By Reese Levin
In March, APSE announced a scholarship will be named after Garry D. Howard, the first Black president in APSE history.
Garry has been a champion for minority voices in the sports journalism world, having helped with the careers of ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, The Undefeated’s Marc Spears, The Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn and others.
Most notably in 1994, he was the only Black executive sports editor at a major metro newspaper when working at the Milwaukee Journal. The paper merged a year later with the Milwaukee Sentinel, and Garry was the sports editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for five years. From 2000-2010, Howard served as the sports assistant managing editor before leaving to become the editor-in-chief at Sporting News from 2011-2013.
He is now the Director of Corporate Initiatives at the American City Business Journals.
Garry recently took time to talk about what it means to have a scholarship named after him, what his hopes are for the scholarship and answered some other questions. The Q&A has been lightly edited for brevity.
Q: How does it feel to have APSE name a scholarship after you?
A: It was actually very humbling. As a sports editor, you basically have the job that you’ve wanted your whole life, at least in my experience. … Anybody who has ever desired to have that office and have that job has the greatest job in the world. And to just be able to do that job for as many years as I’ve done, and also try to affect the change not only in the industry but in the individuals who actually did it. So when (APSE president Lisa Wilson) called me and told me that, they actually surprised me and told me that they were going to name a scholarship in my honor, I just felt really blessed. I’ve worked very hard in this industry. And most importantly, it felt very good, because APSE (has been) a predominantly white institution. When I was trying to break into journalism it was very difficult for me as a person of color. I had to work extremely hard.
Q: You’ve tried to be a pioneer in this industry for amplifying minority voices. Is that what your hope is for this scholarship, to allow minority college kids to amplify their voices?
A: Well, I just think about them getting an opportunity to do it. I think a lot of it has to do with, you know, where you come from. (In) my situation growing up in the South Bronx, I didn’t have the resources that a lot of other students had. Fortunately for me, I had a full scholarship to go to a boarding school at the Lawrenceville School. Then I ended up at Lehigh University, where I majored in journalism. I just think I never looked at myself as a pioneer, I looked at myself as a man who wanted to be a sports editor that just happened to be Black.
As a sports editor, I want to be the best sports editor and I wanted my sports section to be better than George Solomon’s Washington Post. I wanted to be better than The New York Times. I competed in the APSE contest category above our size, mainly because I said if I won, I want to be the best. So I think if you come with that mindset, and you bring anybody who’s into sports journalism, knowing how difficult a task it’s going to be, then you leave them with something. And I think I left them with that spirit of excellence (and) unity.
Q: Do you think there has been improvement in getting more minorities jobs as reporters/editors?
A: Yes, I do (see) improvement. If you look back from when I first began in this industry and where we are today, I’m extremely blessed to look back and say we’ve made some strides and (the) Associated Press Sports Editors is one of those groups that helped. Because the decision-makers were doing the hiring … and making good decisions on their behalf as well. Can we get better? Yes, but to have the Associated Press Sports Editors name a scholarship (in) my honor and then say that that scholarship is going to a person at an HBCU is really special.
Q: What is a piece of advice you have for sports journalists?
A: “Do you really love it?” I asked that question because it’s going to take every single ounce of fiber in your soul to be great at it. If you aspire to be mediocre and average, this is not the place for you. You’re going to get chewed up, you’re going to get spit out and I say that straight away because it’s going to happen. The talent level is incredible right now. What these young journalists can do now at the age of 21, compared to what I could do when I was coming out at Lehigh … [now] they’re much more advanced than what we are, but you need to be. The jobs are shrinking, the opportunities are shrinking. (Sports editors are) only picking the extreme best. So, in order to have a life where you can actually, you know, buy a home, raise your children and have a pretty good life, you’re going to have to fare well at it. And consistency matters.
Reese Levin is a journalism student at the University of Maryland. If you would like to subscribe to the APSE newsletter, please email Jake Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also featured in this month’s APSE newsletter: What our peers are experiencing, and their thoughts about the past year.