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Joe Cone Oral History Interview

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Joe Cone Oral History Interview


Cone opens the interview with a discussion of his childhood on the East Coast. In this, he recalls witnessing a speech by the president of Yale during the Vietnam War in which he publically acknowledged that African Americans were not given fair trials in the U.S., which was quite significant for the president of such a prestigious university to go on public record as having said. He then segues into a discussion of personal identity, describing the act of getting to know oneself and struggling to find a discipline that suits that. He describes his own experiences entering university as a pre-med and humanities major, eventually choosing to focus solely on the humanities to pursue his dream of being a writer. He talks about his college years and his first jobs before coming to Oregon State University, a time period during which he helped start up his own news publication in an effort to cover some of the events that mainstream news outlets ignored.

He then describes coming out to Oregon for graduate school and describes his misconceptions and first impressions of the state and the Eugene area, where he lived and studied. He mentions struggling to get his name known and build his reputation in Oregon He also recalls the personal moral struggle of deciding how far to take reporting on controversial topics, and admits that his choice to keep his reporting work politically correct was partly motivated by financial reasons.

From there, Cone discusses his career focus since coming to Oregon State University, which has been environmental reporting. Notably, his book "Common Fate" tells the story of salmon in the Pacific Northwest. He emphasizes the need to attempt to bridge different perspectives and bring people together. He also describes some of the differences between doing Sea Grant reporting on behalf of the university and the freelance journalism he had done up to that point. He points out that science is limited not only by the parameters of defining a researchable question, but also because not everyone subscribes to science as a part of their belief system. On top of that, people are often unwilling to change their ways if they do not see some immediate direct benefit or if they feel that no one else is making that change. The interview concludes with Cone explaining that one of the major motivations for his work has been to do what he can to ensure that his son will inherit an undiminished world. He then explains what made him want to be a writer, and then returns briefly to the subject of his book on salmon.

Joseph Cone grew up in Connecticut, the child of two academics who both earned their graduate degrees at Yale University. Cone attended Yale as well, double-majoring in pre-medical science and Honors English. He eventually dropped the pre-med sciences to focus fully on his dream of being a writer. Prior to coming to OSU, Cone taught English literature to high school students in New England, and later shift his focus to journalism. He came to Oregon to study journalism as a graduate student in Eugene. His interest in science never faded, however, and he eventually made his career as a science writer for Sea Grant at Oregon State University. He has written several non-fiction books dealing with environmental stewardship and environmental science, including "A Common Fate," which traces the plight of salmon in the Pacific Northwest and their historic importance to the region’s inhabitants.


Joe Cone


Voices of Oregon State University Oral History Collection (OH 09)


Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Oregon State University Libraries


February 13, 2013


Colin Duncan


Born Digital




Oral History



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Colin Duncan and Krissi [last name unrecorded]


Joe Cone


Corvallis, Oregon

Original Format

Born Digital



OHMS Object

Interview Format


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