Journalism Showcase

ESPN’s “Journalism Showcase” – May 13, 2016

(Dave Fleming/ESPN)
A sign David Fleming saw on his way to interview Reche Caldwell. (Dave Fleming/ESPN)
Dave Fleming (Chris Beauchamp/ESPN Images)
David Fleming
(Chris Beauchamp/ESPN Images)

ESPN the Magazine senior writer David Fleming had some interesting and unexpected experiences involving his latest feature, “How Reche Caldwell Googled his way from the Patriots to Prison” in The Magazine’s WNBA20 issue on newsstands today.

Fleming, as he describes in The Mag’s “Behind the Pages” interview, was immediately taken aback by the sign pictured above. Heading to FPC Montgomery (Ala.), Fleming said he “was expecting Leavenworth. Instead, I found a rather lovely waterfront campus that was every bit as nice as my hotel at Vikings training camp years ago, the one that gave me a wicked case of fleas. . . I went looking for a sinister and dangerous criminal, but the story I uncovered was very different and far more interesting.”

And no fleas.

Fleming spoke with Front Row about the feature that has garnered immense attention (see tweet below):

How exactly does one do a prison interview?
I wondered the same thing in August when Caldwell originally agreed to talk. We had to wade through six more months of red tape and prison bureaucracy before the actual interview, so in the meantime I got great advice from my older brother who is an FBI agent, and [senior writer] Shaun Assael, who is the best in the biz at these kinds of stories: You’re only allowed paper and pen inside the prison, no electronics of any kind.

I was expecting a nerve-racking environment and a tense conversation through thick glass. But it was nothing like that. At the minimum-security prison camp in Montgomery, we were allowed to chat face-to-face sitting in office chairs inside an attorney’s room. About 20 minutes into the interview Reche was relaxed and laughing and had his boots [“untied Timberlands,” as Fleming describes in the piece] up on the desk.

What was the impetus to do the story?
Senior writer, Sam Alipour and senior editor, Jason Schwartz brought Caldwell’s story to my attention. They had suspected an increase in the use of the drug Molly (MDMA) by athletes and the idea was to see if Caldwell was somehow connected to this trend, or, if he had any valuable insight on athletes using this particular drug. The story went in a totally different direction from there, of course, and I love when that happens.

This story’s a great example of the rare, team-like atmosphere with The Mag’s awesome writers and editors. Sam selflessly allowed me to take his great idea and run with it and Shaun went above and beyond the call of duty helping me get up to speed on reporting this kind of piece.

ESPN’s Journalism Continues Award Season Roll

ESPN’s news platforms and personnel received nine honors at the recent 82nd National Headliner Awards, one of the oldest and largest annual contests recognizing journalistic merit in the communications industry.

ESPN swept the top three spots in the category of “Broadcast television networks, cable networks and syndicators feature, sports or human interest.” First place went to E:60 for “Football Player,” with reporter Lisa Salters, feature producer Aaron Johnson and editor Matt McCormick. E:60 also took second place for “Silent Night Lights,” with feature producers Martin Khodabakhshian and Toby Hershkowitz and editor Michael Sciallis. Third place went to Outside the Lines/ESPN the Magazine for “The Death of Lennon Lacy” from reporter Shaun Assael and producer Andrew Lockett.

E:60 also won first place in the category of “Broadcast television networks, cable networks and syndicators documentary or series of reports on the same subject,” not just for sports, for E:60 Reports: “Sepp Blatter” with reporter Jeremy Schaap and feature producers Beein Gim and Mike Johns.

Photographers shooting for ESPN the Magazine won several awards, including Nick Laham, first place winner in the Photography Portfolio competition; Benedict Evans, second place for “Desert Swarm” in Photo Essay/Story, and Art Streiber, second place, for “El Campeon del Mariachi” in “Magazines, news services or syndicates feature or sports photography.”

In the Magazines category, ESPN the Magazine senior writer Wright Thompson received third-place honors in the category of “Magazine feature writing by an individual on a variety of subjects.” ESPN also received third-place honors in the “Broadcast television networks, cable networks and syndicators news magazine” for the program “Countdown to the Special Olympics World Games with Robin Roberts,” produced by ESPN and Rock’n Robin Productions.

• Separately, ESPN was honored with nine Sports Emmy Awards earlier this week.
– Andy Hall, Carrie Kreiswirth

Journalism on Display

  • Tyler Sash was a standout on special teams for the New York Giants and won a Super Bowl in his rookie season of 2011. Three years later, he was dead at age 27. Sunday on Outside the Lines (9 a.m. ET, ESPN), reporter Steve Delsohn examines Sash’s tragic story which includes multiple concussions and an accidental overdose of painkillers that eventually took his life. Bob Ley hosts.
  • Flint, Mich., has become a symbol of the lost promise of the American dream. Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields is one source of hope in a desperate city. She is heading back to the Olympics with the goal of becoming America’s first two-time gold medalist in boxing. Her remarkable story of survival and triumph will air on E:60 this weekend (Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN; Sunday, 11 a.m., ESPN2). E:60’s Jeremy Schaap reports.
  • In Sunday’s SC Featured segment on SportsCenter, 31-year-old retired NHL player Patrick O’Sullivan describes overcoming a decade of physical and emotional abuse by his father, and becoming a father himself. The feature debuts in the 10 a.m. edition of SportsCenter and will re-air in other editions of the program throughout the day.
  • SC Featured – The Fight Back from ESPNFrontRow on Vimeo.

  • As the WNBA prepares to launch its 20th season, ESPN the Magazine’s WNBA20-themed issue, on newsstands today, contains “Moving the Ball Forward: An Oral History of the WNBA,” by Mechelle Voepel. Some of the pioneers of the WNBA, among them Val Ackerman, David Stern, Adam Silver and ESPN’s own Rebecca Lobo, reflect on what it was like during the league’s infancy.
  • Also in the WNBA20 issue of ESPN the Magazine (and on ESPN.com), Elizabeth Merrill writes “As Good as It Gets.” In the WNBA, draft night is a big deal: The glitz, glamour, national TV coverage and attention are impressive. But if history is any indication, this year’s top pick, Breanna Stewart, might never be that popular again. Several former No. 1 picks talk about the expectations, pressure and attention of draft night compared with life after the big event.
  • Panelists on Sunday morning’s The Sports Reporters (9:30 a.m. ET, ESPN; 10:30 a.m. ESPN2) will be Mike Lupica (guest host), Manish Mehta, Bob Ryan and Sarah Spain. – Andy Hall
  • OTL on Tyler Sash.
    Sunday’s OTL features former New York Giant Tyler Sash.
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