It is quite a thrill when someone from our area achieves something significant and does so with a sense of grace, humility and humanity.
I think that accurately sums up the character and work of Leavenworth native Janie McCauley, a sports writer for the Associated Press who recently was inducted into Washington State University’s Hall of Achievement.
McCauley, the daughter of Connie and the late Terry McCauley, has become a master of finding unique, human angles to story that give readers deeper insights than one might otherwise discover.
I recently interviewed McCauley, who lives in the Bay Area with her husband and their two daughters, to talk about her career and the mentors who made a difference. She got her start in high school when Publisher Miles Turnbull and the editors at the Leavenworth Echo gave her a chance to cover sports.
A competitive athlete, she goes out of her way to credit anyone and everyone for helping her succeed. “I can’t even begin to list all of the wonderful people from that town,” she said.
McCauley went on to Washington State University and, during her freshman year did a wonderful job as an intern for The World. After graduation, she landed a job with the Associated Press covering sports in Seattle before landing a permanent gig with the AP office in the Bay Area, where she has covered professional and college sports, the Olympics and other stories.
She remains deeply connected to the community and talked about her concern that Liberty Orchards might shut down. CEO Greg Taylor was one of her dad’s friends and she has introduced many people to the delights of Aplets and Cotlets over the years.
As a youngster, McCauley was enamored by the NBA and wrote to every single team, getting bumper stickers, notes and posters back. In her work as a sportswriter, she’s made it a point to get acquainted with many retired athletes, like former Seattle Sonic Michael Cage and former San Antonio Spur David Robinson, telling them how much she appreciated their play.
As a sports writer, she makes good use of her sense of curiosity. In our conversation, I was impressed by her intention to find ways to help non-sports fans find something meaningful in the work of professional or college athletes. She relentlessly humanizes the people she covers and at the same looks for ways to put a smile on the faces of readers.
For nearly two decades, she has covered Stanford women’s basketball coach Tara VanDerveer, whose team recently won the NCAA title, beating Hailey Van Lith’s Louisville Cardinals in the Elite Eight. While McCauley and VanDerveer are friends and respect each other, “when (Vanderveer’s) team doesn’t play well, she knows I will ask her about it,” said McCauley.
McCauley talked about not taking it personally when a player or coach is having a bad day, saying that she tries to remember that perhaps something else in their life is troubling them.
There have been instances in which McCauley has had to stand up for herself when superstars have treated her poorly. She recalled tense exchanges with the likes of former San Francisco Giant Barry Bonds and former Mariner pitcher Randy Johnson, who could be ill-tempered.
She has nothing but admiration for how the Warriors are coached and managed. “If they make a mistake, you’re going to hear from the person who made the mistake either that day or the very next day and you move forward,” McCauley said.
One of her most cherished stories involved a Virginia women’s basketball coach who went through a lengthy and difficult experience to adopt a child from Senegal. The story, which was published in 2015, was a remarkable human story of love, dedication, commitment and perseverance.
For McCauley, the story was four years in the making in which she lobbied long and hard to be able to cover it. As a mother, it was also a story that had special meaning.
Janie McCauley pays close attention to people, looks for ways to write about them from a deeper human perspective and as a result has carved out a meaningful career in which she’s been able to help people see players and coaches from a more nuanced perspective.
Janie, those of us at The World are tickled pink that we got to work with you early in your career. We couldn’t be more proud.