By Johanna Huybers
Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal 

Jaw drops are my specialty.

Granted, they’re more subdued than on-the-floor jaw drops. And it’s usually from my prodding. And admitted bragging. And my pearly-white smile.

But it always ends the same way, with me gushing about how the Associated Press Sports Editors organization helped me go from being an intern while in high school to sports editor at the Reno Gazette-Journal in less than 10 years.

That transformation started in 2008 with a phone call from Boston Globe sports editor Joe Sullivan. Now, I know Joe is a phone call away if I ever need anything: a source, advice or just a laugh. Back then, though, getting a call from the Boston Globe sports editor was A BIG DEAL.

I stammered over trying to graciously accept the inaugural APSE scholarship award during that first introduction to Joe and APSE as a college senior at the University of Nevada. I was much more direct last month at the annual APSE summer conference in Arlington, Va., when Joe asked me to be part of this year’s scholarship committee.

I’m so proud to be a part of that committee six years after being on the receiving end of their generosity. That scholarship not only helped me pay for school, but got me interested in and involved with APSE.
When I received the scholarship, I was already entrenched in sports journalism.

Throughout my four years at Nevada, I worked full-time at the RGJ on the sports desk after being hired from my internship in high school. After graduating from Nevada in 2009, I took on a lead role on the night desk and attended my first national APSE event, contest judging in 2010.

Excuse the hyperbole, but judging changed my career goals, which changed my life. After spending time reading the best of the best and meeting editors from media outlets both big and small, I knew I was capable of that type of work.

Staying involved with APSE gave me the push to do my best work with a great team, and the RGJ earned top 10 honors for daily and Sunday sections three times over the following three years. I needed all the support I’d built up from APSE when I was promoted to sports editor in July 2013.

Over the past year, APSE continued to develop my career when I was selected for the diversity fellowship program shortly after accepting the sports editor job. The camaraderie and professional development I received from the other fellows (hi, Emily Horos, Marcus Vanderberg and Erik Horne!) and program leaders Michael Anastasi and Jorge Rojas, got me through some, let’s call them interesting, times as a first-year manager.

Now, I talk daily with at least one person I’ve met through APSE. Some of my best friends are in this business, and I would need more than two hands to count the people I can call mentors and friends in this organization.

It seems appropriate that this year’s scholarship applicants included a pair of Nevada students, who should be all too familiar with “The Law of the Jungle,” which is recited before Wolf Pack football and basketball games. As a Nevada alum, it’s something that stuck with me and nicely sums up what the scholarship, diversity fellowship and APSE have meant to me: 

“For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.”