Sports Journalism Institute

Helping women and minorities get into newsrooms since 1993

Spotlight on SJI grad

Anthony Witrado

Anthony Witrado

By Ignacio Marquez
APSE Bulletin Staff Writer

Anthony Witrado observed 5-month-old Makayla Davidson for some time while watching Montrell Davidson play football at Bay View High School in Milwaukee.

The young prep sports reporter was writing a story on Davidson, the 17-year-old team captain on the school’s football team and father to Makayla, in 2007.

Witrado was profiling Davidson and three other members of the team who were also teenage fathers.

The story, which focused on the players’ lives as they juggle school, sports and fatherhood, was featured on the front page as the centerpiece of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“(The story) definitely was fulfilling because it showed I could really go through with (a big project),” Witrado said. “I’ve had my hand in it since the beginning, and it really felt like it was mine.”

Witrado, 29, a 2002 graduate of the Sports Journalism Institute, is now a national baseball columnist for the Sporting News and attributes hard work, dedication and surprisingly, apprehension, which he said served as motivation for him.

“The same fear I had at the (SJI) when I was around nine other students, I still have that today, and it’s a constant motivator for me,” he said. “It constantly progresses, but that fear never leaves you, at least for me.”

The Fresno State graduate said the SJI helped him overcome the intimidation factor and building the necessary confidence to be successful.

The road to the Sporting News, the so-called “Bible of Baseball,” has been a long one, starting with The Fresno Bee as an 18-year-old.

Witrado went on to the SJI as a sophomore. He was the youngest member of the class at age 19.

Melody Gutierrez, who was in Witrado’s SJI class, said Witrado set the tone for the group.

“What stood out about him is that he was one of the first that picked up on everything that they were teaching. He was a clear reader among our group,” said Gutierrez, who now works as an education reporter at the Sacramento Bee.

As part of the SJI program, Witrado interned at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He worked at a weekly publication upon returning to Fresno, Calif. He then returned to the Fresno Bee.

Witrado said one of the most important people he met coming out of the SJI was Garry D. Howard, who then was assistant managing editor/sports at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Howard hired Witrado to write for the Journal Sentinel after college and was impressed by the quality of work he produced, which included the story on the parent football players.

When Howard decided to leave Milwaukee for the Sporting News as its editor-in-chief, one of his first hires was Witrado.

“He’s very approachable, and he’s generally a really nice person. He’s a great reporter, and if you add that to the combination of his talent as a writer, then you have somebody who has no limits,” Howard said. “ It’s been a wonderful relationship that I hope lasts forever.”

Julie Engebrecht, local news director at the Cincinnati Enquirer and one of Witrado’s editors at SJI in 2002, remembers Witrado as naturally curious and a hard worker who was very open to feedback from editors.