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APSE President Anastasi announces diversity fellowship initiative during 2011 Boston Convention

Newly-appointed APSE President Michael Anastasi announced a new APSE diversity initiative during his speech at the annual convention. Here is text of his speech:

Good Evening …

Thank you all for being here tonight. As we’ve experienced the profound change of the last few years, this organization has been similarly challenged.

I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that the relevance and indeed the very existence of APSE has been at stake.

But one thing I’ve known all along is that this is exactly the wrong time for us to stop talking to each other. No individual, no corporation has the answer. There are many, and it’s going to take all of us to find them. APSE matters now more than ever. This was a wonderful week, Joe Sullivan.

And thank you, Phil Kaplan, for your wonderful work, energy, leadership and relentlessness in guiding APSE this year. Phil was exactly the right leader for this organization at exactly the right time. I’ve become as close to Phil as any editor I’ve worked with, and I hope I can move the organization forward a fraction of the amount he’s accomplished.

Thank you, Garry D. Howard, for believing in me, nominating me for this office, and inspiring me with your own leadership. Your foresight in establishing our relationship with Indiana University will benefit this organization long into the future.

Thank you, Lynn Hoppes, who began the APSE revolution, and thank you to Past Presidents and other extraordinary editors who have inspired me and others with their consistent excellence, vision and professionalism, editors such as Jorge Rojas, Glen Crevier, Jerry Micco, Jeff Krupsaw, Toby Carrig, Tom Jolly, Mike James, Mike Hiserman, Tim Franklin, Reid Laymance, Dave Allen, Rick Vacek, Bill Bradlee, Mike Sherman, Dave Ammenheuser, Bud Geracie, Mary Byrne, Scott Monserud, Doug Jacobs, Bryce Miller, Joe Sullivan, Tommy Deas, Sandy Bailey, Glen Schwarz, Don Shelton, Roy Hewitt and many, many more I know I am not mentioning.

When I went to my first judging conference 16 years ago, Roy was my contest chair — amazingly, he looked exactly the same.

I would like to thank Gary Traynham, the retired sports editor of the Daily Democrat in Woodland, California, my first boss and mentor who
convinced me I could be a journalist; Debbie Davis, editor of the Davis (Calif.) Enterprise who taught me how to lead; and Nancy Conway, editor of The Salt Lake Tribune and a proud Boston native whose support of me and of APSE has been unwavering.

And thank you to Gerry Ahern, Tim Stephens and Ben Brigandi, whose support and counsel I am fortunate to have for this next year — as is this organization.

I would like to introduce to you my mother, Vollie, and my daughters, Grace and Alexandra.

Mostly, I must thank my wife and best friend, Julie Anastasi. Her support of me, my dreams, my passions and of journalism has been unqualified, unmatched and unquestioned.

I ask Julie to stand — and I ask every spouse of every journalist here tonight to stand and be recognized. For we do not achieve what we do without you, and you know we never thank you enough.

Tonight we are here to celebrate our successes. The best writing, the best reporting, the best websites, the best sections.

Let me tell you of another kind of success I dream of for this organization. I dream that, one year from today, standing alongside me will be the first graduates of APSE’s new Diversity Fellowship Program.

Tonight I am announcing a new APSE program aimed at increasing the number of women and people of color who sit in this room, who are one of us, who are sports editors. Look around. You know we have work to do.

APSE’s history of aggressively supporting diversity efforts is unquestioned. A founding partner of the Sports Journalism Institute, APSE, under the leadership of many presidents who have come before, has aggressively worked to improve the dismal numbers we all know.

But it is a long fight.

We’ve had some successes, and many failures. We must do more.

Now, there are those in the industry who will say that diversity is not important, that it’s passe, that in the big picture it’s not what we should be worrying about any longer.

To those I say this: horse shit.

It is not only the right thing to do, it’s the vital thing to do. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the urgent thing to do. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s key to our survival.

Our newsrooms will not succeed in the long run unless they reflect the communities we purport to cover, no more than wishing our jobs were as simple as they were 10 years ago will make it so.

As an organization, our diversity efforts have focused mostly on young people, just out of school. We can rightly celebrate great success with SJI, with Hampton University, with our partnership with AWSM. Many of us need to look no farther than our own newsrooms to see some of that success.

However, how this new program differentiates itself is by focusing on the mid-career professional, rather than the student. We are targeting working journalists, the copy editors, the web editors, the reporters, who are in your newsroom today. We want them to be here, among us who lead, in the future.

Working with Indiana University, with SJI, with our Sports Management Program and leveraging the many resources APSE already has and offers, we will put our Fellows through a nine-month, in-depth course of study that will stretch them, will educate them, will challenge them, and will prepare them to be leaders in our newsrooms.

We cannot control the opportunities and indeed there are fewer. But we can help ensure there is never a shortage of well-qualified applicants. I dream that the quality of our program is such that for an applicant having graduated from it, it will have great meaning to those who make hiring decisions.

This does not of course abdicate our own responsibilities to be mentors, nor to advocate in our newsrooms. Nor should it place this responsibility solely on APSE, so that is why I call on the Association for Women in Sports Media — our partners in Chicago in 2012 — NABJ, NAHJ, APME, ASNE and others to consider to support us financially and especially in finding and encouraging potential candidates.

Together, this will succeed.

As I conclude, I’d like to share with you one short story. I’m a sucker for sports movies and one of my favorites of recent times is “The Rookie,” which portrays the inspiring story of Jim Morris.

Morris is a high school teacher and onetime, washed-up minor-league pitcher who, in his mid-30s, makes an unlikely journey to the major leagues.

On the road there, he is full of self-doubt and grapples with his future; he wonders where he is going. Is he doing the right thing for his family? Is the time away worth it? Does he have the talent, does he have what it takes? Can he justify the sacrifices? What is the point?

Then he wanders by a Little League game and watches a while.

Suddenly, he remembers the joy, remembers how important the game is, and he shares this with a teammate the next day.

“You know we get to do today?” he asks excitedly. “We get to play baseball.”

Yes, times are tough and times are changing. You know that. You’ve already been challenged as no generation of editors before. You’ve mastered skills not imagined five years ago. All of you have been leaders of innovation in your newsrooms.

And yet things will continue to change. We’re still not there. Every lost job anywhere reminds us of our responsibility to the industry to successfully figure out this digital revolution. I believe our toughest days are ahead.

But you know what? You get to do sports journalism today.

That is important, that is a joy. Look at your numbers for our content. You know it matters. Remember the readers’ lives in your communities you have changed.

Remember that what we do is an honor and remember that what we do is a privilege.

As is becoming your President for the next year.

Thank you.

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