President’s column: It all starts from the bottom 1

By Matt Fortuna

A funny thing happened when I visited my alma mater last spring.

While back at Penn State for a reunion, I was among a few alums asked to spend time with students at our school newspaper, The Daily Collegian. When told via email that the staff needed a little bit of an infusion of passion, I rolled my eyes and began muttering to myself all of the typical stereotypes of today’s college kids. You all know how this goes, because no matter the generation — or the field of work — the playbook of complaints from the jaded remains the same: How lazy these kids are. … How easy they have it.How much better things were in my day.

2019 FWAA President Matt Fortuna

And then Matt Brown, Michael Weinreb, Jim Buzinski and I sat down with about a dozen aspiring sports writers and quickly received an education of our own. Sure, us alums were there to talk and act as resources for kids who were about to enter a crowded job market. But the tables quickly turned, with us asking more questions of them than they were of us.

When most of us were in school and were lucky enough to have professionals speak to us, the conversations were, in many ways, one-way streets. That’s not to suggest that our speakers weren’t accommodating or helpful, because they were. But there was a certain way to make it in this business back then, a by-the-book hierarchy of sorts that rookies had better adhere to. Or else.

As we have all seen in the past decade or so in this ever-changing media climate, there are now many more acceptable ways to skin a cat. And the studs we met with on the second floor of the James Building in April were the perfect embodiments of that philosophy.

They showed us the social media innovation that they have used to engage with the student body. They explained the expanding media ecosystem of what has always been a small-but-competitive market. Most importantly — and without overstepping — they engaged with Matt, Mike, Jim and I about what they like and dislike the most about what folks like ourselves are doing out there in the real world, giving us a clearer picture of how we can connect with our audiences in our day jobs.

This is journalism today. Hell, this is football today — all of us who have been writing about RPOs and spread offenses for the past decade have been on the student side of that conversation, laughing as the pros in the NFL finally begin to embrace such verbiage in their relatively unimaginative football lexicon.

As the 76th president of the FWAA, it is my duty to keep pushing us into the future, adapting to the new-school ways of the business and spreading our mission to the journalists of tomorrow while honoring our storied past. I am here as a resource and, most of all, I am here to learn.

No one knows the ins and outs of our great sport better than you folks who are out there on campuses across America every day, and it is this collection of talent, experience and cooperation that makes the FWAA what it is. See a development out there that warrants recognition? Sense a better way for us to make a difference, be it with student-athlete exposure or our own working environments? Drop me a note at I am lucky to enough to already call so many of you friends, and I am looking forward to developing more relationships throughout our membership body and hearing everyone’s perspective.

You see, that infusion of passion that I was told those students needed? It had nothing to do with their attitudes, as I had wrongly assumed. It turned out that they had just been chopped from a daily print operation to a twice-a-week print operation, while also being informed that Penn State was planning to demolish the paper’s headquarters of 30 years. I hadn’t heard about either development because no one there had bothered to complain about it. Instead, these kids took a harsh real-life industry lesson and viewed it as liberation from the constraints of the previous 130 years of the way things had been done.

Their dreams were, and are, greater than their memories. As this business continues to throw us curveballs, we could all serve to remember that life lesson.


Call for entries in the 2019 Best Writing Contest

FWAA members may begin submitting entries in the FWAA’s 27th annual Best Writing Contest now.


  • Game Story (Immediate Deadline)
  • Feature Story/Profile
  • Enterprise/Investigative
  • Column/Analysis/Commentary


In addition, see below, we have created a special award for the top beat writer as judged by a special FWAA committee headed by Executive Director Steve Richardson.


You must be an FWAA member in good standing to enter.

Deadline: June 1, 2019. Entries sent after the deadline WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED.

Limit: One (1) article per category, although a series of articles may be submitted in the enterprise category.

Entries must have appeared in print or on line between Feb. 1, 2018 and Jan. 31, 2019.

Entries must be submitted electronically to

Entries not sent to this e-mail address will not be accepted

Send MS Word or text files only. DO NOT SEND HTML files, Word Perfect files, stories in other word processing software or links to stories on the Internet or electronic libraries

Make your entry easy to read by taking out unnecessary carriage returns (They can give your entry an odd look when opened by a judge’s word processing program)

Delete any embedded advertising, photos and cutlines from the files (The file should contain only your story and your identifying information)

At the top of each entry, the following information should be included:

  • Writer(s)
  • Publication or online service
  • Category
  • Date of publication
  • E-mail address and telephone number for the writer(s) of the entry

The entries will be sorted and stripped of identifying information and forwarded to the judge(s).

Files containing your entries should follow this naming convention: yourname-category.doc

The category must be one of these four words: Game, Feature, Enterprise or Column

Example: KenStephens-game.doc

FWAA BEAT WRITER OF THE YEAR AWARD: If you have a nomination of a beat writer who covers major college football (either a team or a conference) or you want to nominate yourself, please send an e-mail/letter explaining the qualifications of the person (no more than 250 words) to:

Steve Richardson
FWAA Executive Director
18652 Vista del Sol
Dallas, TX 75287

Steve’s e-mail is Steve and his committee will then make inquiries into the FWAA members nominated. In order to qualify for this award the person nominated must have been an FWAA member during the 2018 football season.

Questions? E-mail Ken Stephens at