The Association for Women in Sports Media’s 2017 convention – set for May 7-10 at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort & Spa in Texas – will open its sessions on May 8 with a breakfast discussion featuring four trailblazers who are former Mary Garber Pioneer Award winners.
Christine Brennan, who served as AWSM’s first president and won the Pioneer award in 2004, will serve as the discussion leader. Joining Brennan are AWSM co-founder and 2001 Pioneer winner Michele Himmelberg, 2003 Pioneer winner Melissa Ludtke and 2000 Pioneer winner Claire Smith.
Brennan is a sports columnist for USA Today, a commentator for ABC News, CNN, PBS NewsHouse and NPR’s Morning Edition as well as a best-selling author. The co-founder of AWSM’s scholarship/internship program, she was the first female sports reporter at The Miami Herald and then worked at the Washington Post. She has authored seven books and serves on the board of trustees at her alma mater, Northwestern University.
Himmelberg, who is public relations director at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif., began her career as a sportswriter at the Riverside (Calif.) Press-Enterprise and went on to work at the Fort Myers News-Press, St. Petersburg Times, Sacramento Bee and Orange County (Calif.) Register covering everything from the NFL to the Olympics. She transitioned to business journalism in 1996 before joining Disney in 2008.
Ludtke began her career as a freelancer for ABC Sports and went on to work as a reporter for Sports Illustrated. During her time at SI, she made it possible for women to gain equal rights in sports reporting when she filed a federal lawsuit – Ludtke vs. Kuhn – which she won in 1978. The suit came about after she was denied permission into the New York Yankees’ locker room because of her gender. She went on to work for CBS News, Time magazine and in academia before retiring.
Smith, who is coordinating editor for major-league baseball broadcasts at ESPN, was the first African-American female newspaper reporter to cover MLB on a daily basis. She recently won the BBWAA’s Spink Award, given for “meritorious contributions to baseball writing.” Smith, who also fought for equal access, was physically removed from the San Diego Padres clubhouse in 1984. Before joining ESPN, she worked for the Hartford Courant, Philadelphia Inquirer and New York Times.
Two additional former Pioneer winners also will join AWSM in Texas – Nancy Cooney, honored in 2014, will participate in a state of sports media discussion. Cooney is a coordinating editor for ESPN’s SportsCenter and news division. CBS Sports broadcaster Lesley Visser, who was AWSM’s first Pioneer winner in 1999, will host the closing awards dinner, where CBS Sports director Suzanne Smith will be honored as the 2017 Pioneer winner.