Sports Journalism Institute

Helping women and minorities get into newsrooms since 1993

SJI co-founder and pioneer earn APSE’s top award

By Alanis Thames
SJI Class of 2019

Sandy Rosenbush is moved by journalism’s evolving platform. She appreciates each life-changing experience and conversation. The family woman loves the places the business has taken her—the basketball games at Madison Square Garden are unforgettable—and values the different approaches journalism has taught her. She savors memories of working with great writers.

More than 25 years of extraordinary moments frame the journey of the 2019 Red Smith Award winner and co-founder of the Sports Journalism Institute.

One of her proudest accomplishments—and a treasured memory for the more than 300 journalists who have completed the program—grew from chats at the 1992 National Association of Black Journalists convention in Detroit. Rosenbush was president of APSE, the first woman to hold the title, and Leon Carter, now a vice president at ESPN, was chair of the NABJ Sports Task Force.

Newspaper sports departments were lively, thriving places at the time, full of talented reporters and editors. But ones who looked like Rosenbush and Carter were in short supply, so the two started SJI as a vehicle to bring more minorities into the industry. The institute welcomed its first class in 1993.

“I don’t think either of us thought we’d be here in 2019 preparing for the 27th class of SJI,” Carter said. “It was a great idea in 1992, but when we said ‘OK, let’s do it,’ we didn’t think it was gonna become a lifetime assignment.”

The assignment was one of many for Rosenbush, who started at the Tallahassee Democrat, then moved to the Clearwater Sun and Chicago Sun-Times. Then came nine years at the Washington Post under sports editor George Solomon, whose mentorship she cherishes.

“It will always be home to me,” Rosenbush said, “and George will also be the person I remember as helping me grow and learn the most.”

Her presence, and eye for spotting holes in stories, were just as valuable to him. “She made me and every other editor she ever worked for look better than we are,” he said.

But Solomon says some of his favorite memories of Rosenbush have little to do with editing. They were the moments spent early each morning when she and Tony Kornheiser, then a columnist for the paper, would go to the cafeteria for coffee.

“And probably say bad things about me,” Solomon added. “It was truly a wonderful tradition that stayed in my memory.”

Next came stops at the International Herald Tribune in Paris, the New York Times and Sports Illustrated (for a 13-year run). In 2008, she arrived at ESPN, working as a news editor/producer. She moved to a part-time role last summer.

All along the way, she remained focused on promoting diversity.

“It’s one thing to say you support diversity,” said Michael Anastasi, editor and vice president of the Tennessean and regional editor for USA Today Network. “You’re not gonna find too many people these days who say they don’t support diversity. It’s altogether different to find somebody who throws their soul into it for nearly 30 years.”

Rosenbush now adds one more memory her collection as she becomes one of 39 sports journalists recognized for their contributions to the business.

“No one has had a broader, more diverse career than Sandy,” Solomon said. “For that she deserves the Red Smith Award and every other bit of credit she could ever get.”

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