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Terry Taylor, trailblazing Associated Press sports editor, dies at age 71

by Gabriel Martinez
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Sports Journalism Trailblazer

Terry R. Taylor, a pioneering figure in the world of sports journalism, passed away at the age of 71. Taylor, who served as the first female sports editor of The Big Big News, transformed the news agency’s approach to sports coverage during her two-decade tenure. Her impact was characterized by a commitment to rigorous reporting, engaging storytelling, and insightful analysis.

Taylor’s journey ended on Tuesday at her residence in Paoli, Pennsylvania, following a battle with breast cancer that was initially diagnosed in 2013 and metastasized in subsequent years. She chose to discontinue chemotherapy treatment in December of the previous year due to intolerable side effects.

Julie Pace, senior vice president and executive editor of the AP, acknowledged Taylor’s groundbreaking contributions to journalism, remarking, “Terry was truly a trailblazer in journalism, paving the way for so many women to ascend into leadership, both in sports departments and throughout the industry. Her legacy at AP has been an enduring one, and that will no doubt continue.”

From 1992 to 2013, Taylor held the helm of the AP sports department, displaying an unwavering commitment to her role, often dedicating nearly 24 hours a day to the job. Her work ethic was exemplified by her typical arrival at the office around 10 a.m., with workdays often extending until 7 or 8 p.m. She remained on call throughout the night, particularly during West Coast sporting events and special occasions like the America’s Cup in Australia. Under her leadership, the AP provided comprehensive coverage of 14 Olympic Games.

Louis D. Boccardi, the AP’s president and CEO from 1985 to 2003, praised Taylor’s abilities, stating, “There were, of course, doubters when I appointed her as AP’s first female sports editor, but she soon silenced them, by force of talent and personality. Beyond doubt, a Hall of Famer.”

Taylor was known for her exacting standards, expecting nothing less than excellence from herself and her team. She maintained a personal shopper at Saks Fifth Avenue, and reporters who arrived at the office in inappropriate attire were promptly sent home to change.

Taylor’s influence extended beyond her role as an editor. She redefined beats to emphasize news relevance, transcending the mere reporting of scores and on-field action. Tom Curley, the AP’s president and CEO from 2003 to 2012, described her as a history-making leader with an exceptional grasp of the sports world, setting high expectations for AP reporters.

She had a reputation for her insistence on finding the perfect lead sentence for each story, at times frustrating her reporters. Nevertheless, her colleagues cherished her friendship and guidance.

Taylor’s reach in sports journalism encompassed iconic figures such as Michael Jordan, Joe Montana, Bear Bryant, and Pete Rose, covering their successes and scandals. She also served as the AP’s point person for member sports editors across the United States.

Dave Smith, former sports editor at The Boston Globe and The Dallas Morning News, recognized her incredible abilities both as a journalist and as a person, expressing his unsuccessful attempts to hire her.

Terry Rosalind Taylor was born on October 4, 1952, in Chester, Pennsylvania. Her journey into sports writing was sparked by reading Ray Didinger in the Delaware County Daily Times while growing up. After graduating from Temple University, she began her career at The Charlotte News in North Carolina before joining the AP’s Philadelphia bureau in 1977. She later transferred to the New York sports department.

Taylor’s career milestones included covering figure skating at the 1984 Winter Olympics and assuming roles such as assistant sports editor in charge of enterprise coverage and deputy sports editor. She directed coverage of the 1988 Winter and Summer Olympics.

Her dedication was further exemplified during her brief departure from the AP, where she became the assistant sports editor of The New York Times. Taylor returned to the AP as assistant chief of bureau in New York and eventually ascended to the role of sports editor in October 1992.

In August 2013, Taylor announced her retirement, moving to Pennsylvania and undergoing surgery to remove a malignant breast tumor. Despite her health challenges, she remained active in Philadelphia and New York, receiving accolades such as the 2018 Red Smith Award for outstanding contributions to sports journalism.

Taylor’s legacy extended beyond her professional accomplishments. She was honored as a 2017 alumni hall of fame inductee at Temple’s Klein College of Media and Communication and received the Association for Women in Sports Media’s 2016 Mary Garber Pioneer Award.

Terry Taylor’s impact on AP Sports and the broader field of sports journalism remains a testament to her remarkable journey and unwavering dedication to excellence.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Sports Journalism Trailblazer

Who was Terry R. Taylor?

Terry R. Taylor was a trailblazing figure in sports journalism who served as the first female sports editor of The Big Big News, leaving an indelible mark on the industry.

What was her impact on sports journalism?

Terry Taylor transformed sports journalism by emphasizing rigorous reporting, engaging storytelling, and insightful analysis during her two-decade tenure at the AP.

What challenges did she face as the first female sports editor?

As the first female sports editor at the AP, Terry Taylor faced doubters but silenced them with her talent and personality, becoming a Hall of Famer in the process.

What were some of her accomplishments?

Taylor led the AP’s coverage of 14 Olympics, reshaped sports beats to focus on news relevance, and covered iconic figures such as Michael Jordan and Joe Montana.

How did she maintain high standards in journalism?

Taylor had exacting standards, including the quest for the perfect lead sentence, and she expected excellence from herself and her team.

What accolades and awards did Terry Taylor receive?

Terry Taylor received the 2018 Red Smith Award for outstanding contributions to sports journalism, was inducted into Temple’s Klein College of Media and Communication hall of fame, and received the Association for Women in Sports Media’s 2016 Mary Garber Pioneer Award.

What was her legacy?

Terry Taylor’s legacy extends beyond her professional accomplishments; she paved the way for women in sports journalism and remains an inspiration for future generations.

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