An excerpt from my latest column for Poynter.org.
When Mike Sherman of The Oklahoman served as the president of Associated Press Sports Editors in 2014-15, nobody wrote that he was the 39th man to hold that position.
However, there are numbers attached to Sherman’s successor. Each story dutifully notes that Mary Byrne is APSE’s third women president, and the first since 2000.
“I hate the fact that it’s still newsworthy,” Byrne said.
Byrne’s goal is to make it less newsworthy for the next wave of women in the business during what should be one of the most eventful and busiest periods of her career. Besides being inducted as APSE’s new president at its convention in San Diego in June, Byrne, the former USA Today’s managing editor for sports, also is in her early days at ESPN as its new senior deputy editor for NFL, NHL and NASCAR coverage.
“It’s been hectic,” said Byrne after apologizing for having to reschedule our interview.
Then again, her colleagues can’t recall many moments when it isn’t hectic for Byrne. Given her multi-tasking skills, it hardly is a surprise she rose to the top of her profession.
Byrne, though, struggles with the symbolism that comes with joining Sandra Bailey of the New York Times in 1992-93 and Tracy Dodds of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer in 1999-2000 as APSE presidents. She wishes she was the 13th, not the third.
“I would like to say it doesn’t matter, but it does,” Byrne said.
There is a premium for women having role models in male dominated businesses, sports and otherwise. Byrne said she was struck from hearing a story in the wake of Danica Patrick winning the pole position at the 2013 Daytona 500.
“After seeing that, Jeff Gordon’s daughter told him that she wanted to be a race car driver,” Byrne said. “And this was despite the fact that her father was one of the top drivers of all time. It made me look at it in a different way. If [young women] can see it, [they] can believe it.”