ESPN.com’s ‘biathlete of sports writers’ checks the LA Kings’ 2015 collapse

ESPN.com reporter Katie Strang interviews Kings' Captain Dustin Brown.
ESPN.com reporter Katie Strang interviews Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown.
How does creating content for multiple platforms differ?
Mainly, it’s the difference in audience. SportsCenter is a good way to appeal to people who might not be die-hard hockey fans. ESPN.com allows more in-depth coverage with a more nuanced perspective. Our loyal podcast listeners are the people we connect with most because the casual format allows our personalities to shine. Scott Burnside, the consummate host, Pierre LeBrun, our resident insider, Craig Custance with insightful analysis. And then there’s me. I’m always eating so I try to incorporate food into the segment, whether it’s relevant or not.

Katie Strang wears many helmets when covering the NHL for ESPN.com. In the 2015 playoffs, she’s covered multiple series, provided hits for SportsCenter and recorded podcasts. Her investigative piece (during the Conference Finals and early Stanley Cup Finals) on why the Los Angeles Kings went from 2014 champions to missing the playoffs this year just posted on ESPN.com today. Strang, who joined ESPN in 2011 from Newsday, is now reporting from the Finals.

“This [Kings’ profile] is the kind of piece Katie does really well,” said Paul Grant, deputy editor in charge of the NHL on ESPN.com. “It’s in her wheelhouse. With a complex story, you need someone who can multitask to a high degree of efficiency — be a great reporter, dig up court documents, knock on doors, not take no for an answer, adjust on the fly – oh, and then sit down, quell the adrenaline and write the story like few others can. She’s the biathlete of sports writers.

“Katie is an essential part of ESPN.com’s NHL team, with Scott Burnside, Craig Custance, Pierre LeBrun, Joe McDonald and Scott Powers.”

Front Row spoke with Strang.

Why is this story important?
This story was compelling and has a little bit of everything: a borderline-dynastic team that fell surprisingly short this season, a pair of off-ice issues that rocked the franchise, and a look at what it means for the club’s future. Some of the legal components offered the chance to dig into bigger issues in the sports world.

I followed the Slava Voynov [arrested for allegedly beating his wife] and Jarret Stoll [arrested on a felony drug charge] stories closely — I really like reporting pieces with a legal angle. Paul Grant conceived the idea of dissecting the season in a nuanced, comprehensive way. I’m really happy he pushed me to do it. Sarah Goldstein, my other editor, was also fantastic in helping guide me through the writing and editing process.

What was most surprising?
How many layers there are when you really delve deep into subject matter like this. It’s hard to get a keen understanding about a team as an outsider until you commit to look at the organization from all angles. I tried to do that. I sat in on business meetings and spoke with players, scouts, the general manager, the capologist and team president. It was a massive undertaking – to gather information, put the story together and write it in a coherent way.

During the first two rounds, you covered four series – Caps/Isles, Lightning/Red Wings, Caps/Rangers, Pens/Rangers – how difficult was that?
Moving from series to series can be challenging, but it’s also reinvigorating. Covering one series gives you a deeper sense of context, but you have to be wary of getting lost in day-to-day minutiae. Sometimes, it’s easy to lose a bit of perspective if you spend all your time around two teams, so jumping around is a good way to pull back the lens and evaluate what stories appeal to a broader audience.

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