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How Rutgers prepared Gary Potosky for eventual APSE presidency

When Philadelphia Inquirer sports editor Gary Potosky ascends to the position of President of the Associated Press Sports Editors in 2020, he will become the first Rutgers alumnus to assume the position in the organization’s history.

Potosky began his current role as second vice president back in June, and by protocol of the APSE bylaws, will serve a three-year term, ascending from second vice president to first vice president June of 2020, before serving as president in 2021-22. It will mark the apex of his tenure at the organization, a tenure that dates back to 2014, when former Inquirer sports editor John Quinn invited him to a national judging conference.

There, he was exposed to a national network of sports journalism professionals. Established in the 1970s, APSE aims to improve professional standards of member organizations and to recognize professional excellence among the membership.

“When you’re around people who are making a difference in your field of work … it was just an immediate appeal to me,” Potosky said. “One of the things I’d really like to do is to be part of the solution to people finding their way into [sports journalism], and keeping it going strong as it transforms into a digital platform.”

Rutgers Education and Peers

As a graduate of the Rutgers class of 1987, Potosky shared a graduating class with current New York Times sports editor Randal Archibold. Potosky, a journalism major, and Archibold, an english major, pursued separate paths during, and after college.

Potosky covered a handful of football games as a student sports journalist, while Archibold specialized in news as the assignments editor at the Rutgers student newspaper. After graduation, Potosky covered local-area sports for local New Jersey newspapers including the Asbury Park Press and Elizabeth Daily Journal, while Archibold spent several months in his native Panama studying the Spanish language.

The 2017 APSE commissioners meetings in New York saw the two Rutgers grads reunite for the first time in 30 years, now as the sports editors at flagship newspapers in the New York and Philadelphia markets — markets known by many Rutgers students as the two media giants on the east side of Hudson and went side of the Delaware.

“I lost touch with him. He and I graduated the same year,” Potosky said. “It was about 30 years and I hadn’t seen him … then I ran into him at an APSE event when he had just gone back over to sports as the sports editor at the Times.”

The two shared a campus with a pair of award-winning sports columnists in the late 80s as well. Lori Riley, who graduated a year earlier in 1986 as a sports writer for the Rutgers student newspaper, has spent the past 30 years as a columnist at the Hartford Courant. Boston Globe Columnist Tara Sullivan, who came to Rutgers as a freshman in Potosky and Archibold’s senior year, is a multiple-time Associated Press Sports Editors Top Ten columnist.

“Rutgers was a really great place to learn and to take your own life seriously. We had really strong journalism leaders in our faculty,” Potosky said. “I always took that really seriously, not just to admire the people that were teaching me, but to really pick their brains and ask good questions and learn how to get where they are.” 

He had no knowledge of APSE as a Rutgers student in the late 80s, but now as a VP and future president, he would like to see a student chapter at his alma mater.

Vision and Responsibilities

Potosky began his career in sports journalism, but made the transition to news when he first moved his career to the Philadelphia media market. After several years in both sections, he believes that the craft of sports journalism transcends a focus on sports knowledge, and requires a versatile understanding of news writing and how to approach subjects that go beyond the field.

“If you go into sports reporting thinking that all you’re going to do is cover the games and write about what the players do on the field, then you’re sadly mistaken.” Potosky said. “Going from sports to news is not a natural transition,” Potosky said. “If you need to cover a team where one of their players is arrested, or if you have something going on with the front office with money, then you have to be a very versatile reporter.”

He was elected to his current position of second vice president back in April during APSE’s tri-annual executive board elections. After the election, former APSE president Jeff Rosen spoke on his devotion to advancing the field of sports journalism and preserving employment in an ever-changing industry.

“Gary cares deeply about journalism, especially sports journalism, and, even more especially, digital sports journalism,” Rosen said according to an article by Arianna Vedia on Sports Journalism Institute. “We’ve all seen too many of our comrades lose their jobs. We know the stakes here and Gary speaks the truth.”

He hopes that, under his tenure and beyond, APSE can be an organization that helps get more young people involved in the professional sphere of sports journalism. With the industry’s shift toward a digital-first platform, many of the jobs that were associated with old school print have been phased out by technology.

But with this technology, also comes other roles for those that aspire to the field.

“There are so many other avenues other than just simply being a reporter,” Potosky said. “Now there are many more types of jobs that are very significant to digital publishing and it requires different skills … younger people with less experience can be really vital to the process. It used to take more experience to sort of become a leader in that field and now it’s the skills that really matter in some of those jobs as much as it is the experience.”

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