Sports Journalism Institute

Helping women and minorities get into newsrooms since 1993

Wilson’s hopes ascent into leadership is a catalyst for change

Jadyn Watson-Fisher
SJI Class of 2018

Lisa Wilson’s fascination with journalism started during her childhood, when she would write the sports editor at the Buffalo News in her New York hometown. Her career came full circle when she accepted that same position in 2011, fulfilling a lifelong dream.

Now the sports editor of ESPN’s The Undefeated, Wilson became the first black woman elected to leadership of the Associated Press Sports Editors in April.

Wilson ran for second vice president thinking it would be good experience but said she was surprised when the organization elected her. She will serve a three-year term, which includes one-year each as second vice president, first vice president and president in 2020.

“It’s so amazing to think that in 44 years there’s never been a black woman elected to office, and now that it’s happened, it’s me,” Wilson said. “It’s incredible for two reasons — to think that, ‘Wow, I’m that woman,’ but that it’s also taken 44 years to happen. I’m going to celebrate this victory and just make sure it doesn’t go another 44 years between black women serving in APSE leadership.”

Wilson, who is just the second African-American in APSE leadership and fifth woman to be in line for the presidency, has simple goals for her term. She desires to increase and diversify the organization’s membership, while working with the National Association of Black Journalists Sports Task Force to do the same in newsrooms around the nation. She hopes to keep in contact with editors to help let them get connected with other journalists, even if that means making phone calls herself.

Sherrod Blakely, NABJ Sports Task Force chairman, believes Wilson can make a difference.

“When you look at APSE, there has been a clear and undeniable void at the top of their respective food chain in terms of actual diversity,” said Blakely, a digital media reporter for NBC Sports Boston. “I think Lisa is going to do a great job, helping address that lack of diversity within the organization.”

Blakely said he also hopes to see the additional collaboration between NABJ and APSE with Wilson in leadership. He believes Wilson will become an advocate for better relationships among newspapers striving to be more diverse.

Garry D. Howard, the first African American to serve as APSE president, said he is elated to see Wilson ascend to the top of the organization.

“Lisa will have the chance to make a permanent mark on the organization while simultaneously proving that she has the talent, skills and leadership to be one of the best individual sports editors in the country,” said Howard, director of corporate initiatives for American City Business Journals.

“I feel like I was accepted as the leader of the organization when I was elected President, regardless of the lack of minorities in the group,” Howard added. “APSE is progressive in thought, but it takes a strong person to right wrongs, and Lisa has all the goods to continue to change the narrative.

“I have no doubt she will be absolutely fantastic in this leadership position.”

Wilson will remain in her position at The Undefeated — which currently has projects planned to look back at the 1968 Olympics and what she calls the black assistant coach pipeline in the NFL, assessing the number of black offensive assistants and coordinators — but is excited to start her new role.

Wilson’s term will begin at the end of the APSE summer conference in June.

“I embrace this opportunity, and APSE has been wonderful to me, welcoming to me from the beginning,” she said. “Now it’s time for me to give back to this group, and I can’t wait to get started. I’m really looking forward to it.”

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