By Phil Kaplan
Knoxville News Sentinel

Despite a pandemic that has forced changes in the sports journalism industry, the four winners of the 2020 APSE scholarships are busy working this summer.

Matt Cohen, who will be a junior at Indiana, is awarded the Jack Berninger Scholarship; Aria Gerson, a senior at Michigan, will receive the Roy Hewitt Scholarship; Ryan McFadden, a graduate student at Maryland, is awarded the Tim Wheatley Scholarship; and Christina Long, a senior at Missouri, will receive the Joe Sullivan Scholarship.  

APSE awards four scholarships of $1,500 each to collegiate sports journalists. The scholarships are awarded based on the quality of the journalism, academic record, and need. The scholarship was established in 2007 by then-APSE president Mike Fannin. All four winners will also be given APSE student memberships.

Matt Cohen

Cohen is interning this summer at The Oregonian in Portland.

At Indiana, he earned the position of sports editor of the Indiana Daily Student during his freshman year. He took over the football and men’s basketball beats as a sophomore and plans to remain in those roles.

Cohen spent five months working ahead in anticipation that former coach Bobby Knight would return to Indiana. He says the story he wrote is the best product of his writing career.

“I’d like to think even before the pandemic … sports stories were not [just] writing about games, but how human lives are being affected,” said Cohen, who is from Bethesda, Md.

Cohen has also done work for the student-run website, The Hoosier Network.

Aria Gerson

Gerson is spending the summer as an intern at USA Today in Virginia after being named one of eight AWSM Scholars. She has been working at the student-run Michigan Daily since she was a freshman. Gerson is scheduled to cover football for the second year in a row.

Last summer she landed an internship at the Cape Cod Times. She also worked as a stringer for the Associated Press in 2018, covering Michigan football games.  

Gerson is determined to be a journalist after she graduates and has adapted to changes in how reporters are finding and delivering stories.

“I think news outlets can be creative,” said Gerson, who is from Grand Rapids, Mich. “There’s always a need for content.” 

Christina Long

Long spent her first two years at Missouri working for the athletic department as a photographer. She made the switch to legacy media in the fall, first working as an intern for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, helping with coverage of Missouri football, women’s basketball and non-revenue sports.

“I felt like I was changing teams,” said Long about the switch.

In the spring, Long joined the staff of the Columbia Missourian, covering Columbia College and various high schools.

Long, who is AWSM chapter President at Missouri and treasurer for the APSE chapter, was scheduled to be an intern this summer for The Seattle Times.  However, concerns about COVID-19 prevented it. Instead, she’s spending the summer on campus working for Vox Magazine as a digital and social media director.

“The day I found out about The Seattle Times internship being canceled, I let myself take that night to sit with the disappointment and a tub of ice cream,” said Long, who is from Fayetteville, Ark. “But the next day, I made myself open the laptop and start looking for other opportunities.” 

Ryan McFadden

McFadden didn’t know it at the time, but when he created the sports blog, Inside the Locker Room, in October 2014, covering high school sports in the D.C. area, it would be a starting point to a career in journalism. 

“It was a way to help my friends around my age to get in the journalism field,” said McFadden, who attended high school basketball powerhouse DeMatha. “It became bigger than I imagined.” 

McFadden graduated from Iona in New Rochelle, N.Y., in 2019. He worked at the independent school newspaper, The Ionaian, starting as a staff writer and moving up to assistant sports editor as a sophomore and sports editor his junior and senior years. His primary beats were volleyball and men’s basketball.

McFadden, who is from Cheltenham, Md., just finished his first year as a graduate student at Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism. It allowed him to be part of the college’s wire service for coverage of the Super Bowl.

For the second year in a row, McFadden is working as a freelancer for The Washington Post and has contributed stories on volleyball, cross country, ice hockey and indoor track.

This was the first time the APSE scholarship was open to graduate students.

Members of the APSE Scholarship committee are Paul Barrett of The Seattle Times, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston, Julie Jag of The Salt Lake Tribune, Eric Kolenich of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Naila Meyers of the Star Tribune (Minneapolis), David Rivera of The Record (Hackensack, N.J.), Thomas Scott of the Beaumont Enterprise, and Phil Kaplan of the Knoxville News Sentinel.