With the Associated Press Sports Editors celebrating its 50th year in 2023, few people have been more influential than Dave Smith.
At 84 years old, Smith is the oldest living former president and the first president of APSE. His career spanned 40-plus years, most recently as executive sports editor and managing editor at The Dallas Morning News, where he retired in 2004.
Smith was a founding member of APSE, serving as the first president from 1974-76.
“The president tried to improve the craft and tried to get everybody, you know, interested in the whole business of sports journalism and newspapers, and in trying to improve the quality of journalism, as well as the ethics of sports journalism. Dave was big on that,” former The Washington Post sports editor and APSE member George Solomon said.
Smith’s influence was felt heavily throughout the early days of APSE, addressing issues such as ethics and inclusion.
“One of the biggest topics during that period of time was locker room access. More and more young women were getting into the business,” former APSE president Vince Doria said. “Women, they pushed hard for it, as they should have. Editors pushed hard for it. And slowly, teams started to break down, teams started opening up their locker rooms.”
Smith started his career in 1957 as sports editor of the Marine Corps Air Station’s base newspaper, The Windsock, in Cherry Point, North Carolina. He joined The Dallas Morning News as executive sports editor in 1981, earning many honors, most notably the Red Smith Award in 1990.
While at The Dallas Morning News, he was inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2004.
During his time with The Boston Globe and The Dallas Morning News, Smith was known for having one of the most thorough sports sections in the U.S. Along with special sections, The Dallas Morning News was nationally known for having box scores for multiple sporting events across professional, college and high school sports.
“Dave Smith was a guy whose sports section never missed a piece of action,” longtime Los Angeles Times sports editor and APSE member Bill Dwyre said.
Despite retiring in 2004, Smith still remains in the loop in the world of sports journalism. He still converses with many of his former colleagues and reads the newspaper daily.
Since his time as a sports editor, the digital age has changed journalism in many ways. With all the revisions in digital media, Smith said he can’t see himself working in sports journalism today.
“I would not want to be doing it today, only because, of course, my focus was for the print part,” Smith said. “Back in the newspaper days, when I was in charge, for example, if one of our columnists, let's say, was going to rip the Cowboys coach for whatever purpose, that reporter or that columnist, one of the things I required is that they confront the coach first and say, ‘Here's what I'm saying.’ You give the coach at least an opportunity to reply before just taking him apart. I guess if nothing else, the word credibility I don't think exists today the way it used to be.”
Along with keeping up with the news, Smith is an avid golfer, going to the course three times per week. He also likes to travel, most recently visiting Hot Springs, Ark.
Despite the changes in recent years, Smith said he still has a passion for journalism, especially the model in which he worked.
“Definitely miss it. I mean, obviously, I miss the people that I worked with. I still am in touch with a lot of them. In fact, I still have a monthly luncheon with a bunch of my former writers, we meet and just grumble”, Smith said with a smile. “If we could go back and newspapers were what they were, I would go back. I could be easily convinced to go back to work.”