Journalism Showcase

ESPN’s Journalism Showcase – February 5, 2016

Jim Plunkett (right) and the Lombardi Trophies on showcase.
Super Bowl MVP Jim Plunkett (right); Lombardi Trophies are on display (Lizette Castaneda/ESPN).

EDITOR’S NOTE: Every week in the “Journalism Showcase,” Front Row highlights a sampling of ESPN’s award-winning journalism from all corners of the company. It is not meant to be a complete representation of the work done by ESPN’s storytellers and we hope it will spur you to discover more.

Lizette Castaneda described it as her “passion project.”

Lizette Castaneda
Lizette Castaneda
(photo courtesy Lizette Castaneda)

A producer in the ESPN Features Unit, Castaneda oversaw the making of a piece airing this week on both ESPN and ESPN Deportes leading up to Sunday’s live Super Bowl telecast on ESPN Deportes (6 p.m. ET). Narrated by two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Jim Plunkett, the feature takes a look at the Bay Area through the eyes of Plunkett, a Mexican-American who grew up in San Jose and is the only Hispanic Heisman Trophy winner.

Castaneda, who is also Mexican-American, also grew up in San Jose, went to the same high school as Plunkett (James Lick H.S.) and dearly loves the area. The feature idea came to her in a brainstorming session.

“I thought this is the perfect platform for this,” said Castaneda, who moved to Connecticut 12 years ago when she started with ESPN. “The Bay Area is so diverse. We have a plethora of ethnicities and different cultures and it’s really amazing to see how much it’s grown since I left. So I said it would be awesome to do sort of an essay, a tour of all the historical locations and all of the Hispanic neighborhoods.

“And I knew Jim Plunkett was in the area,” she said. “I don’t think he gets enough recognition or that people realize what a legend he really is.”

Getting Plunkett involved in the project was as easy as a call to his old team, the Oakland Raiders, for whom he does broadcasting work. Plunkett was on board immediately.

Castaneda did a pre-interview with Plunkett and his responses were used to write the script for the feature. “We didn’t want him to feel that he was just reading something that he had no part of,” she said.

Originally, the plan was to shoot Plunkett’s scenes in his home, with him commenting on projected scenics of the Bay Area, but when Castaneda arrived, she changed her mind.

“I felt like I was at the Hall of Fame when I walked in,” she said. “His office has so much memorabilia – books, trophies, news articles. So we decided to go full screen with the actual scenics that we shot, then we wrote the story and had him voice it in a studio near his house.”

English and Spanish versions of the feature were produced, with Jerry Olaya narrating Plunkett’s parts in third person in Spanish.

Castaneda began work on the project when she was visiting family in San Jose for Christmas and was happy her idea was given the green light.

“I’m a Bay Area girl through-and-through,” Castaneda said. “I wanted to make sure that I represented it correctly. I’m blessed to be able to do something that speaks to who I am and how proud I am to be from that area.”

Journalism on Display
• E:60 had the first sit-down interview with the mother of the Denver Broncos’ Demaryius Thomas, pardoned by President Obama and released from a halfway house just last month.

• Ten days after the U.S. entered into the Gulf War, Whitney Houston didn’t just sing the national anthem at Super Bowl XXV — she owned it. has the story of her moment in time when fear of a terrorist attack loomed over the big game.

• ESPN the Magazine examines the secrets behind the grass for Super Bowl 50. It grew for over a year on secret membranes with special ingredients and high-tech tools. Finally, Field No. 2 is ready for the big stage. Question is, can it withstand the weight of the game?

• Sunday NFL Countdown will include a feature entitled “Cam and The Kid.” When Cam Newton delivered a football to a fan following a touchdown, it brightened the day for a young boy whose father died weeks earlier. Marty Smith reports.

• Also on “The Blind Side” introduced Michael Oher, but Cam Newton’s text rescued his career. Now they’re in the Super Bowl.

• Panelists on Sunday morning’s The Sports Reporters (9:30 a.m. ET, ESPN2; 10:30 a.m., ESPNEWS) will be John Saunders (host), Jemele Hill, Mike Lupica, and Adam Schefter.

Marty Smith (right) with "Cam Kid" that will be a feature on Sunday NFL Countdown.
Marty Smith (right) with “Cam Kid” that will be a feature on Sunday NFL Countdown.
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