By Meri-Jo Borzilleri
AWSM Pioneer award coordinator
Nancy Cooney and Susan Fornoff, two members of the group that founded the Association for Women in Sports Media, are the winners of the 2014 Mary Garber Pioneer Award, AWSM’s highest honor.
They will receive the award at the 2014 convention, set for Orlando, May 22-25.
“AWSM was founded by four great women, and with the addition of Nancy Cooney and Susan Fornoff to our illustrious list of Pioneer Award winners, all of our founders have now won our organization’s most prestigious honor,” said AWSM President Stefanie Loh. “On behalf of the AWSM Board, I’d like to extend my congratulations to Nancy and Susan and thank them for their service to AWSM.”
For the 16th Pioneer award, AWSM returns to its roots. Cooney and Fornoff join AWSM’s two other founders, Kristin Huckshorn and Michele Himmelberg, as winners of the Pioneer award, which annually recognizes those who have paved the way and served as role models for women in sports media.
“I’m thrilled,” Cooney said. “It’s a great honor.”
Said Fornoff: “It’s really cool to be honored with Nancy … I know I’m now in a league of our own. I’m excited about the company I’m keeping.”
Cooney, coordinating producer at ESPN, and Fornoff, a former baseball beat writer and current golf writer, each attended June’s 25th AWSM convention and participated in a special founders panel.
“What was most exciting to me was to see where the organization is now,” Cooney said.
Each pioneered in different ways — Fornoff as one of the few female baseball beat writers in the 1980s; Cooney as the rare woman on the sports copy desk. Their pivotal roles with AWSM went beyond helping create the organization. Fornoff took over hosting the first convention (Oakland in 1988), and Cooney was in charge of the newsletter, critical in the pre-email and pre-internet era as it kept AWSM members in touch between conventions.
In 1986, Fornoff garnered fame as “The Rat Lady,” while covering the Oakland A’s for The Sacramento Bee. Slugger Dave Kingman sent a live rat in a cardboard box to Fornoff, who was working in the stadium press box, in an attempt to bring attention to the still-controversial issue of women in the clubhouse. The incident not only went national, but galvanized Fornoff, Cooney, Huckshorn and Himmelberg to found AWSM.
“The way she handled the incident with Dave Kingman, and the support of McClatchy newspapers in the incident, gave notice to MLB that sexual harassment would not be tolerated,” Himmelberg said. “That was one of the milestones that created a foundation for how women would be treated — and each of those milestones was so critical to the power of ASWM when it came time to stand up for all women in 1990-91, when the Patriots incident erupted.”
A member of USA Today’s original staff, Fornoff later worked 15 years at a variety of jobs with the San Francisco Examiner and then the Chronicle, from news copy desk editor to general features writer to travel editor. In 2010, she launched GottaGoGolf, the online golf magazine for women, and is the author of three books.
Cooney has been at ESPN since 2007, after working for 17 years at the Philadelphia Inquirer. Before that, she worked as assistant sports editor at the Sacramento Bee (1983-88). At the Inquirer, Cooney was editor for two Pulitzer finalists. As the Inquirer’s sports editor from 1993-98, her staff twice won APSE’s Triple Crown, in 1994 and 1997. Following a Knight-Wallace fellowship year at the University of Michigan, she returned to the Inquirer as front-page editor, then investigations editor, art editor and metro editor before leaving for ESPN.
The Mary Garber Pioneer Award has been given annually since 1999 to those who have distinguished themselves in the field while reflecting and advancing the values and mission of AWSM. It was renamed the Mary Garber Pioneer Award in 2006 to honor one of the industry’s original pioneers.
Past winners of the Pioneer award include: 1999: Lesley Visser, 2000: Claire Smith, 2001: Michele Himmelberg, 2002: Tracy Dodds, 2003: Melissa Ludtke, 2004: Christine Brennan, 2005: Cathy Henkel, 2006: Kristin Huckshorn, 2007: Julie Ward, 2008: Mary Schmitt Boyer, 2009: Linda Robertson, 2010: Julie Cart, 2011: Rosa Gatti, 2012: Sandy Rosenbush, 2013: Lisa Olson
For more information, contact Meri-Jo Borzilleri at email@example.com