By Eric Jackson

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

Eric Jackson

Fulfilling and rewarding.

These are words that come to mind when I think about my experience as a Diversity Fellow for Associated Press Sports Editors.

Two years since graduating from the program, I’ve settled into my role covering the business of sports for Atlanta Business Chronicle (ABC). I’ve really enjoyed the ride — covering everything from endorsement deals to stadium financing. It has allowed me to dive deep into the other side.

Before I was hired at ABC, I spent the previous four years covering preps sports and the University of Florida for Lake City (Fla.) Reporter. I’m grateful for my experience there, but during my final two years with the newspaper, I became frustrated by the lack of development I was receiving.

I decided to join APSE, and it was one of the best professional decisions I’ve ever made.

I still consider it an honor to be selected as a 2018-2019 Fellow with a pretty dope group of journalists. That one-year program helped me take a more holistic approach to my career and gain a better understanding of the evolving business model (conversions, page views, digital advertising).

I also somehow survived John Bednarowski’s corny jokes and James Williams’ alarm sounds from his phone. I won’t forget grabbing morning cocktails with Norma Gonzalez at Tootsie’s or devouring the delicious food at Columbia. The perfect balance of work and play, to me, made it all worth it.

It’s ironic that the graduation ceremony took place in Atlanta, my hometown, weeks after accepting the role that I have now — a fitting end to a memorable experience. There’s no doubt that the program helped me prepare for the future. I expect to continue to learn from my colleagues, friends and mentors of the APSE family while contributing and helping newcomers as well.  

Cheers! ericpaul729@gmail.com

Nicole Saavedra 

Nicole Saavedra

The Diversity fellowship program helped me grow in all aspects of my career. It expanded my toolkit as I transitioned from reporting to planning/management. It improved my public speaking and networking skills. 

It also deepened my connection to APSE. The year-long process helped build close bonds with the other class members and fellowship leaders. The opportunity to attend judging and the conference created multiple avenues to work with other editors and learn from them in the process. 

I was able to use all of the skills learned during the program immediately and still continue to use them today. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to participate and for APSE’s commitment to educating and connecting students, reporters and editors from around the country. nsaavedra@nashvill.gannett.com

Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson

I was definitely the mom of our group — probably because I was a mom — but truthfully, I was honored to be called Mama Jenni on occasion by the other Fellows in my class.  That’s because of how highly I think of them. They were then and are now rock stars in our industry.

And here’s the truth: I learned so much more from them than I could ever have imparted. 

One of the main reasons I wanted to be a Fellow was because I felt like so much had changed in our industry for which I hadn’t been able to keep up. I had adapted just as anyone in the business for more than two decades has, but still, there were blind spots, areas where my understanding was low to non-existent. My belief was that I needed to expand my knowledge to truly be an effective leader, to be able to teach others and make decisions that were best for my newsroom.

While we heard from several experts in the industry, it was the other Fellows who were my greatest teachers. They not only shared their knowledge but also showed me that we can be supportive of each other, encouraging and collaborating and welcoming of the opportunity to learn and grow.

We’re never too old – not even us mamas. jcarlson@oklahoman.com

Norma Gonzalez 

Norma Gonzalez

One of the biggest things the 2018-19 Diversity Fellowship Program gave to me was camaraderie.

As a Latina in sports journalism, I don’t often find many people who look like me in this profession. In fact, at the moment, I’m the only woman in print covering my beat and the only person of color. It can get a bit taxing to constantly be the glaring minority, but this fellowship showed me there are others like me — whether that be a woman or a person of color — striving to do the same.

Through the fellowship, I also met an array of sports journalists — some of which I already followed and a large majority of those I didn’t. It was encouraging to see APSE as a watering hole that brings in sports reporters from all backgrounds, as well as all types of publications and beats.

I’m hoping, through my experience and the combined experience of my fellow Fellows, we can continue to change the face of sports journalism, and by extension every journalism department. I hope no other woman or POC gets looked over and skipped in the press box when they’re handing out stats sheets because they don’t look like everyone else and therefore must not belong. 

I know I’ll forever hold the 2018-19 Fellowship class close to my heart. ngonzalez@sltrib.com

James Williams

My time as an APSE Diversity Fellow was a rewarding experience and taught me a lot about the importance of diversity in the workplace and how everyone can benefit from each other’s experiences and perspectives. Also, being able to meet with other Fellows and APSE members was a great opportunity to network. Several conversations also served as learning opportunities on how they handled different situations and stories in their coverage areas. jhwilliams@scng.com

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