Former and current presidents of APSE posed for a picture at Carmine's during the APSE Conferece in Las Vegas.

By Patrick Bernadeau / APSE Diversity Fellows

Distinguished former Los Angeles Times sports editor Bill Dwyre once worried the Associated Press Sports Editors would be known as simply a “contest-running organization.” 

But in the half-century since the organization’s first meeting took place at the Squire Inn in New York City, APSE has become so much more: a place where newspapers and digital media could sharpen their outlets by challenging, sculpting and inspiring the leaders of their respective sports sections. 

During the APSE Summer Conference held in Las Vegas, many industry leaders, both past and present, took center stage as part of a special session celebrating the organization’s climb and triumphs through its first 50 years on Tuesday, July 11. 

Dwyre, a Red Smith Award winner in 1996, was part of an eight-person panel to discuss the stories that have shaped the APSE. Joining Dwyre were fellow Red Smith Award winners Dave Smith (1990), George Solomon (2003) and Henry Freeman (2017) along with past presidents Tracy Dodds (1999-00), Garry D. Howard (2009-10), Michael Anastasi (2011-12) and Lisa Wilson (2020-21). Additionally, 11 past presidents in attendance were recognized prior to the discussion moderated by outgoing president Jorge Rojas.   

Dave Smith (from left), Bill Dwyre and Henry Freeman

“This group encapsulates the dedication of all the editors to APSE and to its 50 years of success,” Rojas said. 

Rojas began the session by asking the panel what would each member do in dealing with the current changing economy and if they have seen any parallels during their time. 

Freeman, the founding sports editor of USA Today while also enjoying stints as executive editor and publisher through a 35-year career, expressed the importance of content. 

“Having been through several things in several layers, I strongly believe that the path to the future is not cutting costs,” Freeman said. “The path to the future is creativity, it’s content, it’s being innovative. It’s continuing to have passion for what we do and understanding our readers.” 

Wilson, currently serving with The Athletic, added: “Whenever anyone comes to me and talks about sports journalism and the state of our industry, I never discourage them, you’re always going to get encouragement from me. Because I believe in storytelling, which is something I control, I believe in sports journalism and I believe in APSE. I’m committed to be in this group and work to figure it out.” 

Next, going decade by decade, Rojas asked the panel to recollect memorable moments from their time. The topics ranged from the sizable presence of outlets at an event, the early initiatives of the APSE and the power of newspapers. 

Meanwhile, among the earliest women sports writers and editors as well as the second woman to serve as APSE president, Dodds was one of the founders of Association for Women in Sports Media. She noted how APSE influenced the creation of AWSM. 

“We had a whole lot of backing for APSE and modeling for APSE, and even wrote our bylaws based on the APSE bylaws,” she said. “And when I saw today how many AWSM people when have at this convention, that’s truly amazing.”

Towards the end of the session, Howard, the person responsible for establishing the Red Smith Hall of Fame, remarked on the impact he aimed to have as the first black APSE president. 

“I feel like I was able to contribute to this group in a meaningful way to leave a legacy that says you too can be successful despite anything against you that’s holding you back,” he said. “I’d like to say that this group supported me because you elected me president and I think I served you very well. And I appreciate where we’re going, I hope we continue to go in this direction, but it’s been a blessing to call you my friends mainly because we took a journey together that’s been very fruitful. Here we are today, being successful, looking back on things, and it feels very good. And you too are going to be great as well.”