Lisa Wilson has attended Associated Press Sports Editors summer conventions in the past but never as the president.
With last year’s gathering being held virtually because of the pandemic, Wilson will finally get the opportunity to speak to members in person as APSE holds its summer conference Aug. 15-18 at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas.
APSE decided in March that it would be safer to have the conference in August instead of June, the usual month for its summer conferences. By selecting a later date, organizers indicated they believed more people would be vaccinated against COVID-19 by then and would be comfortable traveling. APSE will be among the first journalism organizations to hold an in-person convention since the pandemic began.
“If our conference would have been in June, there's a very good chance we would have had to do it virtually,” said Wilson, who is APSE’s first Black female president. “We thought going in August would give us enough time to make this happen, even if we had a smaller group than usual.”
Wilson stressed the importance of the convention being in person for the first time since 2019, as members will be able to discuss how they reinvented their sports coverage during the pandemic.
“I think it's important for us to get together and talk about everything that's been going on in this pandemic year,” Wilson said. “What kind of trends are we seeing? Access is going to be very important to the organization, as we can safely go back into locker rooms.”
APSE executive director Bill Eichenberger is excited for the conference to be in person and is eager to see vaccination rates continue to move in the right direction.
“We haven't been together for two years,” Eichenberger said. “As an organization, you need face-to-face time to cement relationships.”
APSE first vice president Gary Potosky said in-person meetings are the lifeblood of the organization, especially in its summer conference’s capacity as a networking event. The convention provides attendees opportunities to get together and share ideas while learning from each other's successes and failures.
“You not only get to pick their brains but learn a little bit about where you are and where you are going,” said Potosky, sports editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer. “You can't get that kind of relationship when you are on Zoom once or social media.”
The Las Vegas Review-Journal serves as host of this year’s conference. Conference coordinator Glen Crevier said there were 55 paid registrants as of July 30. In addition, almost a dozen students are expected to attend.
Social distancing and other safety protocols such as facemasks will be in place. Wilson said she expects the convention to consist of only general sessions so members can spread out in a larger room. In the past, the APSE convention would have two general sessions in the morning and the afternoon, with members spending the rest of the time in smaller sessions.
“Even though we are meeting in person, we are still mindful that there is a pandemic going on,” said Wilson, an editorial director for The Athletic. “I'm asking people to be vaccinated, and we are still going to try to socially distance ourselves when we can.”
With the convention being in Vegas, Wilson said sports gambling will be a discussion topic, as will diversity within sports journalism. The convention plans to honor the 2020 and 2021 Red Smith Award winners, Christine Brennan and Sally Jenkins, plus this year’s Jack Berninger Award winner, which goes to someone who has made significant contributions to APSE.
“I feel like when we arrive in Las Vegas for our first couple days, it's going to be obvious how important it is that we are there and that we are together, and that we are doing the work that matters,” Potosky said.
While the APSE summer conference will be in person, the National Association of Black Journalists’ convention will be virtual Aug. 18-21. The Asian American Journalists Association will also gather virtually Aug. 18-21. The Association for Women in Sports Media’s convention, as well as that of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, were held virtually earlier this summer.