By Tim Stephens, APSE President
Deputy Managing Editor, CBSSports.com
As a multiple-time APSE award winner, Washington Post reporter Kent Babb had reason to take an interest in the organization that was recognizing his best work. Babb began attending APSE events on his own, taking the opportunity to introduce himself and get to know editors across the nation.
Being a good reporter, he also saw an opportunity to question the status quo.
“At the Boston convention (in 2011), I invited a writer friend of mine to drop by a session or two; if there was any heat, I'd take it, because I've just been showing up for the previous few years,” Babb said. “He didn't feel like he should, though, it being an editors meeting and all, and he said he just wouldn't feel comfortable. I thought this was a problem for the organization and for any writers interested in taking part — for learning or networking reasons — because we in journalism can't afford to be hesitant. Sometimes I feel like writers and editors don't always speak the same language, but in my experience, APSE events have helped me break down that communication wall.”
Babb began thinking he should do more than break down that communication wall. He and reporter Dan Wiederer, also a multiple-time APSE winner now with the Chicago Tribune, launched a campaign to allow writers to join APSE. They made their pitch to the membership in 2012, and it was passed by APSE’s executive committee at last June’s summer conference in Detroit.
Writers now can join APSE for $50 annually if their organization is already a member of APSE. (Writers from non-APSE news organizations can join for $75 but should contact me at tim.stephens@cbsinteractive.
com or Executive Director Jack Berninger at firstname.lastname@example.org before applying. Here is a link with lihttp://apsportseditors.org/ how-to-join/ and you can sign up and pay here: http://registration.apsportseditors.org/pay/
APSE in recent years has taken steps to be more inclusive. Websites now can join, and several of all sizes are now contributing to the organization. Our student outreach has grown significantly, and we’re now exploring an expansion to include student chapters.
It seems only natural that APSE open its doors to writers, especially considering how many editors began their careers as writers before moving into management and the evolution of the newsroom also creates opportunities for writers to lead both in the field and from the sports editors’ office.
"Having the door to APSE opened just a little more, and formally so, I believe will help ambitious and driven writers to further their growth as sports journalists,” Wiederer said. “That growth, above all else, is what I think the priority of an APSE writers wing would be.”
Wiederer encourages writers to consider membership and to make plans to attend this summer’s conference in Washington D.C. APSE will offer writers who have paid membership dues a discounted conference registration fee of $100.
“During my time at APSE summer conventions, I’ve found the interactions to be invigorating,” Wiederer said. “Having a chance to pick the brains of editors around the country for story ideas, Web philosophies, beat coverage plans and so forth has been an instrumental part of my growth as a writer and reporter. I think the involvement in APSE is something so many other writers could benefit from. And the creation of a writers division would help open the doors to that, connecting both sides of the business in a way that would be mutually beneficial.”
Writer members are not eligible to run for office and cannot vote in APSE affairs or enter the contest as individuals outside their organization’s entries, at least at this time. So what’s in it for writers? Well, networking opportunities abound.
“Let's face a fact here: Ambitious writers want jobs," Babb said. “There's nothing wrong or shameful in that, and editors want to find those ambitious writers, too; the ones willing to go that extra mile. Both of my last two jobs came from getting to know people at APSE events.
“The problem is, a lot of people don't know how to network, or aren't willing to enter a room full of editors and shake some hands. Going to panel discussions is a way to get better, sure, but more than that, these events are a way to get to know the people who might someday interview and hire you.”
Said Wiederer: “While the networking end of things might seem to be self-serving from a writer’s standpoint, I think everyone would agree that editors have nothing to lose and everything to gain by expanding their reach and having a greater connection to writers around the business. It will only help editors and writers to better understand how the other half lives and it forces everyone to come outside of the bubble they line in on their beat(s) and at their publications to gain a greater understanding of how others are pursuing and achieving success.”
Babb and Wiederer said APSE can benefit from writers’ involvement, too. He hopes writers who join will bring good ideas and enthusiasm for journalism to the table.
“Sometimes the conventions sessions are dry and boring, and a lot of times it's because the right questions aren't asked of the guests. So I've wondered why we don't have reporters, who ask questions for a living, moderating some of those talks.
“The other thing is, editors might be the ones putting plans in place, but we're the ones executing those plans. Let us help you understand how those plans can be put into day-to-day action, whether it's narrative journalism or social media or access issues. We're the ones on the front lines, so let us have a voice on how to best make those big plans a reality.”
Wiederer said writers can make a valuable contribution by writing for the APSE website.
“My initial vision was to have a regular presence on the APSE website," Wiederer said. ”That presence would include Q-and-As with successful sports journalists to learn how they do best what they do best. An example of that was the piece I published for APSE last summer with Dan Wetzel sharing his insights into great column writing.
“Finding a way to include something like that quarterly or monthly would have incredible value. In addition, we would love to create and maintain an exchange of ideas and discussions on important topics in the business on the APSE site.”
Writing for the website is just a start. As this new writers’ wing grows, some ideas discussed include:
* Networking opportunities at the summer and winter conferences and at regional meetings;
* A database on the APSE website for member writers to post their resumes;
* A mentoring program and one-on-one discussion sessions for writers at the summer conference;
* Skype workshops and webinars that would be more accessible to writers who cannot afford to go to the conferences or regional meetings, or who cannot attend due to their work schedules;
* More writer involvement in Summer Conference sessions.
As president, I’ll create a writer’s committee that will include writer members, sports editors and a chairman to be designated. I’ll ask this committee to explore ways to integrate writers into the organization and work to grow the membership. I have asked 3rd Vice President Tommy Deas to coordinate this effort in the meantime as part of a coordinated membership drive this spring. If you have suggestions for the writers wing, please contact Tommy at email@example.com.
I believe writers can make a valuable contribution to APSE, and we need their voice in our organization. In fact, it won’t surprise me at all to one day see a person who joined as a writer rise through the ranks to become a sports editor who leads APSE as its president.