Starting a new job is challenging enough, but tackling a second “new job” is even more difficult. After joining the company last month as ESPN Digital & Print Media senior deputy editor, Mary Byrne will do just that, beginning this Saturday.
Byrne, who oversees editorial operations for ESPN.com’s daily coverage of the NFL, NHL and motor sports, will soon take over as president of the Associated Press Sports Editors, the national organization committed to improving standards for sports departments of professional news organizations. Established in 1974, APSE members range from top editors at the biggest news organizations in the country to those representing small circulation community papers.
Byrne’s 25-year career in the news business – which has spanned such notable publications as USA TODAY, The Associated Press, the Miami Herald and the Charlotte Observer – has established her as a leading journalist and now the first female president to serve the APSE since current ESPN news editor Sandra Rosenbush did so in 1993. (Byrne currently holds the title of First Vice President and has served on the APSE board since 2013.)
In advance of the APSE 2015 Conference in San Diego, where she will officially become president on Saturday, Front Row spoke with Byrne about what she hopes to accomplish in her new roles with APSE and at ESPN.
You’ve broken a lot of barriers in your career – first as just the fourth person to hold the role of sports managing editor at USA TODAY in the paper’s 30-plus year history and now as the first female president of APSE in more than 20 years. Can you share what has contributed to your success in reaching these milestones?
Hard work, a little luck and help from lots of people who were invested in my success. I’ve always been really focused on the job at hand. Be relentless, aggressive and dominate your current role before you start looking for the next opportunity.
What excites you most about your new role at ESPN and can you share what you are focused on at the moment?
ESPN is fabulous. What excites me most are the people and the resources – who doesn’t love having a stats package land in your inbox? I’m especially looking forward to using the power of 32 – (our 32 NFL team reporters) – to drive NFL coverage. After a safe Indy 500, a Triple Crown and a great Stanley Cup finals (yes, it was an exciting first month on the job), I’m now focused on brainstorming/creating dynamic game-day coverage for NFL fans.
What do you hope to accomplish as president of APSE?
Former presidents have advised me to tap the membership and use their brainpower to help drive the group forward. As president I plan to pursue three initiatives:
1. Push modernization of the organization. We switched our writing contest to an all-digital format this year.
2. Broaden our membership. Women and minorities are underrepresented. It’s a big problem.
3. Create more opportunities for hands-on training at both a regional and national level.