Sports Journalism Institute

Helping women and minorities get into newsrooms since 1993

SJI moves west to Arizona State University

By Justin Parham
SJI Class of 2019

When the Sports Journalism Institute welcomed its first class in 1993, the goal was to enhance racial and gender diversity in sports departments nationwide. More than 25 years after those first students assembled at Norfolk State, SJI has found a new home in Arizona.

This year SJI will host its annual boot camp at Arizona State’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications. Sandy Rosenbush, a co-director and co-founder of SJI, feels the program will be right at home in Phoenix.

“Cronkite is one of the most respected and innovative journalism schools in the country. It also stresses diversity and inclusiveness, which is always important to us and our mission,” Rosenbush said.

Brett Kurland, director of the Phoenix Sports Bureau at the Cronkite School, said having SJI on campus gives students a wonderful opportunity to participate in the program. “Chancellor Johnson, who completed the program last year, spoke incredibly well of it,” Kurland said.

After that first class at Norfolk State, SJI has made stops at numerous locations, including at hotels where Associated Press Sports Editors held their annual summer conferences. Hotel ballrooms, of course, are very different from a campus setting, and SJI directors found that hosting a boot camp at hotels was expensive, as they had to set up a newsroom, pay for accommodations, and provide food for attendees.

So in 2012, SJI elected to partner with the Missouri School of Journalism to return its boot camp to a traditional classroom setting.

“Missouri was a terrific host,” SJI co-director Leon Carter said. “We were there for seven years–the longest we have ever been at a site. We look forward to our camp at Arizona State. Interns will get a chance cover the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Phoenix Mercury as well as avail themselves to other instructional resources at ASU.”

Rosenbush agreed. “In 1993, our first class came together at Norfolk State and in the nearly two decades since, we’ve come to realize that there’s no better place for teaching and learning than a campus environment,” she said.

Because of its early days, SJI is no stranger to relocating, with each move allowing the program to grow bigger and stronger.

“SJI is a national program and each move has been good for us in many ways, including geographically,” Rosenbush said. “Our students come from all over the country and it’s important that our boot camp locations reflect that—from Norfolk State to Kansas to Clark- Atlanta to the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg to Missouri and now Phoenix.”

At Cronkite, SJI will be adjusting to a new campus environment in downtown Phoenix.

“Our move helps us focus on live coverage of sports events and interview situations. The diversity of sports offerings in the Phoenix area is hard to beat anywhere,” Rosenbush said.

“Fellows will be able to walk down to the Diamondbacks, fellows will be able to walk down to the Phoenix Mercury,” Kurland said. “It’s just such a wonderful location to be in downtown Phoenix and I think the students will really thrive in that environment.”

SJI’s new host welcomes the program with open arms. “We are very excited about the opportunity for our students and, most importantly frankly to work together to help improve diversity across the board of journalism,” Kurland said.