In digital media, it can be easy to forget that innovation isn’t all about technology, that all new and better things aren’t just about product design and engineering.

At ESPN, we develop many industry-leading apps and online digital products to serve sports fans. But we also work to figure out new ways to do old things better. This includes telling stories, which remains at the heart of what serving sports fans is about for us.

Wayne Drehs (Photo Credit: Julianne Varacchi)

There are many examples, but one particularly innovative piece, reported and written by ESPN.com senior writer Wayne Drehs, recently received two EPPY Awards for Best Enterprise Feature and Best Sports Video. The EPPYs, not to be confused with ESPN’s ESPYs, are among the most prestigious awards for online journalism.

The Outside The Lines-branded piece, titled “A Man Obsessed,” is about the physical and emotional struggles of Charlie Wittmack, an attorney and family man from Iowa, who willingly risked everything to complete what he calls “The World Triathlon.” Drehs and an ESPN camera crew followed Wittmack as he travelled through 13 countries, swimming across the English Channel, cycling from France to Nepal, and finally climbing to the peak of Mount Everest.

It is an incredible story captured by and presented with a combination of written word, a series of video vignettes and an interactive graphic design that draws readers/viewers into the thoughts and emotions of Wittmack and his family as they struggle to come to terms with his obsession.

Besides Drehs, ESPN.com producer Steve Guyot edited and produced the videos, senior art director Victal Lopes led the design team and senior photo manager Sean Hintz oversaw the still pictures. Senior editor for enterprise/investigations Jena Janovy guided the project.

It is also an example of great reporting made even better by a digital, multi-platform approach that brings the story to life in a new way for sports fans. That’s innovation.

  • Susan Wittmack in Texas

    Beautiful piece. One of the things that Cate had mentioned was that Charlie felt that part of this was having a way to give back – or the whole trip would be selfish, part of what led her to agree to this insanity. He united with the White Ribbon Alliance (women’s health), Des Moines University Global Health (training obstetrical help in Nepal) and a number of other organizations. Maybe the piece would’ve smacked of [insincere?] altruism, but that’s what Charlie is also about. Giving back.

    I’d love to see a lengthy piece summarizing all that is available on the WorldTri.com website. Perhaps that is being saved for a book……

    Kudos to Brian, Andy and Wayne!