By MERI-JO BORZILLERI
Besides her thrill at being named winner of the 2016 AWSM Mary Garber Pioneer Award, Terry Taylor is grateful for the timing.
Taylor, who retired in 2013 after 21 years as the first woman sports editor for the Associated Press, is finding her stride again after a harrowing two years of breast cancer treatment and recovery.
“I can’t tell you what this means for me,” she said of the award. “Coming at this point in my life, and what the last year has been like, I feel very, very fortunate.”
Taylor is the 18th winner of the Pioneer award, given to those who have distinguished themselves in the field of sports media while reflecting and advancing the values and mission of the Association for Women in Sports Media.
Taylor is scheduled to receive the award at the July 28-31 convention at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami.
The Pioneer award was first given to CBS Sports broadcaster Lesley Visser in 1999.
“This is pretty much the Oscar of sports journalism because of Mary (Garber),” said Taylor, who is credited for building AP Sports into a breaking sports news powerhouse by ensuring reporters and editors – about 100 of them worldwide – were focused on capturing the biggest news first and accurately.
Taylor joined the AP in Philadelphia in 1977 and worked in sports since 1981 as a writer, desk supervisor, and assistant and deputy sports editor.
Before joining the AP, Taylor was a reporter for the Charlotte (N.C.) News. Taylor grew up in Chester, Pa., and received her undergraduate degree from Temple University.
The Pioneer award is named for the plainspoken yet feisty Garber, who covered sports for newspapers in Winston-Salem, N.C. for more than a half-century (1944-2002). That included a time when women were not allowed to work from male-only press boxes and had to wait for players outside locker rooms following games.
“There is no greater honor than to receive an award that carries her name,” Taylor wrote in an email. “I look at the picture of her in that little suit and hat, sitting at her typewriter, and I wish I could hold her tight and thank her for all of us. Think about it: She plowed ahead, all alone. Barred from press boxes, talked down to by coaches and, almost worse, ignored, she persevered. I don’t know how, but thank goodness she did.”
Taylor has been facing her own challenges lately. After giving her retirement notice in July 2013 with an open date – the AP had asked she stay on for the February Winter Games in Sochi – Taylor was at the U.S. Open tennis tournament when she felt an unusual tug on her right side while carrying a bag over her arm. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2013.
“It doesn’t run in my family,” she said. “I had a mammogram two months before.”
She left the AP in October, underwent a double mastectomy and finished chemotherapy in Feb.
“It was the last day of the Sochi Olympics,” said Taylor, who has led the AP’s coverage of 14 Olympics. “It was the end of March when they turned me loose. You automatically think you’re going to look normal again in a month.
“It was like getting hit by a damn bus,” she said.
Her health, hair and strength back, the Pioneer award comes as Taylor prepares for a new job, working in press operations for the International Olympic Committee at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“It’s something I love,” Taylor said of getting to work the Games again. “I’m really excited about this.”