Floyd McKay, a 1968 Nieman Fellow who reported extensively on the Pacific Northwest for four decades, died on March 4, 2022, in Bellingham, Washington, at the age of 86. He was a leading journalist at The Oregon Statesman (now the Statesman Journal), where he covered politics, and worked as a news analyst at KGW-TV in Portland, Oregon.
In 1970, he and his 1968 Nieman classmate Jacob “Jack” Landau joined others to help launch the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. McKay also taught at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, where he served as an influential and highly regarded chair of the journalism department.
After retiring from teaching, he continued to contribute print and online reporting and commentary to the Seattle Times Op-Ed page and Crosscut.com. He also wrote about Oregon politics in articles for Post Alley.
McKay received a duPont-Columbia broadcast award for his work as a reporter and producer of documentaries. He also earned a master’s degree at the University of Maryland’s Phillip Merrill College and a Ph.D. in media history from the University of Washington.
He was a Jefferson Fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, and served as the program’s temporary director.
His book “Reporting the Oregon Story: How Activists and Visionaries Transformed a State” (OSU Press, 2016) recounts the history of Oregon from 1964-1986, an era in which Oregon emerged as a national leader in environmental policies and when political rivals Tom McCall and Bob Straub both served terms as governor. He spoke about the book in an OSU Press podcast. He also wrote about his work in Nieman Reports: “Floyd McKay, NF ’68, draws on his daily reporting for a book about an era that transformed the state of Oregon.”
In his first book, “An Editor for Oregon: Charles A. Sprague and the Politics of Change,” (OSU Press, 1998), McKay chronicled the life of Oregon governor and newspaper editor Charles A. Sprague, who ran The Oregon Statesman when McKay worked there.
In addition to his wife Dixie, McKay is survived by a sister, Marjorie McKay; daughter Karen McKay; son David McKay; son-in-law Ted Wolf; and grandchildren Amanda McKay, Andrew McKay, Lydia Wolf and Laurel Wolf and fiancé Jonathan McRae.