Hello APSE members!

My name is A. Sherrod Blakely, and I am the new chair of the APSE Diversity Committee. I just wanted to take this time to tell you a little about myself, as well as speak to some of the changes we have in store for the committee and more specifically, the APSE Diversity Pledge. 

I currently teach sports journalism at Boston University, in addition to being an NBA content creator for Bulletin.com (fullcourtpress.bulletin.com) and an NBA contributor to Bleacher Report, as well as a Sports and Culture columnist for Ebony.com.

Along with my APSE role, I am also the chair of the National Association of Black Journalist Sports Task Force and have held a multitude of roles on its executive board for more than a decade. Many of the goals that I have with NABJ, which I will share here, are similar to how I envision the APSE Diversity Committee’s impact on newsroom diversity going forward. 

How APSE defines diversity in sports journalism

A sports staff that draws expertise and unique perspectives from a diversity of gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

Why is a diverse sports department important?

APSE believes that diversity gives every sports department the best chance to publish great journalism, to speak to readers in every community, to curb mistakes and misrepresentations that could be born of a staff’s cultural limitations, to promote our industry, and to grow our base of talent for the future.

Where we are with the APSE Diversity Pledge

We are relaunching the APSE Diversity Pledge, with a new name that is intended to, among other things, bring clarity as to who we are. The pledge was created by and for APSE, so the name modification simply clarifies this point as a way of avoiding confusion with other diversity-inspired endeavors that may arise with similar names. In addition, the APSE Diversity Pledge will have a sharpened purpose to create tangible change within newsrooms and sports departments, particularly when it comes to women of color. A multi-pronged approach is needed to achieve this. 

  • Increase awareness: That is what the APSE Diversity Pledge aims to do, but there has to be more. We will look more closely at aligning our diversity efforts with other groups with the like-minded goal of creating a more diverse workforce. The National Association of Black Journalists’ Sports Task Force will be working with APSE on efforts to connect our resources to better amplify job openings and ensure that women, particularly women of color, are made aware of and have better access to hiring opportunities. 
  • Mentorship: Upgrading our database of talent will not only position us to better aid our member organizations with potential job candidates, but it also provides a path toward creating stronger mentor/mentee pairings.

The APSE Diversity Pledge process begins with a short conversation between APSE (myself and/or the APSE president) and sports department leaders who agree to take the Pledge. The conversation is centered around the benefits of taking the pledge, why it’s important, and answering questions about the Pledge. 

We are adding a new element, a follow-up conversation at some point near the end or at the very end of the hiring process. This conversation will be off the record, aimed at ways to improve the Pledge by reviewing the hiring process just completed. The follow-up conversation is the clearest indicator as to how the Pledge has affected the hiring process, and an opportunity for APSE to alter the process as needed. We want to consistently improve the Pledge, which is why this input is so valuable. 

In addition to having a free ad on the various APSE social media channels and website, those who take the APSE Diversity Pledge will also have their job openings appear on various social media channels of the NABJ Sports Task Force to enhance the pool of potential candidates.   

Where we have been

When it comes to diversity, the APSE Diversity Fellowship program is a good place to start. Having been around since 2011, the Fellowship program provides mid-career professionals an opportunity to get on a sports journalism track that typically leads to becoming industry leaders, either as editors or reporters. Having had multiple mentees go through the program, I can say without question it has been a life-changing experience for all of them, and serves as one of the most important endeavors APSE has taken on in its history.

But the work is far from done, something we are reminded of with the most recent Richard Lapchick report card on diversity in which APSE received an overall grade of a “C,” which includes an “F” in Gender Hiring. Improvement in both race and gender hiring remains the goal, but improving the woeful gender hiring grade is a top priority for the Diversity Committee.

Being able to better tell and understand the stories in our communities, and thus better connect with our audience, is the value added by increased inclusion of diverse voices within the confines of the ever-expanding sports journalism landscape. 

Where we are going

APSE aspires to lead sports journalism’s charge to build a foundation of talent for its future, centered around increasingly diverse sports departments and newsrooms that give readers the best experience.