On Page 7 of the USBWA directory is a short statement about the organization's history, its functions and its goals.
In the very first paragraph is this phrase, "to serve the interests of journalists who cover college basketball."
Over the years – and we're talking about a 64-year-old organization – the USBWA has done an incredible job of serving the interests of its members.
Two things are critically important to the future of the USBWA.
One is to continue to reflect the ever-changing population of journalists covering the college game and the second is to be more prepared to protect their interests when necessary.
The USBWA's membership hovers between 800 and 850 writers, sports information directors and others in the media. Although efforts have been made to become more diverse, the USBWA is still largely made up of white males. That's partly to be expected. The industry itself is mainly white and male.
But diversity is still crucial to our future.
We must continue to reach out to younger writers, especially those who are female, African-African, Asian-American, etc., to help keep our organization relevant.
I encourage every current USBWA member to stop and take a look around the media work room at the next game you attend. If there are reporters there who are not a members of the USBWA, go up to them and mention our organization. Let them know that we not only need them and want them, but that we want to hear them and represent them. Give them my name, number and email.
That brings me to the second point about being more prepared to protect journalists' interests.
I have reached out to the leadership of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and the Association for Women in Sports Media (AWSM) to create a link between our organizations.
I saw the need and the value of such a liaison last spring when the USBWA joined forces with the APSE to mediate a situation when a reporter covering Bradley University had been banned from events open to other media. Our joint efforts proved effective and the reporter was able to resume covering the team.
Then I watched the awful post-game scene when a Houston Astros front-office official harassed a group of female reporters in the clubhouse after a game.
I thought, "What if that had been a female reporter covering a college basketball game? What if it was an African-American female reporter?"
The USBWA would have responded, of course, but we would have done so alone. We didn't have the same relationship with either NABJ or AWSM that we have with APSE.
I'm happy to report that both NABJ and AWSM reacted enthusiastically to my interest in forming an alliance of sorts.
I'm also proud to say that I'm now a card-carrying member of the NABJ. I didn't know that was possible until reaching out to my old friend A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.
I have invited both groups to send representatives to the USBWA's events at the Final Four in Atlanta, including our meetings with the NCAA and our annual awards luncheon. This invitation extends to any current female or African-American members of the USBWA. Heck, I don't care if you're not currently a member. If you cover college hoops and are going to be at the Final Four, reach out to me or USBWA executive director Malcolm Moran.
Come to an event, find out how things work.
If you're interested, become a USBWA district rep. Meet our board members. Perhaps you become a board member down the line.
One concern I have is that younger, minority reporters might not see this column if they're not USBWA members. So I ask of our membership, the next game you go to, please look around the media work room. Reach out to a reporter and show tell this about this column and what we're trying to do at the USBWA.
Tell them we would value their membership and that we'd love to see them in Atlanta. And give them my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.