Michael Anastasi, throughout 14 different newsrooms that he has been a part of in his career, has had 60 interns from SJI.
June 5, 2024

USA Today's Anastasi: Champion for SJI diversity efforts

Dhani Joseph

Michael Anastasi never saw diversity in newsrooms as an issue.

It wasn’t until other editors complimented him on how diverse his staff was and asked how he did it at Davis Enterprise as a sports editor early in his career that Anastasi realized having a diverse staff was not the norm in the industry.

“I think I was a part of the first generation that saw diversity in this business through a different lens than perhaps those that came before,” Anastasi said. “I never really thought about it as a ‘thing.’ Like, why wouldn’t we have diverse newsrooms serving diverse communities?”

Anastasi, Vice President of Local News at Gannett and Vice President and Editor of The Tennessean, has since been at the forefront of supporting efforts to diversify newsrooms for three decades.

When Anastasi heard about the Sports Journalism Institute in the 90s, he jumped at the opportunity to be a part of it. According to SJI co-director Sandy Rosenbush, Anastasi has arguably been the number one supporter of SJI.

“I’d be hard-pressed to think of anyone who’s been a bigger supporter than he has,” Rosenbush said. “He was there from the beginning and even when budgets were a little tighter, he still found a way to find room for an intern.”

Throughout 14 different newsrooms that Anastasi has been a part of in his career, he has had 60 interns from SJI, and many still work in the industry today.

But Anastasi is most proud of hiring more SJI interns – 36 – than anyone. The next closest would be ESPN, which has hired 20 former SJI interns.

“I think that’s where the rubber meets the road,” Anastasi said. “It’s great having the interns, but then are you going to actually give them a chance later on. It’s been a pleasure to see so many of the people that we’ve hired go on to do great things in the business.”

Thuc Nhi Nguyen, a Los Angeles Times sports reporter, is one of those interns eventually hired by Anastasi. She interned with the Southern California News Group in 2014. Nearly a year later, she began her professional career with Anastasi and the Southern California News Group. Nguyen believes the internship was the most pivotal decision she made in her career.

“It was everything. It turned into my first job afterwards, and I’m still here in LA because of that internship,” Nguyen said. “If I didn’t get that internship, I probably wouldn’t have gotten my first job and wouldn’t be working at the LA Times.”

Despite all the great things he’s done with SJI and promoting diversity as a whole, Anastasi realizes that it ultimately is “a never-ending battle.”

“I don’t think we’re one day going to say, ‘All good, we’re done, we can walk away and do something else,’” Anastasi said. “When you look at representation in various (and) different ways, you can see that the task before us is challenging. But I’m very proud of my work with SJI and sports.”

Dhani Joseph will intern at Yahoo! Sports this summer.

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