Forward/Rewind: espnW/ESPN The Magazine

ESPN_RW_FF LOGOEDITOR’S NOTE: With this multi-week series — the Front Row Forward/Rewind, 2016/2015 — ESPN’s Communications Department takes the pulse of executives throughout ESPN for their views on what’s ahead across ESPN for 2016 and some of what transpired in 2015. The snapshots provide a look at where ESPN has been, where it’s going and how it plans on getting there.


Alison Overholt. (Rich Arden/ESPN Images)
Alison Overholt
Editor-in-Chief, espnW, Alison Overholt
What was the best example of your division’s teamwork in 2015?
The work that was done to support Kate Fagan’s landmark story “Split Image,” which was an emotionally gutting look at the life and death of Penn runner Madison Holleran, and the way her quest for perfection caused her to filter her life — literally and figuratively — on social media.

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It’s the most read story in espnW’s history, the companion video feature is the most watched in ESPN digital media history, and the accompanying #LifeUnfiltered social campaign truly went viral, with the photo sidebar winning a design award, and the fact that fans and celebrities alike shared their own personal stories under that hashtag leading to a social media award as well.

This piece was perhaps the greatest example of teamwork and cross-departmental support that I’ve seen. From Kate doggedly reporting, writing, and working to understand Madison’s story, for a full 16 months, with the support of editors from both the espnW team and the larger ESPN enterprise team; to the work of the digital video group to support producing and editing her video feature; to SportsCenter showing it to a wider television audience; to The Magazine picking it up for print and creating a gorgeous, respectful layout for the piece; to the digital design group crafting a beautiful presentation that worked with an innovative slider-photo gallery, which launched the social campaign; to all the people across our company who embraced and shared this piece across the Internet.

At the end of 2015, Chartbeat released a list of the 20 articles that readers spent the most time with during the year and “Split Image” was on that list. Thanks to the incredible teamwork that went into making that piece what it became.

What was the most “social” moment of 2015?
We had a huge social moment at the end of 2015 when we released our second annual IMPACT25, our list of the athletes and influencers who made the greatest impact for women in sports last year. For the first time, we teamed with Marvel and their artists created “super takes” on every single honoree. When everyone from Carli Lloyd to Misty Copeland to the Department of Justice was tweeting and sharing the images and their excitement about the IMPACT25, we knew magic was starting to happen.

Twitter ended up creating a Twitter Moment of all the mentions (a first for ESPN!) and our whole team went crazy over the ‘impact’ our IMPACT25 list was having. It’s an exciting setup for the gala event we’re hosting for all the honorees in February, where we’ll also announce our espnW Woman of the Year.

What excites you most about 2016?
Getting our IMPACT25 honorees in the same room in February — and in person with all the Marvel art that was created to celebrate their achievements — is one major thing I’m excited about. But more than that, I’m excited just to see what this team comes up with next. We had a huge year, one full of growth in the wake of big event after big event where we tried to outdo ourselves at every turn. The thing I appreciate most about the espnW crew is that our best ideas and biggest accomplishments were not things we could have predicted at the start of 2015. They grew from the curiosity and ambition and willingness to just keep pushing further that every person on our team displayed each time we faced a new challenge. So I’m excited to see what we dream up next.

ESPN The Magazine

Executive Editor, ESPN The Magazine, Scott Burton
Scott Burton
Scott Burton
What was the best example of your division’s teamwork in 2015?
There are so many great examples to choose from, but I’ll single out our “Ten Years After Katrina” package: Wright Thompson’s ridiculously ambitious 20,000-word cover story served as the centerpiece of one of the most wide-reaching multimedia efforts ESPN has ever done: the digital landing page housed nine videos, six photo galleries and stories from The Undefeated, FiveThirtyEight and espnW.

What was the most “social” moment of 2015?
When Ronda Rousey shared a link to Ramona Shelburne’s feature on her, you could see the story skyrocket in traffic almost immediately, turning it into one of the most widely read stories we did in 2015.

What excites you most about 2016?
The potential to collaborate on more big projects with all of our partners across ESPN’s unrivaled array of platforms. That’s something no other magazine in the world can match.

Carrie Kreiswirth contributed to this post.

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