Meet the jurors: Donna De Varona on women journalists and the importance of emotional storytelling

  • June 08, 2020
Graphics by Nordcap Studio

AIPS Media

LAUSANNE, June 8, 2020 - A double Olympic gold medalist in Tokyo 1964 who spent her life for sport as an athlete, journalist and activist about gender equality, Donna De Varona is one of the jurors of the AIPS Sport Media Awards.

“As a proud member of the jury, I was really impressed by the quantity and quality of the submissions sent by female journalists last year. Some stories revealed their passion and ability to act as a mouthpiece of stories of women’s pride and justice,” she says.

What do you think this edition could bring to the women participating in the Awards?
It has been gratifying to see many more women journalists submit cutting edge work regarding significant issues threatening to undermine global sport. Now more than ever, especially as the sporting community attempts to navigate a new future, it is important that the creative and insightful voices of women journalists take the spotlight.

How did the Awards reward you professionally? What is the most valuable lesson you have learned so far?
There are some many things I have learned from the submissions these years. I was amazed by colleagues showing an overwhelming passion for what they do and I had the chance to get to know the challenges and issues occurring in some of the most remote places in the world. But maybe most important thing, is the deep sense of respect for those who don’t stop operating in the name of truth and freedom of speech in those countries where such liberties are not ensured.

What is the secret to produce an excellent story?
Some of the powerful stories are still etched in my memory even if they did not make it into the finals. Writing about the ups and downs of athletes, the human drama, the passion it takes, the commitment that very few people can make in the world, those are very important things that have to be issued when producing a story. At the same time, the golden words: “Who, What, Why, Where and When.” Whenever I do something I go back to that.

Donna de Varona, President of DAMAR Inc., a sports marketing, production and consulting company, is a double Olympic gold medalist and former world record holder in swimming. By the time de Varona retired from her sport aged 17, she had established more than 18 world records and fastest times, competed in two Olympics - the first as a 13-year-old world record holder - and was voted the most outstanding female athlete in the world in 1964-5. She is recognised for her work as an Emmy award-winning sports journalist, having covered 17 Olympic Games. She has been appointed by three IOC Presidents to the Women in Sport Commission and served as Chairman of the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup. De Varona has served on the United States Olympic Committee Board and Foundation, the United States Soccer Foundation, the International Special Olympics Executive Board, and is an advisor to the US Department of State Empowering Women Through Sport initiative.
Drawn from leading sports media organisations and with backgrounds ranging across the sports media spectrum and the Awards categories, the AIPS Sport Media Awards Jury is formed by 11 jurors, chaired by the AIPS President Gianni Merlo.

Split into 8 main categories, the Awards are a celebration of the best sport storytellers from around the world. Submissions for professionals are free and open until October 7, 2020. Find more and submit your work in To know how to submit, please check the quick guide. If you have questions, you can check our Frequently Asked Questions section or contact us at


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