Sports Journalism Institute

Helping women and minorities get into newsrooms since 1993

Q&A with Rana Cash: A Living Rarity

By Ariana Taylor
SJI Class of 2019

Taking chances is something Rana Cash had to do for most of her career. She took a chance and began working for the Florida A&M University student newspaper while running track for the school.
She took a chance and covered professional golf, which led to jobs at some of the biggest newspapers in the country. She also took a chance by moving to Kentucky to become the sports editor for the Louisville Courier Journal, making her the only black female sports editor of a major newspaper in the U.S.

A few days after Cash led the Courier Journal’s coverage of the controversial finish at the Kentucky Derby, Cash talked about her career path and the journey to where she is now.

Can you talk about how you got to this point in your career?

Rana Cash: One of the biggest factors in my professional development has been a willingness to take chances. Maybe that meant moving to a city I’d never before considered (Minneapolis), taking over editing responsibilities in a topic area I’d not previously led (NFL), writing about a topic that was at the time out of my comfort zone (golf), challenging myself outside of sports (as a consumer finance/bargain hunter reporter) and even jumping into management after spending my entire career previously as a reporter. Being flexible and a little bold has been a big key to my personal and professional success.

Why did you choose to focus your journalism talents on sports?

RC: I don’t know if I chose sports journalism or if it chose me. I attended Florida A&M University where I ran track for four years. The time demands of being a Division I athlete made it difficult for me to pursue other areas of journalism that were more accessible during hours in which I had practices. But I wanted to write and be on the newspaper staff, and I loved sports. So, I began writing first about my teammates, then other athletes at the school, then other athletes in the city of Tallahassee for the Tallahassee Democrat. I was hooked pretty quickly and without regret. I was the sports editor of the FAMUAN and of the Capital Outlook, a black-owned newspaper in Tallahassee.

When did you know you wanted to be a sports editor? Or did you ever even plan on being a sports editor?

RC: Somewhere there is a letter in my mother’s house written by me and for me. I sent it to myself, as instructed by one of my college professors. She told us to write down our career goals and mail the letter back home. In it, I said that I wanted to someday be “a sports editor of a major newspaper.” I wasn’t sure what that might entail or how to go about it, and as I launched my reporting career, it wasn’t something I considered again until many years into my career. After covering high schools, professional golf, and Division I football and men’s basketball at three of the most prominent newspapers in the country (Miami Herald, Dallas Morning News and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution), I decided I had enough experience – success and mishaps, both – and had covered enough stories over the years, that I was ready to challenge myself by leading others. My very first professional editing job was as the sports editor of seven neighborhood/bureau sections for the AJC and as an assistant sports editor for the AJC. I transitioned out of sports for a few years when that position was eliminated and became the newsroom recruiter, a planning editor in news and the consumer finance blogger in digital.

You’ve likely been in situations where you’re the only African American woman in the room. How has this affected you as a journalist?

RC: For the majority of my career, I’ve been in spaces where I was the “only” or the “first.” This was the case when I covered professional golf and when I covered the University of Florida football team, traveling to SEC cities and working in press boxes where there might have been one or two more people of color. While I am pleased to see that the numbers are growing, there are still far too few black women in NFL press boxes on Sunday or in other spaces in sports. There are even fewer still in lead managerial roles in newsrooms across the country. While I spent most of my career trying to make sure I was good enough and that I fit in and constantly facing those internal questions about whether I was good enough or whether I belonged, I’ve long since answered those questions in the affirmative. Now, as a sports editor with a voice and role in shaping my own sports department and in influencing the newsroom as a whole, I want to make sure diversity – race, gender, background, education, etc. – is front of mind.

What advice would you give to young, black female sports journalists?

RC: My advice would be to break new ground and be memorable. The opportunities in sports journalism are not limited to mainstream sports or mainstream media. There are X Games and Olympic sports; NASCAR and NHL; America and the world; podcasts, radio, newspapers, websites, social media. I could go on and on. Don’t box-in your career with tradition. Build on technology to explore mediums not currently in use. Be in front of the camera or behind the scenes. We are looking to the next generation to carry journalism to places it has never been. These aren’t specific to African American women, except that we could be less inclined to travel alternative paths to success. The road belongs to you as much as it does anyone else.