By Jeff Rosen
If you know Terry Taylor, you’ll appreciate her reaction upon hearing she’d been voted the recipient of the APSE’s Red Smith Award for 2018: joy mixed with pain, because it hurt to smile after having a tooth pulled the day before.
“I’ll be damned,” she said. “I have stitches in my mouth, and I’m smiling and it’s killing me. But this is great.
“Christmas came in March.”
If you don’t know Terry Taylor, meet a true pioneer in sports journalism and the overwhelming winner of an honor presented annually to a person who has made major lifetime contributions to the industry.
Taylor became the first woman sports editor for The Associated Press in 1992, and when she retired in 2014, she was the longest-serving AP sports editor in history.
Through the years, she directed AP’s coverage of 14 Olympic Games as well as numerous Super Bowls, World Series, Triple Crown races, Masters, World Cups and college championships.
She currently works for the International Olympic Committee as an adviser for the Olympic Information Service.
In recalling her contributions to sports journalism, friend and past APSE president Jeff Wohler started with the 1980s: journalism’s modern heyday, and a time when sports departments were mostly devoid of women.
Taylor was one of the exceptions, tapped by then-AP sports editor Darrell Christian to manage a deep staff and assign daily and long-term coverage.
One year in the late ’80s, Christian brought Taylor to Tampa for a national APSE event. The hotel was packed with representation from pillar member newspapers across the country, leaders of the largest sports departments in America.
In other words, men. Lots and lots of men.
Taylor, confident and capable as anyone in the room, fit in immediately.
“I told her yesterday, ‘I didn’t even think of you as a woman,'” said Wohler, who at the time was sports editor of The Oregonian in Portland. “Now it’s not so unusual to see women in sports journalism. But back then, it kind of was.”
It wasn’t long before Christian was named AP’s managing editor and Taylor its sports editor. She’d spend the next 22 years in that role, negotiating a blur of big events, nettlesome run-ins with major pro-sports leagues and everything else that comes with quarterbacking the sports arm of a humongous news organization.
“She was running a giant sports department, the biggest in the world, for the longest amount of time,” Wohler, who hopes to be in Nashville on June 19 when Taylor is presented the Red Smith Award at a luncheon in her honor during this year’s summer conference.
“She did it with distinction, with style, with class and with grace. She deserves the Red Smith Award because she made such a difference in our business.”
After graduating from Temple in 1974 with a degree in journalism, Taylor took a job at The Charlotte (N.C.) News, where she worked as a reporter and edited sports wire copy on the weekends.
She started working for AP in 1977 in Philadelphia, where she was a writer, editor and desk supervisor. In 1981, she transferred to the company’s national sports desk in New York.
Wohler remembers Taylor working around the clock even throughout the many APSE conventions she attended. No one questioned her work ethic. Taylor, too, remembers some frenetic times, such as coming back from coordinating coverage of a Winter Olympics just as March Madness was unfolding.
“We’d come back from overseas, thinking we were covering the most important thing in the world,” Taylor said. “And I’d have a sports editor asking what we were going to do about college basketball.”
The Association for Women in Sports Media (AWSM) gave Taylor its Mary Garber Pioneer Award in 2016. The award is named after the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal reporter whose work helped clear a path for women in sports journalism.
Today, Taylor is married to Tony Rentschler and lives in the western suburbs of Philadelphia.
In time, more women rightfully ascended to positions of esteem in sports journalism – women such as Cathy Henkel in Seattle and Lisa Olson in New York and Boston and beyond, and former APSE and AWSM president Tracy Dodds, past APSE president Mary Byrne, Lisa Wilson of The Undefeated and Kathy Laughlin of the Sun Sentinel.
As much as anyone and perhaps more than most, though, Taylor kicked down the door in a male-dominated world. And she did it by being herself.
“I really appreciate this,” she said. “Red Smith was always near and dear to my heart.”
As always, the Red Smith nomination process and voting was open to past Red Smith winners, past APSE presidents, APSE national officers, 10-year APSE members and alumni members who belonged to APSE for at least 15 years.
The next five in this year’s Red Smith Award voting totals – Bill Lyon, Sandy Rosenbush, Sally Jenkins, George Vecsey and Dan Shaughnessey – are automatically nominated for the 2019 award. All others will have to be nominated again next year.
This year, well, this year belongs to Terry Taylor. A week and a half before the banquet in Nashville, she’ll be rocking out to the Rolling Stones at a concert in Edinburgh, Scotland.
“It will be a June to remember,” she said. “I am over-the-moon thrilled.”
Former APSE executive director Jack Berninger, who now coordinates the Red Smith Award nomination and balloting process, contributed to this report.
2018 Red Smith Award Voting
1st 2nd 3rd Total
Terry Taylor 22 8 10 144
Bill Lyon 14 2 8 84
Sandy Rosenbush 7 5 4 54
Sally Jenkins 4 5 7 42
George Vecsey 1 8 10 39
Dan Shaughnessey 0 11 5 38
Dick Young 3 3 11 35
Mark Whicker 5 3 1 35
Terry Pluto 3 6 0 33
Tom Callahan 2 6 2 30
Stan Hochman 4 2 3 29
Tony Kornheiser 0 2 2 7
Loren Tate 0 2 0 6