ESPN’s multiplatform storytelling presentation of Pin Kings culminates with a one-hour SC Featured special (Monday, Aug. 22, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
Pin Kings is the true story of two high school wrestling teammates and how their lives intersected into adulthood through drug trafficking, law enforcement and, ultimately, sports. A podcast series and a digital treatment on ESPN.com have led to the TV program, and ESPN the Magazine will have the story next. Pin Kings was written by Brett Forrest and he co-produced with Jon Fish.
Victor Vitarelli, senior coordinating producer in the ESPN Features Unit, spoke with Front Row:
Are you proud of the investigative journalism that went into this?
I think what stands out with this particular project was the decision to do primary-source reporting from the beginning. Overall, we talked to about two dozen individuals who were all directly associated with the story. We spent a great deal of time in these interviews substantiating stories that we were told by other characters. With subject matter like this, it was important to make sure that we were comfortable with what people were telling us. Jon and Brett did a great job traveling to all corners of the globe vetting out the entire story.
The podcast has been well-received with more than 200,000 downloads. Has that been gratifying?
Absolutely – it’s our first attempt at an episodic podcast and I’d like to think that we’ve done well. I know we’ve learned a lot of good lessons – there are some things we certainly plan on doing differently next time, but overall I’m very pleased with the podcasts. I think it’s good storytelling.
How hard was it to narrow down to a one-hour TV show?
The process of editing the TV special has really driven home the power of cross-platform storytelling. There are things we simply can’t put into the TV presentation, mostly because of time constraints. With the podcasts, we don’t have those constraints. The digital presentation affords us a wonderful opportunity to do a combination of visual and print storytelling. Overall, that’s the thing that I’m probably the happiest with – the same story is told in a unique way across the different platforms, and we’re really looking at the strength of those platforms to tell different parts of the story. The ultimate goal is for fans to come in contact with the story on one platform and be interested enough to consume it on the other platforms because it is a different experience.