Jonesboro-Hodge High School graduate Doug Ireland, who became an award winning sports journalist, former Northwestern State University Sports Information Director and longtime Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame chairman is one of three to have been selected for the 2021 Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism.
Also selected for the award that is presented by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association and includes being inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame next June is pioneering New Orleans sportscaster Ro Brown and Baton Rouge sportswriter Sheldon Mickles.
Brown was the first on-air African-American sports anchor-reporter in New Orleans, in 1978 at WDSU-TV, and became a staple of the Crescent City’s sports scene. An award-winning journalist who also became the first education reporter in the New Orleans market in his final three years (1999-2002) at WDSU, Brown has continued covering and promoting sports during the last two decades.
Mickles is in his 43rd year of sports coverage in Baton Rouge, currently as a beat writer on LSU basketball for The Advocate. First for the Baton Rouge State-Times, a now defunct afternoon paper in Baton Rouge, and then the morning Advocate, Mickles covered the New Orleans Saints for 30 seasons. While winning many state, regional and national writing awards, Mickles has been a key leader for the LSWA, including a term as president, and has been chair of the nominations subcommittee for the Hall of Fame for years.
Ireland has been the chairman of the Hall of Fame, a volunteer role, since April 1990, just over a year after he left the Alexandria Town Talk sports staff to become sports information director at Northwestern. The 1978 JHHS grad spearheaded efforts leading to construction and opening of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum in Natchitoches in 2013. Ireland wrapped up over 30 years as the Demons’ innovative SID last summer.
While earning his journalism degree at NSU, Ireland was a news reporter for the Shreveport Times for two years, running the Times Natchitoches Bureau in 1981-82. He spent the next three years as the first-ever assistant SID at UL-Lafayette, then was an award-winning sports editor of the Natchitoches Times before joining the Alexandria Town Talk sports staff in 1987.
In 18 months in Alexandria, Ireland captured 15 LSWA writing contest top three finishes, including records of nine overall awards including six first places in the 1987-88 competition while he covered state colleges, high schools and did general assignment reporting. He picked up six more awards, two firsts, in the 1988-89 contest despite leaving the LSU beat in mid-year to accept the SID post at his alma mater in January 1989.
Ireland added dozens of LSWA awards for writing and publications in 30-plus years as the Demons’ SID, including 33 since 2000. In 2016, he won the LSWA’s Story of the Year award while writing for the Natchitoches Metro Leader. His 1992 Demon football media guide won Best in the Nation for Division I-AA from the College Sports Information Directors of America, and a 1997 historical feature marking Demon great Joe Delaney’s induction in the College Football Hall of Fame was second in a national CoSIDA contest.
Just over a year after taking the Northwestern SID job, Ireland was asked to step in as the LSWA’s Hall of Fame chairman in April 1990. A decade later, he began a process which took root in 2003 when the Hall of Fame partnered with the Louisiana State Museum, ultimately leading to construction of the acclaimed $23 million Hall of Fame museum that opened in 2013 in Natchitoches.
Ireland managed all aspects of the annual Hall of Fame selections and inductions from 1990-2010, and has continued to coordinate elections since while collaborating with LSHOF Foundation leaders to stage the Induction Celebration each year. He serves as executive director of the Foundation, led by CEO/President Ronnie Rantz since 2016 as its events schedule and brand has greatly expanded around the state and throughout the year.