By Erik Bacharach
This is the seventh in a series of 10 stories celebrating the 10th anniversary of the APSE Diversity Fellowship.
There’s a photo that, for at least several months in 2018, served as the cover image for APSE’s Diversity Fellows’ Facebook page. I’m in it, along with the three other members of the 2017/18 Fellowship Class: Kwani Lunis, Reina Kempt and Adam Coleman. Four Fellows, arm in arm, in what’s become something of an iconic photo. It was snapped from behind us — a perspective that helps to preserve the notion that we might have been sober when it was taken.
The photo was certainly not staged, nor was it a practical way to stroll down jam-packed Broadway in Downtown Nashville. It was simply our stroll of choice given the relationship we had collectively formed.
Over the course of our program, it felt like we were always arm in arm.
I don’t remember “camaraderie” or “lifelong friendships” or “probably way too many drinks at The Palm” being in the description of the Diversity Fellowship when I applied, but as I reflect back on my experience, the relationships are my single biggest takeaway.
But I’m comfortable speaking for all of us when I say my Fellowship class also learned a ton during the program — and we all cashed in afterward. Reina is a rising superstar in the industry as the newly minted sports director at the Louisville Courier Journal; if you’re reading this, there’s at least a decent shot she’ll be your boss one day. Kwani has ascended the ranks at NBC in Boston, where she owns any broadcast she’s a part of; any outlet would be incredibly fortunate to have someone as talented as her on its staff. Adam is now in a premier role as an NFL editor at The Athletic; no one deserved that type of opportunity more.
As for me, I turned my Fellowship experience directly into what felt like a dream job. I went from covering a lower-tier college program for a small daily newspaper to jumping on the Titans beat for The Tennessean. I did that for two and a half years before calling an audible last fall and deciding to go back to school. I’m currently pursuing my master’s in sports management at Columbia, which gave me a chance to return home to New York and my family. While I’ve pivoted away from journalism, I haven’t fully turned my back on it and am completely open to future possibilities down the road. I don’t know where I’ll be in five years or even five months, but that doesn’t scare me or cause any undue stress. It’s truly thrilling. And one of the best parts of the Fellowship is the skills I honed during it — the leadership, the problem solving, the DEI emphasis — are directly applicable to other paths I might take on the business side of sports.
I’m not in regular contact with the rest of my Fellowship class the way I was a few years ago. But whenever we run into each other or have a moment to catch up, we’re right back on Broadway, arm in arm.
Erik Bacharach is a master’s candidate in sports management at Columbia University and a freelance writer in the New York City area. He formerly worked at The Tennessean in Nashville; The Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, Tennessee; the Opelika-Auburn News in Opelika, Alabama; Newsday in New York; and MLB.com in Philadelphia. Based in New York. firstname.lastname@example.org
Simply put, the APSE Diversity Fellowship is one of the best experiences I’ve not only had in my career, but also in my life.
There was a lot of trepidation when I applied, knowing it was something I wanted to take part in, but unsure if I’d ever get the chance to. There was even more trepdation when I was accepted because at the time, it was something completely different than anything I’d ever done.
All the nervousness melted away once I met Erik Bacharach, Kwani Lunis and Reina Kempt. There was an instant connection with my classmates that was organic and made the fellowship experience much more meaningful for me.
All of us were at interesting points in our careers – young, talented, filled with ideas and still carving out a niche for ourselves at our respective jobs while working toward a brighter future in a difficult business.
The fellowship helped us put it all together and gave us tools we could take back and use at our respective jobs but also use wherever we landed in the future.
There was an educational part of the fellowship that really helped. Learning more about SEO headlines and how to apply them was beneficial, for example. APSE judging and the summer convention were also great ways to pick up nuggets and lessons in journalism.
But nothing trumps the connections with likeminded people in a profession we love. Just meeting people from all walks of life and all across the country at small newspapers, mid-sized and large publications makes this program worth it. You learn more about yourself in this business when you are able to meet others who are walking in your shoes. I would say before the fellowship, that was an aspect mostly missing in my career. I found a great mentor in Jorge Rojas. I met Lisa Wilson, who would actually help me land the job I have now at The Athletic. I found life-long friends in Kwani, Reina and Erik.
Kwani, Erik, Reina and I like to joke there has been no fellowship class before or after us that grew as close as we did. We were nearly inseparable, hanging out on Broadway in Nashville or wherever we could. We just enjoyed each other’s company. I actually got married in July 2018 and Kwani and Reina came to my wedding.
We don’t see each other as much as we’d like obviously, because we’re all scattered across the country. But my classmates know they always have a home in Houston with me.
The fellowship has benefitted us all professionally. I think the biggest compliment to the fellowship is, we all went into it thinking it could be a bump for our careers and it absolutely was. But we all left the fellowship with so much more.
Adam Coleman is an NFL editor with The Athletic. He formerly worked for the Houston Chronicle, where he was the high school sports coordinator and Rice University beat writer, among other roles. Adam is a native of Houston, Texas, and a graduate of Texas Tech University. email@example.com
For me, the APSE fellowship was life changing. I went into the program nervous and curious about how much the program could help me develop in my career. From Day 1, the other fellows – Erik, Kwani and Adam – and I became super close and realized there were other people like us with likeminded goals to succeed in our career field. Our mentors, Mike Anastasi and Jorge Rojas were amazing hosts and completely down to earth. They taught us so much in a short amount of time and gave us invaluable tools for success.
Reina is currently the sports director at the Louisville Courier-Journal. After her APSE Fellowship, she was promoted to deputy sports editor at her former paper, The Advocate in Baton Rouge, La., before being offered the lead position in Louisville. firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s hard to believe that we were part of the 2017-18 fellowship class because it feels like just yesterday I was on a plane to Nashville to meet some other phenomenal young journalists. I must admit, at first I felt like the odd one out because I was the only Fellow without a fully print-based career background, but in retrospect I’m so grateful I was accepted to the program. The best part about our group is that we all had completely different goals but whenever one person had a particular weakness, they could ask another person in the group to guide them to greatness.
My time during the fellowship opened my eyes to what it takes to really make it in this industry. Working with my cohorts gave me a sense that I’m not alone on this career journey, and despite all of us living in different parts of the country this is one experience we’ll forever have in common.
I still cherish the career talks we had from Day 1 of just meeting each other. Reina Kempt, Adam Coleman and Erik Bacharach listened to all my wild career aspirations and I remember leaving one of our first sessions so at peace simply because they believed in me.
Over the last few years the four of us have continued a slow-and-steady rise in our careers, and I can say confidently that we’ve already (over-)exceeded the short-term goals we set for ourselves. If anything, I look back now and think, “we were thinking too small.” I’ve since gone from being “just a social media coordinator” to now creating digital and linear content for my station in Boston. Coleman loved writing about his local high school teams and is now covering the NFL for The Athletic. Kempt went from designing sports pages to now running an entire sports department. Bacharach covered the Tennessee Titans only to casually decide to go back to school and pursue a master’s in sports management. (What a flex.)
I’m definitely biased, but we’re a dope group.
I’m grateful that the APSE looked past my own insecurities and welcomed me into a legacy of phenomenal sports journalists. My only hope is that I can continue to make this group proud.
Kwani A. Lunis is currently a social media producer and the host of “10 Questions with NBC10 Boston.” You can also find her on “The Hub Today” on NBC10 Boston or the A-List Podcast on CLNS. She previously worked at NBC Sports Boston and WBZ-TV Boston. You can find her on all social platforms @KwaniALunis. email@example.com