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OTL recognized for excellence

Since its inception, ESPN’s Outside the Lines consistently has raised the bar for journalism of all forms. The bar was hoisted to great heights last Monday night in New York City when OTL won four awards at the prestigious Radio Television Digital News Association’s Edward R. Murrow dinner in New York City.

“For ESPN to crash that party and win five awards, including four in categories that are not sports specific but general news/writing/etc., was quite a coup,” said Dwayne Bray, Senior Coordinating Producer of the Enterprise Unit.

“It seems that our name just kept coming up on the screen and that made me very proud.”

The fifth award was for ESPN’s coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

OTL producer Nicole Noren and reporter John Barr won the Video Investigative Reporting award for their examination of whether the presence of the World Cup in South Africa had an effect on human trafficking in the country. It marked the first time a sports entry has won the “Investigative Reporting” Murrow Award. Recent winners of the category include CBS 60 MinutesABC News and Dateline NBC.

“This was a great team win,” Barr said. “From the managers, who had the courage and wisdom to ‘green light’ the idea, to the crew members in the field, to our security staffers and our ‘fixer’ on the ground in Jo-burg — everyone played a role in a story that many viewers might not normally associate with ESPN.  The result was a piece of reporting that we’re all proud of.”

The Enterprise Unit also won another Murrow when OTL producer Arty Berko and reporter Mark Schwarz received the Audio Sports Reporting award for their profile of Natalie Randolph, a woman who coaches boys football at a Washington, D.C., high school.

“I was honored to be included in such an accomplished group,” Berko said. “One of the highlights for me was realizing that I was getting an award on the same night that RTDNA honored Richard C. Hottelet, a true pioneer of journalism. Among other great accomplishments, Hottelet covered the allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. Hearing the clips of his live coverage from that historic moment really brought it home for me.”

Features Unit producer Jose Morales and correspondent Tom Rinaldi won the Audio Feature Reporting award for their portrayal of Haitian immigrant Joe Gaetjens, who scored in the USA’s stunning 1-0 World Cup win over England but was imprisoned and executed upon returning to his native land. This OTL story aired on The Sporting Life withJeremy Schaap on ESPN Radio.

Lastly, ESPN won the Television-Network Writing award for the Jeff Sarokin series of three short video essays on South African history and culture.

“Winning the Edward R. Murrow Award this year is arguably the greatest honor in OTL’s history,” coordinating producer Tim Hays said. “I feel like this recognition is the culmination of many years of hard work and dedication by a group of journalists that I truly admire. All of us are all are extremely proud of the achievement.”

And all of us in the ESPN family are anxious to see just how high the bar can go in the coming years.

Photos: John Barr, Nicole Noren, Dwayne Bray, Tim Hays, Mark Schwarz, Craig Lazarus and Arty Berko

Trafficking crew: Tim Hays, Nicole Noren, John Barr, Dwayne Bray and Craig Lazarus celebrate their Murrow Award in Video Investigative Reporting for their story, “Human Trafficking & the World Cup”

Producer Arty Berko and Reporter Mark Schwarz after accepting their audio sports reporting Murrow Award for their “Coach Randolph” story.

Producer Nicole Noren and reporter John Barr celebrate their Murrow Award in video investigative reporting for their story, “Human Trafficking & the World Cup”

Writer Jeff Sarokin accepting his Murrow award from NBC journalist Savannah Guthrie.

Dwayne Bray and Chris Buckle accept the Gannett Foundation Award for Innovation in Watchdog Journalism on behalf of reporter Paula Lavigne.

Additionally, OTL and Enterprise Unit reporter Paula Lavigne was presented with the Gannett Foundation Award for Innovation in Watchdog Journalism for her July 2010 story about food at sports facilities in North America called, “What’s Lurking in Your Stadium Food?” The piece was produced by Lindsay Rovegno and designed on ESPN.com by Derrick Pina.

Congrats to all the winners as ESPN continues to make a mark in long-form journalism.

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