SJI earns national recognition

SJI Staff

The Sports Journalism Institute — which started as an intriguing idea that sprang from a workshop at the 1992 NABJ convention in Detroit — has been awarded the Roone Arledge Award for Innovation, the National Sports Media Association announced today (March 1). 

The award was first given by the NSMA in 2015, with Arledge, the trail-blazing president of ABC Sports and ABC News, the posthumous recipient. The New York Times called Arledge “the most important behind-the-scenes figure in the television coverage of the major events of the last half century, from the Olympics to the boxing matches of Muhammad Ali in the 1960s to the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-80.” 

It was a workshop on urban journalism at that NABJ convention 31 years ago that inspired Leon Carter (an editor in the sports department of Newsday at the time), and Sandy Rosenbush (then  deputy sports editor at the New York Times) to begin a conversation about what they could do to encourage more people like themselves --  women and journalists of color — to bring their voices and vision to the sports sections of the nation. 

With the support of Alice Bonner and Leonard Hall of the Freedom Forum, the idea of SJI was born. With the enthusiasm and financial backing of Al Neuharth behind it, SJI became a reality almost overnight. Less than six months after those first conversations, Carter and Rosenbush were helping to choose members of the first SJI class.

“I am very proud of what SJI has accomplished since 1992,” said Carter, an editorial director at The Athletic.  “A big thanks to all of our supporters. The list is long. We are preparing for our 31st  class this year. Neither Sandy nor I thought in 1992 that SJI would still be thriving in 2023. But here we are. There is still so much work to be done in this industry when it comes to diversity.”

In 1992, Carter was on sabbatical from Newsday, thanks to a fellowship from the Freedom Forum. And by the time the students assembled at Norfolk State (Carter’s alma mater and the site of that first bootcamp), there was no turning back.  

Since Day One, SJI’s mission has been to add to the diversity in the nation’s sports media. Its nearly 400 graduates serve as testimony to the idea’s success and staying power. 

An essential component of SJI is its bootcamp, which has been conducted at Arizona State’s Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications since 2019. Previous locations have included the University of Kansas, Clark Atlanta University,  the Missouri School of Journalism, the Poynter Institute and Norfolk State.

Bootcamp is partly a classroom experience, with local faculty and visiting professional sports writers and broadcasters regularly sharing their experiences and offering students advice. It’s also part deadline immersion, with students covering events on TV and in person, and writing on 15-minute deadlines about everything from baseball games to the career paths of classroom speakers. 

By the end of each bootcamp, students depart with a lengthy list of contacts and several hundred new brothers and sisters, all part of the extended SJI family.  The family aspect of SJI  helps make it a program in which everyone involved is invested in the students’ success, and that includes newspapers of the Associated Press Sports Editors, websites and networks (ESPN and Fox in particular) that serve as intern hosts.

The Arledge Award will be handed out during the organization’s “awards weekend,” June 24-26, in Winston Salem, N.C.

More information: (NSMA site)

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