By Anne Delaney
Diversity is a work in progress.
In nearly five years, the Associated Press Sports Editors Diversity Fellowship has opened doors in journalism for more than a dozen minority candidates. The nine-month, intensive training program is one piece of the industry-wide issue of improving diversity, said fellowship founder and longtime diversity advocate Michael Anastasi.
“The APSE leadership is predominately white, and it’s a problem APSE is very aware of,” said Anastasi, Los Angeles News Group Vice President and Executive Editor and former Association for Women in Sports Media officer. “A lot of people are trying to mitigate that and it’s a complex issue too.”
Sixteen fellows — nine men and seven women — have been accepted into the program designed for working, mid-career professionals who are interested in pursuing a managerial path in sports journalism. Four fellows are currently in the middle of the 2014-15 term. The 2015-16 program begins in the fall.
Anastasi said AWSM members have been among the past fellows.
Miami Herald Executive Sports Editor Jorge Rojas, who works with Anastasi to select the fellows, said it’s time for groups such as AWSM, the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists to assume a greater role in finding and identifying potentially successful candidates.
“It’s an area we need to constantly work at to try to improve and it’s not easy in an economic climate where people are leaving and not being replaced at newspapers,” Rojas said. “For people who are members of AWSM and other organizations, it’s important to improve communications to get folks ready to advance in careers and it’s the right thing to do.”
There is no cost to selected fellows for participation, and a membership to a professional organization is not required, though APSE reaches out to journalism organizations such as AWSM. APSE funds the program at a cost of $1,500-$2,000 per student with help from sponsors including AWSM and donations. Costs include travel for the fellows to attend APSE contest judging and regional and national meetings.
Simplifying APSE’s efforts to identify candidates was one of Anastasi’s goals when he announced the fellowship at the start of his term as president in 2011. During his time in APSE leadership roles, Anastasi said he heard from colleagues who said they would welcome diversifying their staff but didn’t know interested and qualified candidates.
“My goal was to remove that from the equation and we created the fellowship program specifically focused on providing fellows with intensive training so that every year it was producing more and more candidates,” Anastasi said.
In addition to journalism and management training, the fellowship also includes networking opportunities for editors and students to become acquainted in a comfortable, low-key setting. Conversation might take place over a plate of nachos.
Anastasi’s inspiration for the fellowship was an older program at the Sports Journalism Institute geared toward students at the beginning of their careers. Anastasti and Rojas emphasized the APSE Diversity Fellowship is aimed at an older, mid-career candidate. Rojas said the youngest fellow in the program was 24 and the oldest was 50.
Applicants must have the support of their employer, or they’ll be weeded out of consideration. To this point, organizations have been 100 percent behind selected fellows, Rojas said.
“We’ve been able to identify those who are supportive,” Rojas said. “If the home organization is not backing your candidacy, we’re not going to pick you.”
For more information on the fellowship, which requires a cover letter, resume and essay, go to the APSE website’s Diversity Fellowship Program page.