By: Jim Haughton
Terry Taylor is the first woman sports editor at the Associated Press
IN THE TIGHT but worldwide family of the Associated Press, they call them “dream sheets,” the blue forms that the wire service sends annually to all personnel asking where they would like to be assigned.
When Terry Taylor got her form in 1980, she was night supervisor of the Philadelphia news bureau.
“I checked the box for ‘New York sports,’ thinking nobody would look at it and forgot it,” she said.
Several weeks later, Taylor received a call from AP headquarters in New York City inviting her to join the sports staff there.
“At that time, I was into full-time orthodontics,” she said. “I couldn’t see paying for a New York apartment and paying for my dental work. I was cautious. I was afraid I’d be living on spaghetti in New York. New York [headquarters officials] said to wait a year and let them know when I was ready,” she said.
Her dental work completed in 1981, Taylor accepted the New York invitation. In October 1992, she became the AP’s first female sports editor, filling the slot of Darryl Christian, who was named AP managing editor.
Taylor was one of five deputy sports editors before she was promoted. She had left the wire service in December 1990 to become an assistant sports editor of the New York Times but returned in September 1991.
“I knew I had a chance when I was a deputy sports editor,” she said. “But I went to the Times. I wanted to do something different. I wanted to add another dimension. They’re wonderful people who work there. A marvelous place and I’ve got some very good friends there.
“It was good for me. I knew I didn’t belong there but belonged to the AP, the backbone of journalism. Get the news, verify it and send it out. For most of my career, that’s what I’ve done,” she continued.
Taylor has overall direction of international sports coverage for the AP. She has three assistants in the United States plus Steve Wilson, sports editor in London, who is responsible for European coverage.
The AP is the world’s largest distributor of sports news. Its 100 designated sportswriters concentrate almost exclusively on sports, although in a few bureaus, they also do some general news work. The wire service has an international staff of 2,374, including more than 1,800 employees in news and photos.
Taylor studied journalism at Temple University in Philadelphia, was city editor of the Temple News and graduated in 1974. She was a Philadelphia Inquirer intern for two summers and her work caught the attention of Gene Foreman, now the paper’s deputy editor and vice president.
“Gene Foreman made a lot of phone calls for me and was instrumental in my getting my first job with the Charlotte News. He wanted me to stay in the Knight-Ridder family,” she said. She covered the school beat for three years in Charlotte.
Herb Pelkey, news editor of the AP’s Philadelphia bureau, remembers when Taylor was hired in 1977.
“She caught on fast,” Pelkey recalled. “She was eager and wasn’t afraid to accept responsibility. She was an all-around fine staffer and covered the Flyers, 76ers, the Big Five and the World Series.”
Ralph Bernstein, an AP sportswriter in Philadelphia with 47 years of service, takes pride in Taylor’s success because he was among those who taught her the fine points of wire service sports coverage.
“She learned everything she knows from me,” he said with a big laugh. “She took my stories on the Eagles and other teams. She was a zealot, a very hard worker.”
One of the tricks that Bernstein taught Taylor was how to track a sports event when the local stringer fails to report: Phone the local police station for the results and sometimes get enough facts to do a short story.
Working in the Philadelphia bureau proved invaluable to Taylor when she moved to New York and worked in a male-dominated department. She was on the night sports desk doing rewrite. Christian taught her the fine points of editing, she said.
Taylor moved up the AP sports ladder and in 1985 was named assistant sports editor in charge of sports enterprise coverage. Two years later, she became a deputy sports editor and directed coverage of the 1987 Pan Am Games in Indianapolis and the earthquake-plagued 1989 World Series in San Francisco. She also has been involved in Olympic Games coverage dating to the Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, Olympics in 1984.