And now, the end is near …. (Elvis version)
Dear APSE members,
As my term comes to a close, I am sending you this final President’s Report – in part to keep the membership up to date, but more importantly to avoid rambling at the mic at the APSE Conference.
It’s long, so please read it at your leisure.
So … how did the year go? And where does APSE stand?
I’d say, overall, we’re making progress and doing admirably well considering some of the obstacles the whole world has had to overcome, but there’s more work to be done to keep our organization thriving and ahead of the game.
One thing that became quickly obvious to me was what an incredible job Lisa Wilson and Gary Potosky did in leading the organization through the pandemic years. At the beginning of my presidency, I outlined five goals (spoiler alert: I didn’t meet them all), but my year in office took me in a different direction – focusing on APSE’s established programs and initiatives to fortify them post-pandemic.
Luckily, I benefited from a tried-and-true formula that applies to all sports editors: Surround yourself with good people and know when to get out of their way. You’ll see below that Naila-Jean Meyers, Dan Spears, Ed Reed, Glen Crevier, Bill Eichenberger, Tommy Deas, Hank Winnicki and many others helped pave the way for what I’m calling my “smooth exit strategy.”
Let’s start with the glowing positives and work our way down …
The contest – There’s no debating Naila ran a strong contest. She made some key adjustments that continued our transition to a more digitally focused contest. The print portfolio category and the return of special sections and video were hits, as were six Grand Slam winners and nine Triple Crown winners. (OK, I admit it, perhaps I was too strict.) The format and the ground rules seem to be in a good place for Dan Spears and Paul Barrett to continue the contest’s evolution.
We also improved on some of the paywall issues, though managing passwords, downloading portfolios and technology in general still pose problems.
We decided to return to Lake Buena Vista, Fla. As always, it was an enjoyable experience for those who attended. A lot got accomplished and communicated, and the benefits of committing to judging over four continuous days are clear. But with 41 in-person judges and 130 remote judges, we are heading in a direction where our setup will change. Some concepts we’ve discussed:
1) Reducing in-person judges to the officers and “special guests” who are able to attend and want to be involved (maybe a 12- to 15-person HQ at a town near you?)
2) Dividing remote judges into groups that can commit to full-time judging during a four-day period, and having the rest of the judging done over a longer period. There are plenty of editors and writers who are willing to judge but say they need more time.
The website – Dan Spears and Andy Rhinehart of PolkSports.com rescued us from an uncomfortable and potentially expensive problem last year when our site crashed and was down for more than a week. Dan researched the issue and got with Andy, who has been our de facto webmaster and to whom we are indebted, and they found a good solution: Get rid of GoDaddy and find a better gatekeeper. It came at a minimal cost of $25 a month, and the result is a much more stable site. Since switching to Pressable, Dan and Andy have been making small improvements, livening up the photos and presentations, and catching up with many updates that had to be made in the transition. Between them, they turned a negative into a positive and we are in a much happier place than we were last year with the website. (Thank you!)
The Commissioners Meetings – Hank Winnicki’s efforts resulted in a strong showing in New York, with 26 editors from 16 different outlets attending some or all of the sessions. This was a big step forward from last year, when Gary Potosky and Hank worked hard on the fly to make them happen for the first time since the pandemic and we had about half. Last year was important to stay on the commissioners’ calendars, and it was great to take full advantage of that this year. Hank has heard from several of the leagues, saying it was good to see so many editors in attendance. Editors met with the leaders of MLB, NBA/WNBA, NHL, MLS, NWSL and the Premier Hockey Federation.
The Red Smith Award – Rachel Crader did a great job coordinating, communicating and distributing the ballot, the voting went off without any glitches, and we updated a few eligible voter emails along the way. Claire Smith emerged as the winner, making her the first African-American woman to win the Red Smith Award, the fourth African-American to win overall, and the second in a row after Leon Carter won last year. She will accept the award in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
Surveys – We sent out three surveys – Contest, Conference and Dues – and received lots of good feedback. It’s too much to go over, but it’s documented and members can still respond. The links are below. All three of those topics are evolving, so it was a good time to explore ideas.
Access – This was one of my goals – to protect locker-room access among the pro leagues and revert to conditions before the pandemic. Sports journalists went through two-plus years of restrictions and difficulties just like everyone else, and we didn’t want to see anyone taking advantage of the situation to push for changes. We did well. It was time-consuming and took a lot of back-channel meetings and Zoom discussions (including at the Commissioners Meetings), but with the exception of the WNBA – which cited lack of media attendance at games as a key reason for its decision to close locker rooms and change its media policy – and the Big Ten basketball tournament – which stood behind a medical decision and pledged to have open locker rooms next season – everyone returned to the previous policies. The WNBA move seems counterintuitive, we know, and was a blow to TITLE IX and the rights women journalists fought hard for, but the NBA/WNBA said it will remain open-minded.
The hotel business – I got an up-close-and-personal look at what Glen Crevier and others have been dealing with for several years and have concluded that, with the exception of the annual summer conference, we need to get out of the hotel contract business unless we are being offered easily attainable room counts. We began the year negotiating a penalty with The Alexander from last year’s conference in Indianapolis, continued with the Orlando winter hotel and we are hoping the contract shuffle will end this week.
You might have noticed the all-out assault to get people to stay at the Flamingo. Barring a late surge in cancellations, we will meet the room minimum and avoid penalties (a big thanks to those of you joining us!). In general, members should try to make every effort to stay at the APSE hotel. But with many having to pay their own way, find roommates etc., we realize that can be a lot to ask. Expect more flexible hotel arrangements down the road. For starters, we should have lower room minimums next year in Lake Buena Vista (Hilton Doubletree) and Charlotte (Marriott) and we should be rid of our hotel shackles. Glen, of course, has negotiated us out of a handful of these situations in the past few years and did it three times again this year. Thanks, Glen!!
Olympics – Roxanna Scott once again arranged a productive meeting between APSE and the USOC in Chicago to determine U.S. credentialing for the Paris Games. The meeting, led by Roxanna and Jon Mason of the USOC, took place on Feb. 14. APSE members worked with the USOC to review requests and help determine appropriate allocations ahead of the IOC deadline in March. It was great to see this meeting going as well as ever after the pandemic.
The newsletter – The newsletter took a nine-month hiatus but returned this week! Our newsletter guru, Jake Adams, was in a tough place, and we decided to just wait until his situation improved. He still had a genuine interest in contributing and I said I would try to get him (and Lindsey Smith) some help. Moving forward, the Diversity Fellows will assist each year as part of their nine-month Fellowship. We are happy with both Jake remaining at the helm and the Fellows getting some newsletter reps. Thanks to Damon Sayles for being the first Fellow to jump into a content role. Sometimes you just have to wait for things to crystallize.
Diversity Fellowship – Congrats to the 11th Diversity Fellowship class, which graduates this week in Vegas. It’s another good group and the program continues to be strong. We’re looking forward to new applications for the 12th class, likely late August or early September.
The 2022-23 Fellows are:
- Patrick Bernadeau, Pensacola News Journal
- Meredith Perri, MassLive / The Republican
- Zach Powell, Lock Haven Express
- Damon Sayles, The Athletic
- Alex Vejar, Salt Lake Tribune
- Kelly Ward, Seattle Times
The summer conference – We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but it sure looks like we are going to have a successful 50-year celebration in Las Vegas. We have more than 150 registrations; 20 past presidents are coming; Adam Silver is speaking Monday; and we have strong general sessions and panels, some with breakout workstations. Claire Smith accepting the Red Smith Award and the APSE at 50 session that follows on Tuesday should be memorable events, and the opening reception at the Mob Museum will be a blast. We have very good sponsorship revenues, thanks to Tommy Deas’ hard work.
A calendar – Many of you probably have seen it, but Jason Murray – yes, that Jason Murray – created a calendar that appears on the APSE site. This was before he was promoted to Washington Post sports editor. It’s up to us (mostly APSE leadership, Region chairs/vice chairs, committee chairs) to help fill it. You don’t want to disappoint the Washington Post SE, do you? … I look forward to the day we all start communicating regularly on APSE Slack. (No word yet on Twitter vs. Threads. I’ve declared myself unqualified to make such a big decision.)
Donn Walden Grant – Our organization was shocked when we lost Donn, the sports editor of the Lewiston (Idaho) Tribune, after complications from a stroke. Many of our members asked what APSE could do and we decided to establish the Donn Walden Leadership Grant and award $1,000 toward summer conference expenses to an editor from a small publication. The officers have selected this year’s recipient and they will be announced this week. In addition, Donn’s wife, Jennifer, will attend and speak at the awards dinner Wednesday night. We are honored to have her with us.
What’s Coming Up
Student contest — We expect to announce the student contest winner at the awards dinner on Wednesday night.
TIDES racial and gender survey — We ran into a delay, but sports editors will soon be receiving the survey for the APSE Report Card on Racial and Gender Hiring, which is published by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. In 2018, about 75 organizations filled out the survey. In 2021, more than 100 responded. Let’s please keep the momentum going. The results are expected to be released later this year.
Please don’t be discouraged if you are not where you would like to be regarding your diversity numbers. Only positive outcomes will be highlighted in the report and no one will be singled out for negatives. Obviously, it has been a challenging two years since the last report, and it is of great importance that we get a handle on where we stand on our racial and gender hiring practices.
In 2021, APSE received an overall grade of C, a racial hiring grade of B+ and a gender hiring grade of F. You can read the 2021 report here: https://www.tidesport.org/_files/ugd/138a69_e1e67c118b784f4caba00a4536699300.pdf
Student chapters — We are in the process of revising APSE’s requirements for colleges (and possibly independent college publications) to apply, and we have a goal of adding 20 student chapters by the end of the 2023-24 school year. I wasn’t able to get this done, but I’m betting Naila will. It makes the most sense for us to line up chapters to begin as APSE members in August, coinciding with the start of classes. We have leads from Ohio State, Arizona, Miami, Ball State, UAB and Boston U, among others.
Regions – Despite our efforts to jump-start the regions and define roles for chairs and vice chairs, the struggles have continued. So much so that the region committee recommended reducing the regions from eight to four. We will discuss the proposal at the opening meeting on Sunday.
There are many reasons: Time and travel restrictions, people leaving their newsroom (or the industry) and ease of communication.
I bid farewell next week, but I’ll offer some humble opinions: 1) Region chairs and vice chairs should make time to set up region meetings – whether in person or by Zoom. But they should also regularly communicate in any way to build relationships with editors in the region; 2) A key function henceforth should be to build relationships with regional colleges and recruit student chapters that can bring young prospective members to the organization; 3) You shouldn’t apply to be a region officer if you are not able or willing to do these things. This is a crucial “glue” position in APSE, and this tier of rising leaders is one of the biggest areas of need in our organization. Thanks, I’ll get down from the soapbox now.
Looking back, I had moderate success on some of my initial goals, but a lot was accomplished nevertheless.
I proclaimed in Indianapolis that “the overarching goal, of course, is to advance the organization in as many areas as possible, to serve our members, and to advocate for all sports media.” I feel good about that.
But … here’s how I would grade my five originals goals (edited for brevity):
1. Increase involvement and leadership in APSE (C, we need more)
2. Work to increase membership, with a focus on youth and diversity (C, didn’t do enough of this)
3. “Seal the deal” on locker-room access (B+, was diligent and mostly successful)
4. Raise funds … and part of it will be asking for member donations (B, need more buy-in from APSE members on why/how it helps the organization to donate to the APSE Foundation)
5. Celebrate the heck out of APSE entering its 50th year at the 2023 conference in Las Vegas (Incomplete, could be an “A” but more likely a B+ or B. Depends on how Bill Eichenberger grades the finances)
(Note: Ask Naila, Dan and Ed for the real grades)
The case for donations: I don’t have donation numbers from the APSE Foundation – there is a church-and-state element to our relationship. But I’ll restate my case for asking members to donate either $22 in 2022 or $23 in 2023 (which I didn’t think was an outrageous ask). Should the Foundation aggressively be pursuing grants instead of small donations to grow funds? Yes, definitely, but it will take time and a good economic climate for it to achieve meaningful success. I’m convinced a thriving Foundation will greatly help APSE in the long run, and the sooner that happens, the better. APSE spends more than $16,000 annually on initiatives that fit into the Foundation’s missions of diversity and education. Though APSE continues to have funds to handle those investments, we need to protect our reserves.
Other fundraising opportunities are limited. APSE will need to get creative to stay strong. Some ideas we’ve bounced around are beefing up student chapter members; introducing and charging a modest amount for a writers’ “best-of-show” portfolio contest, which would be separate (and at a different time) from the grueling annual contest; and perhaps launching an aggressive membership drive to entice more writers to join. There’s strength in numbers.
Did you donate $22 or $23 to the Foundation? There’s still time. Just click the Donate button at the top of the website. Thank you.
Needs improvement: Membership might have improved slightly (thank you, North Carolina A&T) but not significantly. And while our members are getting younger and more diverse, we need more leadership and involvement. Our regions continue to struggle. We know it’s not easy, that the industry isn’t great and that your jobs are the priority. We feel your pain. But an influx of dedicated young leaders is arguably what APSE needs the most to be at its best.
Fortunately, APSE has three dedicated young leaders lined up as its next presidents. (Maybe not so young but a lot younger than me!)
Naila, Dan and Paul Barrett are very sharp people with tons of creative ideas and know-how. They are plugged into all of the topics and issues I’ve mentioned above and are more than ready to take them on. Throw in “wizard” Ed Reed, who has been a godsend helping me with “technical difficulties” and who always has great input and suggestions on how things can apply to small publications – and the organization is in great hands.
My year didn’t go exactly as I drew it up, but it was a good year just the same – thanks to the help and leadership I got from Naila, Dan, Ed and everyone I named above.
It has truly been an honor to serve APSE and be your Prez. Thank you for the opportunity.