With a career that’s spanned nearly four decades, Lowe said he’s seen a lot of changes in the news industry. Chief among them is technology.
When he first started, he’d scout out a payphone and dictate his high school sports story over the phone to someone in the newsroom. Now, he’s writing on his phone or a laptop and pushing through the first five or six paragraphs so something can be posted to the web immediately following the end of a game.
And then there’s Twitter.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed a play because I was tweeting about the previous play,” said Lowe, who admits he has not mastered thumb typing on his phone.
Stories are shorter now, too, partly because of shrinking space in the print newspaper. And while he doesn’t get the same kind of feedback news reporters get on their stories, Lowe said he hears from plenty of parents who sometimes question why the paper didn’t cover their child’s game — or mention their child by name in a story.
Lowe, a Massachusetts native who is a New York Giants fan, said he also takes some grief from diehard Patriots fans who don’t always like his coverage.
“I’m not a fan of the Patriots, I cover them for the newspaper,” he said. “They want you to be critical, but they don’t want you to be critical. They want you to agree with what they think.”
Looking ahead, Lowe hopes to finish out his career at the Press Herald after at least another five years. He loves talking to people, even if it sometimes embarrasses his wife and kids when they are out in public.
“I enjoy getting out and meeting the people I’m writing about,” he said. “I’m telling their story. I want to portray them as they should be.”
In a nutshell …
POSITION: Sports writer for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram
YEARS AT CURRENT JOB: 36
YEARS AS A JOURNALIST: 39
FAVORITE SOURCES FOR LOCAL NEWS: Most daily papers in Maine (Press Herald, Kennebec Journal, Bangor Daily News, Sun Journal – I make sure I scan them all daily), WCSH-TV.
FAVORITE SOURCES FOR NATIONAL NEWS: The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, CNN, NBC
ADVICE FOR BEING A SMART NEWS CONSUMER: There are so many news sources out there, and many of them are not very credible. You’ve got to find a source that you trust that covers what you’re most interested in, whether it’s your local community, state politics, national politics, business, arts. And don’t settle for just one side of every story. Be willing to accept both sides. A balanced and true media source will present both sides of every story. That’s one that you should follow.