By Edith Noriega
SJI Class of 2020

When Todd Adams became president of APSE in 2019, he had a rather unorthodox start to his one-year term. 

After being laid off from The State-Journal-Register newspaper, he spent several months unemployed before being hired last October as sports editor of the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer.

In order for Adams to serve in office during the first few months of his presidency, APSE passed a new bylaw that would secure his role with the organization for the first six months.  

“It’s a difficult environment that we’re in,” Adams said, “But I think at its best this organization (APSE) is there for the people within the organization to help each other as much as possible.” 

Adams joined APSE in 2006 after hearing about the Las Vegas conference held that year. As his role within the organization grew, his position as sports editor would take him across the country from The Fayetteville Observer to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Despite some unexpected life challenges along the way, Adams found support through APSE and its members, which included former president John Bednarowski recommending Adams for a position when Adams was unemployed.  

“He’s got a certain stick-to-it-iveness,” said Bednarowski, who served as president in 2018. “Once he starts something, he wants to make sure he finishes it.” 

Now that Adams nears the end of his presidency, he described the experience as being similar to a head football coach. 

“You might have a couple of your own pet projects you’re working on regularly,” he said. “But more than anything, you are trying to find good people that are capable and motivated to help perform tasks for APSE.”

One of his first goals as president was to push the diversity envelope even further and set up a meeting with diversity committee chairman Larry Graham.  

Graham and Adams — who previously worked together in San Diego —  collaborated to create the Diversity Pledge. 

The program grants media organizations a free job advertisement on the APSE website and media support if they pledge to interview one diverse candidate during the hiring process.

“Todd and I ended up talking about what would be the easiest way to bring something like this about where sports editors didn’t build as much pressure,” Graham said, “but felt as comfortable as possible interviewing and discussing diverse sports journalists.”

Graham said the outcome not only led to creating better relationships, but it also saw five successful hirings and gave organizations like the AAJA and NABJ Sports Task Force access to a sports journalism database available for both editors and reporters.

In December, Adams created the APSE mentorship program, and in February, he launched the Red Smith Award website, something he plans to work on even when his term is complete.

The mentorship program pairs sports editors from smaller organizations with a sports editor from a larger organization in which he hopes the pairs bond to form a real mentorship relationship that will benefit both throughout their careers.

Adams wanted a better way to recognize past winners of APSE’s highest award. The award is considered the most prestigious sports journalism honor in the country, first given to Red Smith in 1981.  

“He brought the Red Smith Award back into further lines in terms of priority with our organization,” said Greg Potosky, second vice president. “And he’s also been a real champion of diversity.”

As he nears the end of his term, Adams believes APSE couldn’t have a more motivated person as president than Lisa Wilson, whose leadership will be vital moving forward and in dealing with all the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I ran on a platform of diversity,” Wilson said. “Because it’s important our group should be reflective of the communities we cover, and it’s something that I just have always tried to work on as best I can myself. If I meet sportswriters of color or women, I try to encourage them to join APSE and to find mentors. 

So it’s something that is important at APSE, it’s definitely something that I have to pay attention to as the first black female president of APSE. If I don’t pay attention to diversity, then who is.”

Even though this year’s summer in-person conference in Indianapolis was canceled, APSE will host a one-day virtual conference Friday, June 26, via Zoom.

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