Journalism Showcase

ESPN’s “Journalism Showcase” – February 19, 2016

NOTE: If the video above does not play on your device, click here.

As Outside the Lines reporter Tom Farrey says in the voice-over for the clip above, Rio De Janeiro has some of the most beautiful water settings anywhere. However, Farrey continues, “. . . each day a reported 100 tons of garbage gets dumped into the [Guanabara] bay [in southeast Brazil].”

With the Summer Olympics in Rio approaching and concerns over the polluted waters making international headlines, OTL sent Farrey, reporter Bonnie Ford, producer Justine Gubar and a production crew for a week-long visit to Rio earlier this year. deputy editor Joy Russo contributed from ESPN’s Bristol, Conn., headquarters. Both Gubar (2006) and Ford (2001) are former Knight Fellows at Stanford University – even renting the same Palo Alto, Calif., house during their respective stays.

“Our goal is to be in lockstep with the Outside the Lines crew and all of our Digital and Print/International departments (Edit, Social, Video, Fact Check, Design, Photo, VOD, etc.) from the get-go, to share reporting, resources and information and make sure everyone has what they need to tell the most well-rounded story across all platforms and handles,” Russo says. “I think we accomplished that with this Rio Water feature.”

The result is exactly that and more. (Sunday’s OTL airs 9 a.m. ET on ESPN.)

“The goal was to videotape raw sewage and trash in waters we knew were riddled with bacteria and viruses,” Gubar says. “We travelled to Rio loaded with supplies including masks, rubber gloves, hand sanitizer, hand wipes, antibiotics and rubber boots.

“You literally gag from the smell of untreated sewage at places like the sewage treatment facility and in the actual sailing venue,” she says. “It isn’t easy to ignore.”

“The bottom line is,” Russo says, “this problem existed long before Rio got the bid, and it’s going to continue to exist long after the Games end on Aug. 21. The people of Rio and Brazil live with this daily.”

That daily existence was not lost on Gubar.

“I think the visual contrast of the beauty of the waters of Rio to the sewage and trash stands out,” Gubar says. “I returned home from Rio thankful for my municipal sewage connection and weekly trash and recycling pickups. It’s easy to take things for granted until you are reminded that not everybody is fortunate to live that way.”

Journalism on Display

  • In “The FBI vs. FIFA,” ESPN The Magazine writers Shaun Assael and Brett Forrest, with Vivek Chaudhary, penned an exclusive account of how a small band of federal agents and an outsized corrupt official brought down the sports world’s biggest governing body. An accompanying video provides a look at how former FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer helped the FBI open up a case against FIFA. ESPN’s full FIFA election coverage begins on Monday of next week.
  • As part of ESPN’s Black History Month observance, the Sunday, Feb. 21, SC Featured will tell the story of Chubbtown, Ga., the home of University of Georgia running back Nick Chubb. The historic town was formed by his ancestors — free black families who settled in the area during the Civil War. The feature, reported by Byron Pitts of ABC News, debuts in the 10 a.m. ET edition of SportsCenter and repeats in subsequent airings throughout the day.
  • SC Reportajes on the ESPN Deportes edition of SportsCenter (11 p.m., Sunday) will air the first of a two-part report on charreria, an equestrian sport made up of horseback riding, roping and cattle handling that dates back to the Spanish conquest of Mexico in the 16th century and is still practiced in some parts of the United States. But more than just a sport, for these families, it’s a way of life and a way of carrying on the Mexican culture, tradition and history from generation to generation.
  • Feb. 15, 2016, commemorated the 10th anniversary of a basketball game that changed many lives, none more so than those of a severely autistic player and his coach. On, senior writer Elizabeth Merrill has the story of an autistic high school basketball manager in Rochester, N.Y., who became an instant celebrity when he scored 20 points in four magical minutes. Now, Jason McElwain – a coach and marathon runner – continues to push the boundaries of expectation.
  • ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi was honored by Villanova University with the Fr. Bill Atkinson, O.S.A. Humanitarian Award by the university’s Office of Disability Services. Rinaldi was recognized in connection with an ESPN College GameDay in 2011 on former Villanova men’s and women’s basketball managers Nick Gaynor and Frank Kineavy, both of whom have cerebral palsy.
  • Panelists on Sunday morning’s The Sports Reporters (9:30 a.m., ESPN; 10:30 a.m., ESPN2) will be John Saunders (guest host), Israel Gutierrez, Mike Lupica and William C. Rhoden.

    -Andy Hall

FR Trade Tips: Securing Military Escort

For the crew’s visit to the Alegria sewage treatment facility – located in a dangerous favela – they needed to obtain military security escort. (The team had one private, plain-clothed security person with them at all times.)

“Remember our camera equipment is valuable and makes us an obvious target anywhere we go, home and abroad,” says producer Justine Gubar. “Rio also has a reputation for street crime and robberies.”

Using the deep contacts and resources of ESPN Global Security, a security plan was devised for the entirety of the trip. But a last-minute opportunity to shoot at the Alegria facility necessitated some on-the-fly decision-making. At first, ESPN Global Security forbade the team from going to the facility.

“But Security kept trying to figure out how to make it work since we had the invitation and it was integral to the story,” Gubar says. “It was determined that if we got formal escort from military police, we could go. To make that happen, we had to hop in a cab and go to their barracks for a meeting before their leaders left for the day.”

After a mad scramble, permission was secured and the visit was scheduled. “Lunch that day,” says Gubar, “was crackers from a gas station in the back of the cab.”

For Gubar, the enormity and responsibility of making sure her entire crew was safe was never far from the fore of her mind.

“When you are traveling on your own, it’s one thing but when you are leading a team, you have to realize how many others your decision making affects,” she says. “We all have the desire to get the WHOLE story. Often when I wanted to go somewhere where there was supposed to be lots of trash, I was told it was in too dangerous of a neighborhood. There were so many facets to the story. though, there was plenty for us to shoot in places we could get to. If there was daylight, we were out shooting something.”

-Andy Hall

The security team that escorted OTL to the Algeria water treatment facility.
The security team that escorted OTL to the Algeria water treatment facility.
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