By Gary Potosky,
Sports Editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer
APSE Second Vice President
Hard to believe we won’t be seeing Robert Gagliardi at APSE national meetings. He has been a reliable friend to this organization for the better part of two decades, and he will be missed.
Robert is the senior sports editor of WyoSports, the combined efforts of the sports departments of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle in Cheyenne and Laramie Boomerang. His last day there is today (Sept. 11).
Of course if you’re enjoying the outdoor life in Wyoming for the foreseeable future, you might just bump into him. Gagliardi, a native (Kemmerer, Wyo.) of the Cowboy State and a lifetime outdoors enthusiast, will be associate editor of “Wyoming Wildlife” magazine beginning Sept. 16. Or you can check out his work every month in that publication.
Gagliardi, who could line his walls with the hardware he’s taken home from his countless APSE writing and editing awards, has been around Wyoming football and basketball since the last century, having attended the University of Wyoming in the early 1990s and earning his journalism degree from there in 1993. He started covering the Cowboys for “The Branding Iron”, the student newspaper that probably didn’t know it was unleashing an individual who would become synonymous with Wyoming sports journalism.
Here’s a Q and A with Robert as he says goodbye to sports journalism and APSE:
Potosky: Let’s start with the big news: Why did you decide to leave sports writing and go into this new venture?
Gagliardi: It definitely was not an easy decision. When I got into this business as a professional nearly 26 years ago, I thought this was what I would do until I retire, or until I was told to do something else. However, as many know, our industry is changing. It isn’t just at the big shops around the country, it is at small shops as well. While I don’t envy the decisions that have to be made by higher-ups, it became clear over the last few years that the priority here was not to provide quality journalism, it was to meet the bottom line. We all hear the saying “Do more with less.” I get that, but there comes a point where enough is enough. It was time to find something else.
Potosky: Describe what it means to be a sports writer in Wyoming? It’s certainly not the same thing as covering sports in major cities, and most sports writers probably don’t have a feel for what your career has been like. Do you think you could have been as happy in this business while living in a major city?
Gagliardi: Wyoming’s entire population is less than 600,000 (577,737 as of 2018), and covering sports here — especially the University of Wyoming — is always a big-time topic of conversation. The university is the only four-year institution of higher learning in the state, the only show in town, so to speak. Wyoming football is king, followed by men’s basketball. However, when Wyoming has a winner in any sport, people rally behind it. Women’s basketball averages more than 3,000 fans per home game. When the program won the 2007 WNIT, more than 15,000 jammed into its basketball arena to watch. More than 1,000 fans often attend volleyball and wrestling home matches. Sports at the university, especially when they’re good, brings the entire state together. Fans will travel up to eight hours one way just to attend a game.
The second question is a good one. I’ve had opportunities to move on to bigger papers and bigger cities, but deep down those opportunities didn’t feel right. I’ve grown up and spent my entire life in the West, and in smaller towns. I think I could have adjusted to both living and working in a major city, but I truly believe I wouldn’t have been as happy not having a lot of wide open spaces to escape to like I have here. Also, as time has gone on, I have felt like I needed to stay in Wyoming. I am an only child. My dad is getting up there in age, and his health is declining. He’s not dying, but I need to remain fairly close to him for when things begin to get worse. I have to put my family first.
Potosky: What were your favorite moments from writing about sports for a living?
Gagliardi: Telling the stories of the athletes, coaches and all of those involved in sports, and also seeing younger journalists succeed in our business. I have covered more than 200 Wyoming football games, more than 600 Wyoming men’s and women’s basketball games and countless other sporting events. Covering Wyoming on a national stage, such as bowl games, NCAA tournaments, etc. sticks out. But so does covering small Wyoming high schools where gyms are packed to the rafters just to watch their local teams play, whether they are good or bad. Not sure if this is a favorite memory, but I remember covering a news conference for Wyoming’s 2004 Las Vegas Bowl invitation over the phone because I got caught in a blizzard driving from Cheyenne to Laramie (about 45 miles, with the last six or seven miles over a mountain pass) and state officials closed the roads while I was in route. This wasn’t a conference call, this was the SID putting one of those massively big cell phones by the microphone so I could hear what was going on. I also remember getting into a wreck on that mountain pass driving to football practice late in the fall. I still wrote my story and made deadline.
Potosky: Who have been your mentors in this business?
Gagliardi: So many past and current members of APSE had a big influence on me as a person and a journalist. People like Garry Howard, Roy Hewitt, Don Shelton, Jerry Micco, Scott Monsrud and Gerry Ahern helped a newbie like me feel welcome and that I belonged. Tommy Deas, John Bednarowski, Phil Kaplin, Todd Adams, Jeff Rosen, Chris Imperiale, Lisa Wilson, Mary Byrne, Kathy Laughlin and Dennis Rudner all were there to give me advice, be a sounding board and provide support whether it be things related to our work situations, or personal matters. I wouldn’t be where I am at without them, and many others.
Potosky: How did you get involved in APSE, and when did you feel like this was something that would be a big part of your professional life?
Gagliardi: I attended my first judging for APSE in the early 2000s as a new sports editor. I was intimidated. I wasn’t treated that way, but I felt like I didn’t belong with most of those folks. I remained a member after that, but it was in the late 2000s where I became more actively involved. Since the Salt Lake City summer conference in 2010, I have missed only one summer conference and been to judging every year. I won’t lie, winning awards (sections and/or individual) was a factor in my continued involvement, but certainly not the factor. I became a better journalist and editor through what I learned in APSE. Even though I paid my own way to the winter and summer conferences, it was well worth the investment both from a personal and professional standpoint.
Potosky: What was your experience as an APSE national officer like, and what wisdom or advice can you offer the next generation of APSE leaders?
Gagliardi: It was both fun and overwhelming. A lot of work goes into making sure our organization runs smoothly, and continues to exist. And, we all have our day jobs. However, I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. My advice for the next generation is not only to join APSE, but get involved with what the organization stands for. Be an active member in your region, attend judging (whether it is in person or off-site), volunteer for committees. We are only as good as our membership, and a handful of dedicated officers need the help of that next generation to make sure APSE not only survives, but thrives.