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APSE? I Remember You!

March 5th, 2021 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Newspapers, Sports Journalism, The Sun

For much of my sports journalism career, being part of a good showing in the annual Associated Press Sports Editors competition was a big deal.

Even now, in an era of shriveled and under-staffed newspapers, most sports editors want to see their sections make a mark. The APSE contest is the industry Oscars, after all.

Without the speeches.

The winners from 2020 were announced today, and I am glad the contest is still staged — because modern print journalists get little enough attention or salary. An “attaboy/attagirl” or two … is the least we can do.

We had some success back in San Bernardino, Calif., when The Sun was still a genuine newspaper and not just a masthead. Cindy Robinson finished top-five in the high-visibility “investigative” competition a couple of times, as I recall, and I had some luck with comment content in the early to mid 1990s and early Oughties. We had occasional success in “section” competition, as well.

Sometimes, the category in which we were placed — it was determined by daily circulation — seemed to be key to a good result. You wanted to be the biggest paper in your circulation group, because that generally meant more resources.

Thing about the APSEs is that … at least it was the case 15-20 years ago … it was hard to win because everyone competed. And those who said they did not were lying.

Sports editors expected one of their people would finish high, and higher-ranking people in newsrooms expected their SE to garner some attention for the paper.

In most cases, the pressure to produce top-10 finishes in the dozen or so competition categories (beat writing, breaking news, columns, features, daily section, etc.) was intense.

It was considered likely that bonuses were tied to finishing in the top 10 in daily sections, Sunday sections and special sections.

And the SEs who didn’t produce contest-winning sections … well, it wasn’t good for a career.

Maybe the most fun I had with the APSE contest was being part of it for five years while working for The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

We were able to compete in an otherwise American-newspapers field because we were members of The Associated Press: We sent The AP a sizeable chunk of money in annual dues, just like everyone back in the states. Hence, were were eligible.

However, The National was staffed overwhelmingly by non-Americans, and the people who worked on the section just shrugged, and our non-Yank superiors were only slightly more interested.

It was Robert Mashburn, The National’s sports editor, as of 2010, who finagled us into the APSE contest, in time for the 2011 contest.

We finished in the top 10 in daily, Sunday and special sections (a “triple crown,” I think they still call it) in 2011, 2012 and 2013, with Mashburn in charge of the first two, and me the second pair. We had one more “best daily” (2014) in the last time we competed before we left for home — and The National went back to not caring about all this American stuff.

So, Leah today noted the APSE results rolling in, and that led to recalling how anxious the whole of it was, in the states, compared to the low-key, “Oh, look, Chuck Culpepper or our staff was cited in the APSE contest for that package on Manny Pacquiao!”

So, yes, congrats to all contestants. I am convinced your forerunners, who had a lot more resources than you do now, have an idea of how hard you are working.


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