July 19, 2021

APSE congratulates 10th class of diversity fellows

Kennedy Byrd

The milestone 10th class of the APSE Diversity Fellows includes three women and two men with aspirations of advancing their careers, usually  in management roles.

The APSE Diversity Fellowship Program is an opportunity for working, mid-career professionals who are interested in following a career path as a manager in sports journalism, typically as sports editors, assistant sports editors or sports reporters. 

This year’s fellows bring a wealth of experience to the program:

Maria McIlwain is an Auburn alumna who transitioned from reporting at The Bryan-College Station Eagle to the Houston Chronicle’s copy desk and has won two APSE awards. McIlwain received APSE awards in multimedia and beat writing in 2018. 

Sarah Kelly graduated from the University of Kansas, where she was involved with the Society of Professional Journalists. Kelly joined the copy desk at Sports Illustrated in September from her role as sports editor for The Washington Post Express. Through her early career, Kelly worked in many different journalism roles in Kansas. 

Mauro Diaz works as a bilingual journalist. He started his career at the Dallas Morning News as a sports copy editor out of college. In that role, Diaz also served as a sports editor for Al Dia, the organization’s Spanish-lanugage daily and website. Since 2009, Diaz has worked with ESPN.com in Dallas.

Emily Poertner graduated from Roanoke College in southwest Virginia. Poertner is part of the Design Center at Gannett, where she designs and edits the daily print sports section. In addition, Poertner is on the company's Diversity and Ethics Committee that helps flag problematic language in headlines and stories, and she works to reduce bias in publications. 

Lastly, J.T. Keith graduated from Eastern New Mexico University and Texas Tech University with a master’s degree. Keith was the first African-American in his current newsroom and previous newsrooms as well. Keith has won three awards at his current position as the sports editor at the Roswell Daily Record.

Former APSE president and Fellowship founder Michael Anastasi continues to be an integral part of this program, especially during this milestone. Anastasi has been working with the Sports Journalism Institute for many years and was impressed by the program. During his leadership as APSE president, he noticed “the diversity challenge, more specifically around leadership in our profession and the urgency required to address it. I realized we could really use an SJI-like program targeted at that level.”

Former fellow and Sports Journalism Institute alumnus Carron J. Phillips is a perfect example of both programs’ success. He currently works as a senior writer for Deadspin in Chicago. Phillips has “been promoted or got a better job five times and won three awards and counting.” since being a part of the fellowship. 

He shared that connecting with Anastasi and Jorge Rojas, APSE second vice president and former diversity chair, is great but isn't the only benefit to the program

“The best part about it is that it aligns you with your peers,” Phillips said. “The people in your fellowship class and the ones before and after you will be the ones making the decisions and hires one day. You're now a part of that, and that's invaluable.” 

Former fellows work at outlets such as Courier Media, USA Today Sports, Beaumont Enterprise, The Athletic and more. Graham Watson and Jenni Carlson are two graduates of the fellowship who serve on the Foundation board. 

“We are so proud to see so many of our fellows having been promoted within the industry following their experience, Anastasi said. “Some of them have been promoted multiple times. Even those who decide to move out of journalism, we believe what they’ve learned in the program will help them down the road as leaders in their new chosen professions.”

The fellowship is operating virtually as fellows participate in virtual training sessions, the APSE contest judging and graduate from the program this summer. 

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