Front Row asked Streeter, a former Los Angeles Times reporter and columnist, and The Mag’s senior editor LaRue Cook about the profile of the Florida State quarterback, which appears in the NFL Draft issue on newsstands today and was published earlier this month on ESPN.com.
What was the most challenging aspect of the story?
KS: The biggest hurdle on stories where I’m seeking a really close and intimate look is gaining the trust of my story subject. That was true here, but fortunately it felt like Jameis and I got along pretty well from the start. He can be a guarded person because of all the controversy surrounding him, but if he takes to you he can also be open and revealing.
– ESPN The Magazine senior writer Kurt Streeter on producing in-depth profiles
LC: Every reader will come to a story about Jameis Winston with his or her own preconceived notions. Our goal, and the most difficult part of the story, was to portray Jameis in the truest light possible, both as a football player and a human being. You can’t write about Jameis Winston without addressing the rape allegations and the transgressions in Tallahassee, but you also have to let Jameis tell his story, hear his side of things. And I think Kurt struck that balance.
What has been the most interesting reaction to the piece?
KS: I was happy to see that a lot of readers got what I was aiming for, and that was to create a piece that went beyond treating Jameis Winston at surface level, a piece that showed him to be three-dimensional, complex, fully human — the good, the not so good, the in between. Jameis can come off as a blithe sort of jokester, laughing at all the serious stuff he’s faced, but the way I see it, that’s sort of a smokescreen. There are a lot of sides to him, a depth I don’t think many have been aware of.
– ESPN The Magazine senior editor LaRue Cook
LC: There hasn’t been one particular reaction that stands out. What’s been interesting is the different reactions people have come away with — some say they finally feel like they got to know the real Jameis, while others are even more skeptical of his character than they were before reading the piece. Ultimately, this was a story with an unanswerable question: Who is Jameis Winston? But I think we gave people a story that will at least help them better understand a 21-year-old who is going to be front-and-center in the NFL for the foreseeable future.
How would you best describe your overall experience for your very first piece for The Mag?
KS: The best thing about this type of piece — sort of a documentary for print, heavily reliant on creating scenes for my readers — is getting the chance to know my story subject and watch action unfold. I had no idea what kind of person Jameis Winston would be and no idea how things were going to go as I tracked his journey. There are certainly times when reporting a story like this when I feel like I’m absolutely going to fall flat. It’s a tight-rope act because a lot of things can happen to derail the process. Strangely enough, I enjoy that uncertainty.
Editor’s Note: Learn more about new ESPN The Magazine senior writer Kurt Streeter by visiting Front Row’s Facebook page.