Sports Journalism Institute

Helping women and minorities get into newsrooms since 1993

Pressure? Adversity? ‘You’re here for a reason’

Adversity is undeniably one of the major themes of this year’s Sports Journalism Institute in Phoenix. So it was no surprise that Duane Rankin, who covers the Phoenix Suns for the Arizona Republic, started his conversation by describing how his experiences in SJI have taught him what it means to overcome adversity. “The last thing I thought I’d be doing is this,” Rankin, who comes from the small town of Huntington, W.Va., said. Rankin said that when he came into SJI he wasn’t sure if journalism was for him–but by the end of the program, he knew that it was exactly what he wanted to do. He recalled sitting at his desk in Norfolk, Va., in 1993, as part of the first SJI class. He and classmate Brian Ettkin had been assigned a front-page story for the SJI Bulletin. “The pressure was there… I had a breakdown,” Rankin said. He said he struggled with the story, which he felt put his skills as a writer on display, and Ettkin eventually had to take over the writing. Fourteen years later, covering Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, Rankin remembered his SJI experience. Detroit and Cleveland were tied at 2-2 in the series 2-2 when Lebron James took over and scored the Cavs’ last 25 points, pushing his team to a two-point victory and just like that day in Norfolk, the pressure was on. “I told myself, ‘This is not happening today,’” he said. Rankin wrote his story with poise and confidence, and it was well-received by his editor. Days like that, he told our class, validate everything Rankin learned in SJI. SJI showed him that he can and will overcome adversity, and he assured us that wee, too, will do that. “Know that you’re here for a reason,” Rankin said.
–Sierra Morgan Galanza