From working at The Daily Mississippian to covering conflict in the Middle East, University of Mississippi graduate Dan Goodgame has an impressive resume that includes roles at the Miami Herald, Time Magazine, and now Texas Monthly. He was also recently inducted into UM’s Hall of Fame.
The Daily Mississippian was the first publication Goodgame worked for after writing for his high school newspaper. It drew him to Ole Miss. There, it was custom for rookie reporters to be partnered with more experienced student journalists. One of his partners was two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Stephanie Saul, who now works for The New York Times.
“You learn as much from your fellow students as you do from your professors,” said Goodgame, who wrote for The DM throughout his college career while working hard enough to graduate a year early.
“He’s an extremely intelligent individual,” stated Bill McCarthy, Goodgame’s college roommate and long-time friend. “I would [also] say he was an extremely driven individual.”
Immediately after graduating from Ole Miss, Goodgame took a job with the Tampa Tribune covering the 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. police beat. His stories were mostly about drug-related mafia violence.
“My job was to provide three, late-breaking, bloody police briefs every night,” he said.
After leaving the Tampa Tribune, Goodgame took a job with the Miami Herald covering a series of small South Florida cities and a few stories exposing municipal corruption. One led to the arrest of a man involved in corruption in a zoning and planning department that many overlooked.
“I would describe him as somebody who has the capacity to think outside the box,” said McCarthy, “and to wonder if connections exist outside the four corners of an issue. ”
That is how Goodgame became part of the investigative team for the Miami Herald.
“One great way to elevate yourself is to work on your own time on the story you want to work on…,” he said. “If it’s a good story, they’re not going to turn it down.”
While working for the Herald, Goodgame applied for and received a Rhodes Scholarship. He enrolled in a three-year international relations program at Oxford University in England.
“I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to… be a journalist for an American publication, covering another country,” said Goodgame.
He continued to write for the Miami Herald during academic breaks, covering events in Europe. One day after his second year of the program, Goodgame received a message from the executive editor of the paper asking if he would be the publication’s new Middle East correspondent.
His scholarship was placed on hold, and Goodgame worked in the Middle East from 1981 to 1983 while many major events, including the Siege of Beirut, took place. Reporting for a daily American newspaper from the Middle East wasn’t easy. He was turning in one story a day from a hostile environment under fire.
“One of the most important things is finding yourself a good interpreter,” Goodgame said, “and then you get yourself a good driver.”
Goodgame personally interviewed Saddam Hussein after witnessing his atrocities first hand. He recalled asking Hussein if mowing down Iranian teenagers was the act of the great power Hussein claimed he wanted to restore in Iraq.
He recalled Hussein’s chilling response: “If you have come all this way to sympathize with these insects,… then you have wasted your time, and more importantly, mine.”
After two years in the Middle East, Goodgame returned to Oxford, England to finish his master’s degree. Rather than return to the grind of a daily publication – in one year, he had written more than 400 stories for the Miami Herald – he decided to work for a weekly publication with longer stories and more character-driven narratives: Time Magazine.
“I had had my fill of front-page bylines… and thought it might be nice to dig in a little more…so I went to work for Time, initially in L.A.,” said Goodgame, who started as a correspondent and quickly worked his way up to bureau chief, drawn to stories about the business side of show business.
He later covered the presidential campaigns for Time Magazine in the ’87- ’88 cycle. He moved around the country with the various campaigns for weeks at a time, occasionally breaking to cover issue-related stories.
Goodgame was asked to cover the White House as a correspondent when George H.W. Bush was elected in 1988, and was promoted to Washington bureau chief not long after Clinton was elected.
“I feel blessed to have been able to do this at the time I did it,” he said, “because Time Magazine had about 24 corespondents in Washington, [D.C.]”
As a Washington D.C. bureau chief, Goodgame’s goal was to provide readers with the magazine stories they would not get elsewhere from daily newspapers or television. This was an advantage of a large number of correspondents since they could, “advance the ball further,” he said.
Goodgame later worked for Time as an assistant managing editor, overseeing business coverage in New York City.
“The joke at Time Magazine was, in those days that if you worked there long enough, they eventually break your feet and make you move to New York,” Goodgame joked.
He said his work covering business for Time helped prepare him for his next job with Fortune Small Business as editor in chief where he loved covering stories about entrepreneurs. Goodgame and his team turned the website into a community that allowed small business owners to publish articles with the help of staff writers.
“That was very uplifting,” he said about the creativity and ingenuity of the entrepreneurs he worked with.
At Goodgame’s five-year mark at Fortune, the Great Recession hit, the company cut its budget, and he decided to leave and work as a website media consultant.
One of his clients was Rackspace, a company he had covered at Time. As a consultant and vice president of communications, Goodgame was tasked with attracting more traffic to the company’s website and helping them tell their stories to grow the business.
“It felt good to me to be able to hire people because I left journalism when it was all about firing people,” said Goodgame, who later returned to journalism as editor in chief of Texas Monthly, a title he still holds.
When asked to reflect on his career and name the most important attribute of a journalist, Goodgame replied, “Curiosity, in a word.”
His former roommate, McCarthy, described him as inquisitive.
“He’s not necessarily going to take the first and easy answer that any person being interviewed would give him,” he said.