By Stefanie Loh

This is the sixth in a series of 10 stories celebrating the 10th anniversary of the APSE Diversity Fellowship.

Stefanie Loh

Looking back on our Diversity Fellowship class, what sticks out is the memorable weekend we took to Nashville, Tennessee in the spring of 2017. With Michael Anastasi coordinating, we met in The Tennessean’s newsroom, and over that weekend, got to know more about each other, sports journalism, and the city of Nashville itself. Oh, and we got some really good Nashville hot chicken. That definitely stuck with me. 

But the other (more important) things I took away from that weekend were the fellowship — I mean that literally — and a more intimate understanding of this industry, and what it takes to be a leader in media. 

For one, it wasn’t lost on us that we were the first all-female APSE Diversity Fellowship class. When you’ve spent any amount of time in sports media, you realize pretty quickly that it’s very unusual to find yourself solely in the company of women in any professional setting. I knew Diana and Jane a little bit through AWSM but met Shauntel for the first time through the Diversity Fellowship program. In some ways, I think the fact that we were an all-women class added to the intimacy of that weekend in Nashville. We understood, from a very intrinsic level, some of the challenges each of us had faced coming up in the industry. It automatically created a safe space environment for us to talk, share experiences and learn from the professional mentors who spoke to us that weekend — people like Anastasi, Jorge Rojas, Dave Ammenhauser, and Mark Russell of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.  

From a personal standpoint, I think that weekend marked a turning point in my journalism career. I got into sports journalism because I loved sports and I loved writing. And until that weekend in Nashville, I never dreamed I would want to be anything other than a sports writer. (Honestly, until that weekend, I don’t think I could have told you exactly what an assistant managing editor did in a newsroom.) But that Diversity Fellowship weekend was transformative. As Mark Russell talked about all that he’d been through in journalism and described the different roles he’d held during his career, The Tennessean’s digital strategists walked us through metrics and analytics and Dave Ammenhauser showed us the extensive coverage plans he and his staff had mapped out for the NFL, college and high school football seasons, I couldn’t help but wonder how we could implement some of these things in my newsroom.

That weekend made me wonder what else I could do in journalism. And that epiphany came at the right time. Reflecting back to that time, I think I was ready for a new challenge but wasn’t quite sure what I wanted that to look like. Everything I learned in Nashville set me on the road to my second act as a journalist: editing and management.  

I returned from that weekend eager to share some of what I’d learned with my sports editor, Paul Barrett. A year later, he opened a door for me by promoting me to an assistant sports editor role. I haven’t looked back since.

Jane Allison Havsy

Jane Allison Havsy

I didn’t think much about being part of the first all-female fellowship class back in the day. Now that I’ve helped to select more fellows, I realize how unusual we were. 

We weren’t just diverse because of our gender. We had two Caucasian women, one Asian woman and an African-American woman in the class. 

We came into the program with very diverse backgrounds – and career goals.  I was – and still am – a local storyteller with Olympic dreams for the Daily Record, a USA Today Network paper in Parsippany, New Jersey. Shauntel brought entirely too much work home from Bleacher Report, so it was pretty clear she was going to be the boss someday. Hockey has been the through-line for Diana, regardless of her physical location. I thought I knew Stef from her term as AWSM president, but I had no idea – and I’m not sure we could have predicted she’d flee sports for a more stable schedule in the features department. 

Shauntel taught me not to be afraid to ask for what I want. Stef taught me to consider other ways to get it. Diana taught me to be strong enough to walk away. I strive to be a little bit more like each of them every day.

Shauntel Lowe

Shauntel Lowe

The lasting lesson from my fellowship was how important your network can be in moments of good and bad. Stefanie, Jane and Diana have all played parts in my journey, and I consider myself fortunate to have met them and to remain in touch with them years later. 

I hoped, but never thought, that I would get to work for The New York Times. And I neither hoped nor thought that I would venture into sports.

The lesson here is not that you never know where you’ll end up — it’s that you may not know the depth of your capabilities.

Diana Nearhos

Diana Nearhos

The APSE Diversity Fellowship was exactly what I was looking for at the time, having already spent two years applying for jobs looking for the next step after starting in a small town.

The fellowship introduced me to new friends — both among the other fellows and others I met at conferences and events — and helped me make important connections. It was the networking, as much as what I learned more directly, that helped me get hired as the high school sports editor in Knoxville and then NHL beat writer in Tampa.

Because of the fellowship, I got to teach a sports editor who shall remain nameless that pulling the goalie is a normal thing for a hockey coach to do and also learned when there is an expense account involved, you always get dessert.


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