Journalism Showcase

ESPN’s “Journalism Showcase” – July 15, 2016

“The photograph that really took my breath away,” said senior photo editor Julianne Varacchi, “was the one of Miesha [Tate] on the floor waiting for the tub to heat up during the night of her weight cutting. Such an intense, intimate moment that fans don’t ever get to see. I got a new appreciation for what fighters put their bodies through to compete after taking that one in.”

One of several "breath-taking" photos from ESPN.com's photo essay with UFC fighter Miesha Tate. (Photo via ESPN.com/JoeAmon)
One of several “breathtaking” photos from ESPN.com’s photo essay with UFC fighter Miesha Tate.
(Photo via ESPN.com/Joe Amon)

It’s exactly the type of moment ESPN director of photography, Digital and Print Tim Rasmussen, Varacchi and photo editor Jason Potterton are counting on when they embark on a visual storytelling journey of the size and scope of this week’s “Embattled” feature for ESPN.com.

“Over the past year we have been using this photo narrative style to tell unique sports stories that bring to life the people and places our fans can’t always see or be part of,” said Rasmussen, who joined ESPN from the Denver Post in April of last year. “Following an MMA fighter as they train and prepare for a huge fight was something both our photo team and the MMA editors have been wanting to do for a while, and everyone thought this was the right event to do it.”

[Joe Amon] makes pictures that I never see anyone else make – he’s always looking and finding the right angle, framing and moment to tell a story. He really understands people and their relationships to each other, which comes through in his photographs.
– Tim Rasmussen, ESPN director of photography,
Digital and Print

With Tate involved in a title fight (which became the main event for UFC 200), the decision was made to approach Tate’s camp to gauge interest; ESPN.com UFC writer Brett Okamoto was able to “open the door for us,” Rasmussen said.

Once access was granted, Rasmussen tapped into his vast network of world-class photographers and landed on someone who was no stranger to working with ESPN – photographer Joe Amon.

“Joe has a unique talent in which he’s both a photojournalist and a sports action shooter where each of his photos tell a story,” said Rasmussen, who worked with Amon at the Post, where he’s part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning staff. “Finding someone who has that balance, plus his warm, relaxed but professional personality is perfect for assignments that require close access to people. If there’s no trust between the subject and photographer, the story becomes nearly impossible to tell. Plus, he makes pictures that I never see anyone else make – he’s always looking and finding the right angle, framing and moment to tell a story. He really understands people and their relationships to each other, which comes through in his photographs.”

Amon first photographed Tate in a 24-hour span of time in Las Vegas two weeks before the fight.

“We wanted to have Joe and Miesha spend time together before UFC 200 not only to get an understanding of what her life is like outside of training and fighting, but also to establish a relationship in hopes Joe would get closer access when he was back for fight week,” Rasmussen said.

“Establishing access is key and luckily [Joe and Tate’s camp] had a great rapport,” Rasmussen said.

Soon after meeting, Amon was a fly on the wall, getting intimate shots of Tate applying for a home loan with her boyfriend, relaxing in a pop up spa in her backyard and eating dinner on her couch. To make the final edits a bit easier, Amon was constantly sending photos to Rasmussen and team throughout his time with Team Tate.

“We couldn’t have pulled [this package] off without the help and collaboration from Julianne, Jason, Brett, editors Andrew Feldman and Brian Campbell, Chris Marcucci and his team of copy editors,” Rasmussen said.

FiveThirtyEight investigates gun violence in America

On Wednesday, FiveThirtyEight launched a multi-part exploration of gun deaths and gun violence in America. The project, which is FiveThirtyEight’s most ambitious to date, introduces 10 major articles on different types of gun deaths and how they can be reduced as well as an in-depth interactive graphic and striking photos and illustrations.

The project was developed by a team of FiveThirtyEight reporters who traveled across the country to explore the true nature of the victims of gun violence in the U.S. It also delves into the successes and failures in trying to reduce these numbers.

While based on hard data, the project goes beyond numbers to look into demographics, circumstances and potential solutions. It examines the nature of suicides (which account for two-thirds of all gun deaths), homicides, domestic violence deaths, mass shootings, police shootings, terrorism and accidental gun deaths.

“The political conversation about guns tends to focus on mass shootings or assault weapons or terrorists,” said David Firestone, FiveThirtyEight’s managing editor. “But the totality of gun violence is much broader and more complex, and is exactly the right subject for FiveThirtyEight’s method of empirical journalism, starting with the data and seeing where it takes us.”

The launch was accompanied by a special seven-part series on FiveThirtyEight’s “What’s the Point” podcast, featuring interviews with each of the reporters involved in the project.

-By Ana Livia Coelho

Journalism on Display

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  • The Sunday, July 17, edition of Outside the Lines (9 a.m., ESPN) will include a disturbing report of an alleged sexual assault. Water polo player Rebecca Dabrowski, 19, started for three years in high school on the boys’ varsity team. But she says that last year, during a match, she was sexually assaulted under the water by a male opponent. Dabrowski now plays water polo in college, but tells reporter Steve Delsohn she still feels the effects of the moment that changed her life.
  • On the Wednesday and Thursday editions of Outside the Lines, guest host Ryan Smith of ABC News led discussions of athletes’ and police roles on social issues.
  • Even before his free agent signing, NBA star Rajon Rondo was mentoring a group of boys in Chicago. Marc J. Spears writes “An All-Star Surprise” on TheUndefeated.com.
  • This week, ESPN.com unveiled “All-Time #MLBRank: Counting down the greatest players ever.” To create the multi-part series, an ESPN expert panel voted on thousands of head-to-head matchups of 162 players, based on both peak performance and career value.
  • Panelists on Sunday morning’s The Sports Reporters (9:30 a.m., ESPN; 10:30 a.m., ESPNEWS) will be John Saunders (host), Howard Bryant, Mike Lupica and William C. Rhoden.
  • – By Andy Hall

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