Longtime Philadelphia Inquirer sports editor Gary Potosky assumed his role as president of the Associated Press Sports Editors on Aug. 18, kicking off, as he described, the shortest presidential tenure in the group’s history.
The APSE stalwart discussed that day in Las Vegas and those that followed as a whirlwind of action and emotion, as Potosky raced to cement a range of initiatives that would spell out the association’s future.
“It’s about trying to balance between things that need to get done and things that need to get planned,” Potosky said. “We’re already starting to plan for [APSE’s 2021 Summer Conference] in Indianapolis next June. So, we’re trying to balance that with the things that need to get done before the holidays.”
Potosky said his opening few months as president have been full of challenges and successes, summarizing the yeoman’s work that comes with leading an all-volunteer organization.
Improving Diversity in Journalism
One item that has become a cornerstone of Potosky’s tenure as president is working with new diversity chair, Sherrod Blakely, on a series of initiatives that will bolster newsroom diversity across the country.
For Potosky, strengthening APSE’s Diversity Fellowship and the association’s nonprofit APSE Foundation is a key step toward ensuring the long-term success of the organization and the industry.
“I have talked with [Sherrod] a few times and empowered him to relaunch, home in and take direction of our diversity program for APSE,” Potosky said. “We are looking to take it a bit higher than we have in the past. It’s been an incredibly successful program to this point. But what we’re trying to do, essentially, is to have more synergy among the different elements that I mentioned, and to establish APSE as a leader in this area.”
Potosky sees a future where APSE is a forebear for inclusive newsrooms that are truly representative of the communities that they cover.
That means finding a way to support BIPOC journalists by putting them in a position to succeed in the field, going beyond raw demographics to build newsrooms that understand and truly care about those that they’re entrusted with covering.
“It’s something that goes across the industry that everybody cares very deeply about,” Potosky said. “Every newsroom we look at is trying to diversify the newsroom. But why is that? Why are they doing that? They’re not doing it just so that they can get a higher score on the percentage of BIPOC and women journalists that are on the payroll.
“That’s one metric, but it’s not an end goal in itself.”
One of Potosky’s main initiatives during his yearlong presidency is to establish a new website for APSE’s diversity program, with the help of Blakely, 1st Vice President Jorge Rojas, and 2nd Vice President, Naila-Jean Meyers.
He’s hopeful that the site can serve as a resource for journalists of all backgrounds to learn and grow, so the profession can grow alongside them.
Building on a Successful Summer Conference
Potosky referenced the 2021 Summer Convention at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas as a “miracle,” in how smoothly it went off, with close to 90 journalists attending the association’s first in-person event since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The proud Rutgers alumnus made sure to thank outgoing President Lisa Wilson, as well as Rojas, Glen Crevier and Meyers, in summing up what allowed the Las Vegas conference to be a success story.
“It was a miracle and really a triumph of unbelievable effort by Lisa, by Glen, who was our conference coordinator, and by really all of the officers who worked so hard to put together a program that encouraged people to attend,” Potosky said.
“To put in place safety measures that made people feel comfortable. And really succeed in all of things that a national conference brings to everybody.”
Potosky said he’s hopeful that members will flock to APSE’s return to in-person judging at the Doubletree Hotel in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., from Feb. 20-23 as well as next summer’s conference in Indianapolis.
“It’s really important for people to participate in this organization because it benefits everybody,” Potosky said. “We aren’t going to be doing Zoom access to everything anymore. We must re-engage with our colleagues, and we must go back to it’s a critical time in our in our industry, a critical time that people learn what works and what doesn’t.
“And all members are going to matter to us because we want everybody to succeed. We’re not competitors, we’re colleagues. In this business, now more than ever, we need to be in-person so that we can share these ideas.”
Above all, Potosky said his faith in the future of APSE as an organization was on display inside a pair of ballrooms in the heart of the Strip, with shared passion for excellence in editorial content binding members from across the country.
“I was told that it was a brave thing to do, to hold an in-person conference in these circumstances, but not only did we do it, but it came off as a success,” Potosky said. “Almost 90 people attended it, which is just a miracle. But it’s why this organization will preserve through the tough times we’re all facing, because people are committed to what we do.”
APSE’s Better When in Service of Each Other
Potosky’s message today echoes what he told the crowd that August afternoon in the closing session of the Las Vegas conference.
“We are all stronger when we are of service to each other. It’s right there in the ‘Join’ page on our website,” Potosky said during his speech. “I believe in those words. After all, I wrote them. I look forward to the next 10 months. I’m grateful for this opportunity.”
Fast-forward to now, and Potosky’s feelings about being APSE’s president have not wavered.
The proud lifelong journalist — who went from The Daily Journal in Elizabeth, N.J., to the Asbury Park Press to the crown jewel of the City of Brotherly Love — still has a burning passion to lift those around him up, instead of leaving them in the dust.
Potosky still shares the same drive that led him from Piscataway to the Philadelphia Inquirer, guiding APSE into a bold new era.
“My goal was to approach this role from a worker’s standpoint,” Potosky said. “There are a lot of ways to lead, and there are lots of ways to be president of an organization, or to be a region chair, etc.”
For Potosky, the key is to arrive in Indianapolis having shepherded APSE through its darkest hours, those being a two year-plus pandemic and unprecedented membership challenges, only to get the association to a better place overall.
“Everybody who takes this chance and is fortunate enough to get elected to office and make it through and get to be president, that’s their time to put their stamp on things and put their footprint on everything,” Potosky said. “So, this is my time, and that’s how I’m going about it. I think if I do the work, and I think I set some ambitious but reachable goals this year, and I feel like I’ve done my best, then I’ll feel like we’ve accomplished a lot.
“I think I’ll go to Indianapolis very proud of what we’ve done, and I think people will recognize that work. And the recognition will really benefit all of APSE. It’ll get passed on to whoever is next, and that’ll be the benefit of it. It won’t be my reputation; APSE is what’s important.”