Sports Journalism Institute

Helping women and minorities get into newsrooms since 1993

SJI touts four APSE winners

By Juan López
APSE Bulletin Staff Writer

Four Sports Journalism Institute alums won awards in the 2008 Associated Press Sports Editors Writing Contest held earlier this year in Las Vegas. Their stories ranged from an investigation of an asterisk on a rivalry trophy to a documentation of the Utah Jazz’s storied history.

Salt Lake Tribune reporter Maggie Thach (SJI Class of 2006) won fifth place in the 100,000-250,000 circulation projects category for her work in a series about the 30th anniversary of the Jazz playing in Salt Lake City. She was part of an eight-person group who chronicled memorable moments in the Jazz’s history.

Thach, who grew up a Utah fan, said one of her favorite interviews for the stories was with former Jazz player Jeff Hornacek.

“It was kind of intimidating, but at the same time I told myself, ‘OK, I’m a journalist and he doesn’t know that when I was a little girl, he was my idol’,” she said. “So that helped me get through it.”

Rachel Bachman (SJI Class of 1994), a reporter at The Oregonian, took fourth place in the over 250,000 projects category. Bachman wrote a three-part series about wealthy high school football teams in Oregon winning state titles while poor schools floundered. Bachman discovered that richer teams received better physical treatment and were treated20with more compassion.

SJI also had a pair of winners in the explanatory category.

David Ubben (SJI Class of 2009) wrote a story on the asterisk that marked the Telephone Trophy, which is awarded annually to the winner of the University of Missouri-Iowa State University football game. The idea came to Ubben, a reporter for the Columbia Missourian while he waited outside the Missouri locker room during fall drills. He peered inside a trophy case and noticed an asterisk next to the 2006 matchup (2006 ISU 21-16*).

Missouri faithful believed a holding call that nullified a last-second Tigers touchdown was unjustly called, prompting the asterisk.

When Ubben asked about the asterisk, the trophy was removed from the case. It returned the following week with the asterisk removed.

“Asterisks don’t engrave and remove themselves,” he said. “That’s when I kind of knew that there was something else to this story.”

The fourth SJI winner SJI’s was Tampa Tribune reporter Nick Williams (Class of 2003). Williams, part of a six-person team, tied for fifth place in the 100,000-250,000 explanatory category. The articles focused on “street agents” — people who latch onto young athletes, making illegal arrangements with colleges to get their athlete to attend that school.

Williams said the reporting team was unable to get anyone involved to admit dealing with street agents.

Williams was also involved in the visual aspect of the presentation.

“Since we didn’t have a good photo to run with the stories, I posed for the front-page photo,” he said. “My face was darkened out, but it was basically me holding a ball and someone handing me money.”