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Vol. 47, No. 4 • May 2010 • .pdf version
It's time for USBWA to become younger and more diverse
By BRYAN BURWELL / St. Louis Post-Dispatch
There are many thoughts running through my mind as I take on the responsibility of this organization's top office, not the least of which is why outgoing president Steve Carp was smiling so diabolically when he handed off the symbolic gavel of the USBWA presidency to me.
But with the first few weeks on the job behind me, I'm starting to understand what that smile was about.
Now that Steve has passed the job off to me, I want to pick up where he left off with his stated goal of increasing membership, boosting diversity and encouraging more involvement from our younger members.
I've been covering college basketball since 1973, when I was the young kid on press row at my first CIAA tournament in Norfolk, Va. Now I am the old guy – I'm sorry, now I'm the "experienced" guy – on press row and I am surrounded by a lot of, ummm, "experienced" guys.
On championship Monday at the Final Four in Indianapolis, we held a USBWA meeting in the interview room. Perhaps 25 of our entire 900-person membership showed up, and the average age of those in the room was roughly 48 years old (and I think I'm being kind) and all male. The makeup of that room has to change to more reflect the makeup of our organization. While the experience of those voices in our organization is the primary reason why the USBWA has been such a strong advocacy group for our profession, the lack of younger voices (and perspectives) is something that needs to be corrected.
For the greater long-term good of our organization, we must stress involvement of younger and more diverse members and blend in their perspectives with ours. We need to identify the younger membership's needs and help them do their jobs better and become advocates for the issues the entire membership cares about deeply.
I am not really sure where "new media" is going in our industry or which "new media" outlets are legitimate and which ones are operated by losers in their mother's basements. Sorting that out must be a vital part of the USBWA's agenda. We need to champion the rights and needs of our younger membership base and we need to let them know that is part of our mission.
But we need to hear from those younger voices. Don't sit on the sidelines and complain that we're too old and not representing you. If I don't know what you're passionate about, I can't fight for it. If you don't get involved, don't complain about it when your needs aren't being represented.
Twenty years ago, my more experienced contemporaries were the new kids on the block who were on the cutting edge of the industry. We were working on firstgeneration portable computers that were the size of accordions, but we were all smart enough to figure out that the computer age was something big, something important and something we needed to get in front of. Back then, our "experienced" colleagues sat next to us cursing the fates that conspired to take away their old reliable typewriters, and essentially grumbling about (and threatened by) the dawning computer age with the equivalent of "Get off my lawn!!"
So now I ask my more mature brethren to take a hard look at themselves and promise that you won't turn into those old guys we used to laugh at and considered dinosaurs. I'm not asking you to blindly embrace the changes that are overtaking our world, just don't fight them off with the same close-minded "Get off my lawn!!" mentality that we used to mock when we were leading the charge into the high-tech generation of sports journalism.
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