Journalism Showcase

ESPN’s “Journalism Showcase” – August 19, 2016

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 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 (Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)
Victor Vitarelli
(Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)

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.

Grant Neal fights for justice

Grant Neal
Grant Neal

It’s not often that you hear the point of view of the accused in a sexual assault case. On this week’s Outside the Lines (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET on ESPN) Grant Neal opens up about how he was unfairly accused and how it destroyed his life.

Neal had a promising future. He was a pre-med major and fullback who helped Colorado State-Pueblo win the Division II national title as a freshman. But after a sexual encounter with a team trainer that another trainer reported as an assault, Neal found himself off the team and out of school.

Now he is suing CSU-Pueblo, and his lawsuit is one of many popping up across the nation, where students say they’re being denied due process in Title IX sex assault investigations.

“Since 2014, we’ve seen a raft of lawsuits by athletes and other male students alleging that they, in fact, are the victims in some of these cases,” said reporter Tom Farrey. “That’s due to a shift in the regulatory landscape, in part driven by public awareness of the real problem of campus rape.”

“We think that allowing viewers to hear from Neal adds a valuable dimension to an important national conversation,” Farrey said.

By Molly Mita

Journalism on Display

  • After it was reported that sources revealed Wednesday that Clemson’s Deshaun Watson has taken out two insurance policies against a career-ending injury: a $5 million total disability policy and a $5 million loss of value policy, Darren Rovell wrote on that college football insurance policies are big — but complex — business.
  • Ginny Thrasher won the first gold medal of the Rio Olympics and was instantly catapulted to fame. The women’s 10-meter air rifle gold medalist returned to classes at West Virginia University and espnW writer D’Arcy Maine followed her for a day back in the “real world.”
  • On, Jerry Bembry wrote “I Want To Put This City on My Back,” about 15-year-old Che Evans, one of the top rising high school freshmen in the country, who is already looking to give back to Baltimore.
  • The United States Olympic women’s basketball team is absolutely destroying its opponents, and the carnage is palpable. On, Thomas Neumann listed 10 teams from Olympic history whose dominance rivals that of the USA women’s team.
  • Panelists on Sunday morning’s The Sports Reporters (9:30 a.m., ESPN; 10:30 a.m., ESPN2; 11:30 a.m. ESPNEWS) will be Mike Lupica (guest host), Israel Gutierrez, Jackie MacMullan and Bob Ryan.

By Andy Hall

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