When legendary ESPN executive and 29-time Emmy Award winner Vince Doria retires from the company on Friday, he will do so with an amazing list of journalistic accomplishments. Quietly and somewhat unintentionally, he has also built an impressive resume should he choose to pursue a second career in acting.
The company’s Senior Vice President and Director of News, who has been with ESPN since 1992, has made cameos in ESPN’s scripted movies Season on the Brink (he played a reporter) in 2002 and Hustle (as a waiter) in 2004 — films about Bob Knight and Pete Rose, respectively. He also appeared in multiple episodes of ESPN’s scripted poker series Tilt in 2005, and has starred in eight commercial spots from the award-winning 20-year “This is SportsCenter” campaign.
“Vince would usually get the part if Wilford Brimley or Brian Doyle-Murray weren’t available,” joked ESPN Vice President, SportsCenter and News Storytelling Units Craig Lazarus. “But these acting gigs showed us that he didn’t take himself too seriously even though he took his role as a journalist extremely seriously.”
It’s merely a coincidence that Doria’s first area of focus at ESPN was related to celebrities and entertainment. He was hired to help launch the ESPYS’ inaugural show in March 1993. Later that year, Doria was involved with another launch – this time ESPN2 – serving as the new network’s managing editor for its news shows including the flagship SportsNight. He also spent two years of his ESPN career as executive producer of ESPN Classic.
Yet it’s within ESPN’s newsgathering operation during two stints (including the last 15 years) where Doria’s impact was most dramatically felt on a daily basis. Naturally, when the biggest news stories and the most complex or sensitive stories were breaking, the company leaned most heavily on Doria’s distinctive combination of experience, collaborative thinking and judgment to guide it.
“Few people know just how many times Vince, relying on years of editorial decision-making and a reliable gut instinct, has had to make the often tough, but right call on challenging news stories,” said ESPN’s Vice President and Director of News Craig Bengtson, who has taken on many of Doria’s responsibilities going forward. “His passionate approach to journalism, and the importance of taking the resources and time to get the story right, has served ESPN well. We should all be grateful. I know I am.”
The daily Outside the Lines series, ESPN’s 24-hour news network ESPNEWS, the cross-platform newsgathering operation and ESPN’s enterprise unit are among the journalistic efforts launched or expanded under Doria’s watch. ESPN’s around-the-clock breaking news coverage, structure and process also flourished as a result of Doria’s vision and direction.
Mentoring countless colleagues – those on camera and behind-the-scenes – has been another Doria hallmark.
“Working for Vince has been the best thing about my 22 years at ESPN,” said award-winning ESPN reporter Jeremy Schaap. “I’m going to miss his smarts, his fair-mindedness and his decency. Great journalists are rare. Great leaders are rare. Great people, too. In Vince, all of us hit the trifecta.“
ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer Jill Frederickson added, “While all my previous television experience had been in event production, the past four years on the news side working for Vince has inspired me and shown me how nuanced and challenging newsgathering can be. One of my favorite qualities in him is his natural curious questioning which allows him to identify motivations and possibilities that we don’t even realize we have in ourselves. His approachability and honesty combined with genuine caring has resulted in me continually going to him for guidance and direction.”
Doria, a Youngstown, Ohio native and Ohio State University graduate, had built a strong print background prior to joining ESPN. He held various (assistant or) sports editor positions at the Ashtabula (Ohio) Star-Beacon, the Columbus (Ohio) Citizen-Journal and the Philadelphia Inquirer. In 1975, he joined the Boston Globe, where he went on to lead one of the best sports sections in the country in his years as assistant sports editor, sports editor and assistant managing editor for sports and photo. From 1989 to 1991, Doria was the executive editor of The National Sports Daily.
While most ESPN colleagues will fondly remember Doria’s leadership role as the ultimate newsman, he still has that acting thing to fall back on.
“We’re talking about an editorial and journalistic lodestar, a titan in his profession – the man who guided us through mighty accomplishments and through occasional choppy waters,” said long-time ESPN commentator, Outside the Lines host and respected news voice Bob Ley. “And with the other side of his facile brain, he has fired a monkey on television, and served as Marge Schott’s waiter. Clearly, a Renaissance man.”