By Stacy Bauman
This is the second of a four-part series that focuses on the founding members of the Association for Women in Sports Media.
Nancy Cooney is currently a coordinating producer and news editor for ESPN, a company she joined in 2007. Before ESPN, Cooney was at the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1988-2006 with a one year-absence in which she completed a journalism fellowship at the University of Michigan — studying women in sports journalism. At the Inquirer, she held various positions — including page one editor, investigations editor, metro editor, deputy sports editor, Olympics editor and served as the sports editor (1993-98). Under her guidance as sports editor, the Inquirer won numerous Associated Press Sports Editors writing and section awards, including the triple crown in 1993 and 1996. Cooney began her career at the Sacramento Bee in 1983.What was your motivation for founding ASWM?
“I worked with two women in high-profile beats at the Sacramento Bee (Michele Himmelberg and Susan Fornoff), and I knew that I was one of the lucky ones. I could talk to women who shared some of my experiences and perspective and brought additional experience to the conversation. Susan and Michelle’s jobs gave them exposure that I didn’t have. I worked inside, and they were out there meeting other women on their beats.
“I thought it would be great to get to know the people whose bylines I knew, share common experiences, strategize about problems, celebrate successes, network, find out who the up-and-coming journalists were, give women on the inside the same opportunity to meet and greet that women on the beat had. And I also thought it would be a lot of fun to tell and hear war stories in a room full of women.”
What was the biggest challenge you faced in founding AWSM?
“The biggest problem early on was putting together a list of women in the field. It was done by word of mouth, with snatches of information, first names, ‘I think she works at one of the papers in Dallas. Or Austin.’ And finding editors was harder than reporters. I know we missed some women early on.”
What is your favorite memory from the first year or first convention?
“I loved meeting all these accomplished, sassy, hilarious women who I knew only by byline. I remember that Julie Cart was one of the best storytellers I’d ever come across, that Lesley Visser was awfully generous with her time and good thoughts, that Michele Kaufman had a great laugh that filled the room, and mostly I remember walking away shaking my head and laughing at the memory of Tracy Dodds, as she registered and put on her name tag, saying, we should put our age and weight on our namecards instead of our newspapers — that’s what people really want to know.”
Were you nervous that AWSM would be short-lived or did you have faith it would continue to grow even decades after being founded?
“I believed it would still be around, because people would always want to get to know other women in the field and seek advice. Every year there are more women entering the field, so there are always newcomers with a lot of the same questions. No matter where we are in our careers, we can all benefit from coming together, sharing our beliefs and vision about the roles women can play in sports media. We’re social creatures, and we’re always going to want that.”
How do you feel AWSM has most benefited women in sports media?
“Its biggest role to me is in letting women know that there are many others of us out there. I think we have all benefited from the contacts, the friendships and the insight we have gained through 25 years of existence. I think the organization also stands as a reminder to women coming into the field about all the work that had to be done to open doors, and how important a role they play in continuing to push those doors open wide.”
* Part 1: Five questions with Michele Himmelberg
* Part 3 of this series next month will feature founder Susan Fornoff.