Journalism Showcase

ESPN’s “Journalism Showcase” – July 22, 2016

“Impact journalism,” loosely defined, is reporting and storytelling that leads to new examinations or concrete changes in whatever the topic that’s being covered (see: ESPN’s recent Baylor scandal work).

Sunday’s Outside The Lines (ESPN, 9 a.m. ET) with reporting by T.J. Quinn provides a case study of how investigative reporting can lead to tangible action. The recent re-opening of a Dallas case where two highly-recruited high school basketball players had a fight that resulted in one’s death, was spurred by OTL’s reporting.

Front Row spoke with OTL producer Simon Baumgart to gain some insight into the many months of reporting and content-gathering, which included scouring hours of video, audio, interviews and written reports. (In telling the story of Johnathan Turner and Troy Causey, the show utilizes a slightly different presentation from normal OTL episodes, with no studio elements in, or out, of the piece, which runs 24 minutes.)

What was it about this story that made OTL want to further investigate?
Originally we [reporter T.J. Quinn and Baumgart] were drawn to the death of Troy Causey and what it led to. It unearthed a huge recruiting scandal but the more we dug the more the story unfolded.

What is the biggest challenge you face when producing an investigative story where a decision has already been made in the case?
First and foremost when you report on a story you try to be as accurate as possible. In this case, a dead child is involved and a grieving mother. We were focused on being fair and honest in the way we reported, thinking of her at all times. The more information we found, the more we wanted to back it up.

Your team sought out eight medical experts to review the autopsy. Why did you choose to do that?
The first examiner we went to said that Causey sustained one injury. We questioned that because it was completely different from the original findings. We went to another examiner, Dr. Elizabeth Laposata, who is in the piece. She has 30 years of experience and she said that he died from the fall. So we just kept going to be thorough.

What challenges did you face when interviewing the victim’s mother?
The information that we found disagreed with what she believed. We had to be extremely delicate, while sticking to the facts.

What is the feeling knowing a long-term project you worked on has led to a case being re-opened?
Working on this piece has been so rewarding it is something I’ve never experienced before. Our editor [Nate Hogan] acted as another producer on this piece; we all worked together. Our bosses gave us the time and the resources to spend a year on this. We wanted to have everything before we went on air. Through a conversation the District Attorney had with T.J., [the D.A.] learned that we had talked to a person of interest and obtained new information. Right there he cancelled our interview and said the case was being re-opened.

Abby Wambach reports for E:60 on historic Olympic athlete

Making her reporting debut for E:60, former U.S. Women’s National Soccer team player Abby Wambach delivers the story of 30-year-old U.S. women’s fencing team member Ibtihaj Muhammad who will be the first American to compete in hijab, the traditional headscarf worn by some Muslim women as a symbol of modesty.

The profile airs Friday, July 29, at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN, and includes Muhammad discussing the challenges she has faced as an athlete who she says “looked different” than her teammates.

“With the Olympic Games, a unifying event, on the horizon and set against the backdrop of the current social landscape, the story of Ibtihaj Muhammad is an important one to tell, one that transcends sport,” E:60 Executive Producer Andy Tennant said. “It is about staying true to who you are and challenging stereotypes in the face of prejudice.

“Who better to tell that story than Abby Wambach?” he said. “A two-time Olympic Gold medalist, Abby brings her own unique experience and perspective to the reporting of Muhammad’s story. What you will see is an interview that is thoughtful, revealing and powerful.”

– By Carrie Kreiswirth

Journalism on Display-7/22/16

  • Balls are flying out of the park at the highest rate since the steroid era. On ESPN.com, senior writers Jerry Crasnick and David Schoenfield explore the many theories behind why baseball is experiencing the MLB home run explosion of 2016.
  • The Sunday, July 24, SC Featured on SportsCenter will tell the story of the cross-country team of the Hopi Native American reservation in Arizona. Representing a small high school, the team has won an unprecedented 26 consecutive state titles. “Run Hopi” will debut in the 10 a.m. ET SportsCenter and will re-air in other editions throughout the day.
  • Thursday, July 21, Outside The Lines discussed Dr. Elliot Pellman’s departure from the NFL. Pellman was the doctor who helped set up the NFL’s controversial approach to head injuries. Does his departure signify changes in the league? Will players trust the league more on health?
  • At TheUndefeated.com, Karen Marable writes “Dance Little Sister.” It’s the story behind Coach Dianna Williams and her Dancing Dolls. The piece gives readers insight into the culture of dance that surrounds these young, competitive women. Their dedication to dance isn’t just for a trophy, they see dance as their ticket out of Jackson, Miss.
  • Panelists on Sunday morning’s The Sports Reporters (9:30 a.m., ESPN; 10:30 a.m., ESPNEWS) will be John Saunders (host), Mike Lupica, Mitch Albom and Gene Wojciechowski.

– By Molly Mita

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