Behind The Scenes

E:60 turns 5: Crew shares reflections on ESPN newsmagazine’s history

ESPN’s sports newsmagazine E:60 — which has received more national Sports Emmy nominations (20) in the past three years than any show in sports television — turns five today. Front Row caught up with some of the central figures who have contributed to the storytelling success of E:60 since its inception on October 16, 2007.

John Skipper

“Sports is more than scores and stats. At its heart are thought-provoking issues and personal stories of triumph and tragedy that transcend the fields of play. For five years, E:60 has carried the mantle of ESPN’s rich history of compelling storytelling. I congratulate everyone involved for all their outstanding work in helping distinguish ESPN and serving our fans with intelligence and creativity.”

“ESPN has demonstrated a remarkable commitment to long-form journalism with its investment in E:60 over the last five years and it’s a privilege to work with so many terrific journalists and storytellers, whose work has been recognized with just about every award our industry offers. Our most memorable stories include reports on so-called corrective rape in South Africa, a boy aging prematurely whose love for baseball sustains him, the young victims of the deadly Bhopal chemical disaster and a Serbian basketball player who fled the United States after he was arrested for beating a fellow student at Binghamton University into a coma.

“There was also a story that aired in our very first show, in 2007, that made a tremendous impact. It was called ‘Ray of Hope’, and it was about Jason Ray, the North Carolina undergraduate who played the role of the mascot in one of those big, fuzzy costumes at Tar Heel sports events. He was killed by a car when he was walking down the road in New Jersey when North Carolina was at the Meadowlands to play in the 2007 NCAA regionals. The decision he and his parents made to donate his organs helped save the lives of several people, and improved the lives of dozens more. According to the New Jersey Sharing Network, our story on Jason Ray and the people who received his organs encouraged about 80,000 people to sign up as organ donors, which may end up saving 200,000 lives.”

A few of our E:60 reporters shared some insight into their most memorable pieces to date, including Chris Connelly and Jeremy Schaap (in the video above) and Lisa Salters and Jeffri Chadiha (below):

“One of my favorite pieces, United17 (produced by Michael Loftus), was about a Haitian girls under-17 national team, competing in a World Cup qualifying tournament in Costa Rica in the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake. There was a lot on the line — qualifying would guarantee the girls food and shelter for several months, as they trained for the World Cup. Not qualifying would mean they would have to go back to Haiti and the horrible conditions there. It’s my favorite because it was such an emotionally difficult story to tell. We all watched the earthquake story as it unfolded in Haiti — felt for its people, saw the suffering. This story gave us hope that things could be better — showed us the will of these young girls — but also forced us to face the grim reality of one of life’s cruel lessons: that it isn’t always fair.”

“My favorite story was on former Michigan point guard Rumeal Robinson [produced by Frank Saraceno]. I loved it because it was a tough story to get and it was universal. Rumeal was a former first-round pick in the NBA who helped Michigan win a national championship in 1989. But he got into some bad business practices and ultimately lost so much money that he needed help from his adopted mother. Rumeal then promptly mismanaged her investment to the point that she lost her house. It was a story that was difficult to report because it was contingent on getting Rumeal to talk for it. We did get him to sit down for four hours of interviews and that story has been replayed countless times since. It started as a long shot. It became a story that people still ask me about today, even though it ran in 2010.”

Editor’s note: E:60 airs tonight at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN with features on Carolina Panthers star wide receiver Steve Smith; the shocking reality of health coverage for high school athletes; and a blind cross-country runner’s best friend. Details:

Steve Smith struggles to channel his intensity in a positive direction for his teammates and his community: Reported by Chris Connelly;
Diondre Preston played high school football in DeSoto, Texas, but now a quadriplegic, his mother battles with insurance companies to get the funding to take care of him: Reported by Jeremy Schaap;
• Sami Stoner is legally blind but with the help of her best four-legged friend runs cross-country for her high school in Livingston, Ohio: Reported by Tom Rinaldi.

Video produced by Dan Quinn.

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