The Courier-Journal’s Jennie Rees, who’s been the newspaper’s full-time horse racing writer for over 30 years, has been awarded the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association’s (NSSA) Sportswriter of the Year Award for Kentucky. The NSSA recognizes the top sportscaster and sportswriter in 48 states as voted by association members.
“The fact that it is your peers does mean a lot,” said Rees in a recent interview. “What’s really cool to me is that I’m kind of a niche reporter, a specialty sportswriter with horse racing, to win the award.”
According to its website, the NSSA’s mission is “dedicated to honoring, preserving and celebrating the legacy of sportscasters and sportswriters in the United States – for their creativity in storytelling, their pursuit of truth and their conveyance of information – all of which helps American sports fans form lifelong connections to both participatory and spectator sports.”
Rees was unaware she was even in the running for the award when the NSSA called to tell her she’d won. A press release was sent to the Courier-Journal and word quickly spread through social media among the horse racing and sports worlds.
“It was on Twitter and then the paper had something on it and just the responses from a lot of people locally in Kentucky, but also across the country...trainers, owners,” said Rees. “It’s been very gratifying to make you feel like maybe they’ve noticed your work.”
Awards have been handed out by the NSSA since 1959. NSSA members nominate up to three individuals in the categories of top sportscaster and top sportswriter, nationally and by state. The top two vote getters (plus ties) among the state nominees are placed on the final ballot for NSSA member voting. The top ten vote getters make it on the national ballot. Members then vote to elect one winner in each category.
“I was honored to get it,” said Rees. “I was surprised to get it, but this clearly shows it is a very big deal and it’s a very big deal to see how people have reacted to it. It shows the reach that our [the Courier-Journal] coverage has, so that doesn’t hurt in this era when all media outlets, for the most part, are going through contractions and have fewer people trying to do more. It is somewhat of a luxury having a fulltime horse racing writer; something like this only helps enforce why the Courier-Journal has a fulltime racing writer.”
This is the second NSSA Sportswriter of the Year Award for Rees. Her first award came in 2002 and she is the only woman to have won the sports writing award for Kentucky. When shown the list of previous NSSA Kentucky winners, Rees recognized the names of several of her early mentors and former Courier-Journal colleagues. She also noticed that many of the past winners have been general sports columnists, whose work might reach a broader audience, and rarely specialized writers focusing in one field of sports.
“The more I look at this list, the more impressed I am that I won!” Rees exclaimed.
Winners will be honored at the 55th Annual NSSA Awards Weekend June 7-9 in Salisbury, NC. Although Rees will likely be in New York covering the last leg in the Triple Crown series, the Belmont Stakes, at that time, she hopes to work in a trip to Salisbury to accept her award.
Photo: Courtesy Courier-Journal.com