Schaap, who joined ESPN in 1994, will continue to serve as a correspondent for ESPN’s award-winning, prime-time newsmagazine E:60 and in various roles with ESPN Radio and Outside The Lines. Last month, Schaap was nominated for a national News and Documentary Emmy Award for an E:60 story about a survivor of domestic violence.
Front Row asked Schaap for thoughts on his ESPN career, the storytelling process and continuing his family’s legacy – his father, the late Dick Schaap, was an ESPN television and radio host from 1988-2001 – with the network.
– Jeremy Schaap
What are your most memorable moments?
I would have to say that two related stories from the last year stand out. The E:60 Qatar [Note: Schaap was awarded the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for human rights reporting – a first for ESPN – for his E:60 investigation, “Qatar’s World Cup.”] and FIFA exposes are stories that everyone on the staff felt passionately about. I would like to think they made an impact.
I would like to think they have made a difference. There was so much terrific work done by our producers, the Evolve crews in the field and the great editors at Bluefoot. As the reporter, I get far too much credit for the work — but I’ll take it.
Then there were my encounters with Bob Knight, in 2000, and [chess master] Bobby Fischer, in 2005. I won’t get into the details, but for very different reasons those are experiences I won’t forget.
How has journalism changed in your time?
I’m not sure that much has changed in terms of the basic process. You find a good story. You go out and you report it. Then you come home and you put it together.
What has changed – dramatically – is the level of sophistication here at ESPN in terms of storytelling. The work we are doing now across the board in our feature and newsgathering units is just spectacular.
What we see, day after day, week after week, on our show, on OTL, with the feature unit, are beautifully crafted, shot and edited mini-movies. I’m afraid sometimes to go back and look at the old stuff I did.
Very little of it would measure up to the work ESPN is doing in 2015. Also, we have expanded our definition of an ESPN story. So much of what we do now is only tangentially about sports. Sports, instead, are often the springboard to discussions about larger issues, which I think is great.
– Jeremy Schaap
Can you provide some insight on your experiences traveling the globe for some of the most revealing and important journalistic stories?
I always wanted to be a correspondent working overseas. Like a lot of people who go into TV, I grew up idolizing those guys in the safari jackets and trench coats, the Murrows, Collingwoods, Koppels and Rathers.
I haven’t done what they did — putting themselves in harm’s way covering wars — but I have had a chance to see some interesting places and to cover stories that I think have been under-reported, in some far-flung locales.
I’ve been to prisons in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, I’ve been to toxic waste sites in India, to migrant laborer camps in Qatar and to youth boxing camps in eastern Thailand.
I’ve been to Brazil to cover murders, South Africa to report on violence against lesbians, Bahrain and Oman to report on athletes being tortured, Israel to report on racist soccer fans, Lithuania and Poland to report on atrocities committed against Jews during the Holocaust, Serbia to report on a basketball player who committed a vicious assault.
I think curiosity – and a willingness to go anywhere the story takes you – are the most valuable tools for any reporter.