Michelle Kaufman believes that more growth for women still exists in the sports journalism world. She also believes in the power of internships as a valuable tool to assist in making that happen.
After discussing the internship/scholarship program for the Association for Women in Sports Media with a friend, the idea of financially supporting the cause was an easy decision.
Kaufman, a longtime sports writer for the Miami Herald, recently pledged to sponsor a $1,250-a-year scholarship for the next five years.
“There are a lot of young women interested in sports journalism, but very few actually end up in the business,” said Kaufman, pictured above with University of Miami president Donna Shalala and gold medalist Donna De Varona at the 2008 AWSM Convention in Miami. “Women have made so many advances in this business, but it’s still very much a man’s world in most markets and press boxes.”
Kaufman considers her internship with the St. Petersburg Times, during her college years at the University of Miami, as an important stepping-stone to the career she enjoys today.
“There are so many invaluable relationships students can forge during internships, along with finding mentors for a lifetime.”
Kaufman, who also teaches a sports journalism class at the University of Miami, joined AWSM within the first two years of the organization’s existence. She has served on the board in various capacities during the past 25 years and sees her donation as another way to impact the future of females in sports journalism.
Her donation of a scholarship puts her in elite company with someone she herself considers a valuable mentor — Christine Brennan.
Brennan, a highly respected sports columnist for USA Today, is entering her sixth consecutive year of sponsoring not one, but two scholarships for AWSM. The first president of AWSM gives back to the organization in the names of her late parents Jim and Betty Brennan.
For Brennan, the scholarship program has always been a passion. After becoming president of AWSM in the spring of 1988, Brennan began to explore the idea of a scholarship program at the urging of her sister. At the time, the organization was just in its early years of existence and didn’t have the financial means to provide such an award.
In 1989, Brennan and close friend Lesley Visser made a TV appearance to promote an upcoming AWSM convention. As the two walked down the street after the taping, they decided to each donate their $250 appearance fee to the scholarship fund. Later that day, Brennan approached her sports editor at the Washington Post to see if he and a few sports editor friends would help match that $500 to create the scholarship. George Solomon immediately said yes and the scholarship program was born.
More than 20 years later, nearly 130 female students have benefitted from an internship/scholarship through AWSM. They have gone on to star at some of the top newspapers, television stations and public relations firms in the country. And Brennan is still a crucial part of the scholarship program two decades later.
“I feel like it has come sort of full circle now,” Brennan said. “It means the world to me today. I’m honored to still play a small part in it. Giving back is something that all of us can do and it’s so important for the future of our industry.”
The family of Leah Siegel is entering its second year of sponsoring a scholarship in honor of the late ESPN producer, who passed away from cancer in 2010. Also in its second year is the Katie Jackson Morrison Memorial scholarship, donated by the Gaylord family.
Those wishing to also donate to the scholarship program may send an e-mail to info (at) awsmonline (dot) org for more information.