Journalism Showcase

ESPN’s “Journalism Showcase” – December 5, 2016

Kevin O’Neal during his Outside the Lines interview. (Pia Malbran/ESPN)
Outside the Lines interviews Kevin O’Neal. (Pia Malbran/ESPN)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Last week’s edition of the “Journalism Showcase” was postponed until today to offer a preview of tomorrow’s special Outside the Lines report.

This is a complicated story. It’s about the death of a beloved football player and also about the case against the man accused of murdering him. It’s about a high-profile killing and what has been described as a rush to judgment in its wake.
OTL’s Jeremy Schaap regarding the death of former NFL star Will Smith

Today the trial for the man who killed former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith begins. Smith died last April in an apparent road rage incident that led to him being shot and killed in New Orleans’ Garden District neighborhood.

On Tuesday at 1 p.m., Outside the Lines will air the first television interview with Kevin O’Neal, the best friend of Cardell Hayes, the man accused of shooting and killing Smith. O’Neal was in Hayes’ passenger seat the night of the shooting and says there is much more to the story.

“This is a complicated story. It’s about the death of a beloved football player and also about the case against the man accused of murdering him,” reporter Jeremy Schaap said. “It’s about a high-profile killing and what has been described as a rush to judgment in its wake.”

OTL producer Pia Malbran discussed the exclusive interview and how she prepared for it. “Every TV interview has its challenges and how you prepare for it depends on the subject,” she said. “Ideally, I think, all journalists would like interview subjects to be authentic and speak their truth even when they are answering tough questions.”

Interviewing any subject has its challenges – especially one who is in O’Neal’s position.

This is a sensitive story that has had a huge impact on a lot of people in New Orleans. I was very aware of that while reporting.
OTL producer Pia Malbran

“The biggest challenge was gaining people’s trust and getting people to open up on and off camera,” said Malbran. “This is a sensitive story that has had a huge impact on a lot of people in New Orleans. I was very aware of that while reporting. “

Smith helped deliver a Super Bowl championship to the city in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, so there is understandably a lot of public attention on this case.

“In April, Cardell Hayes was portrayed as a cold-blooded killer, convicted in the court of public opinion before he was even charged,” said Schaap. “The prosecutors say Hayes had no right to shoot Smith. Kevin O’Neal, his best friend, who was with him that night, says otherwise.”

ESPN Enterprise Unit’s Pia Malbran on joining ESPN

Pia editing during Kevin O'Neal's interview (Fernando Calderon/ESPN)
Pia during the editing of the Will Smith story. (Fernando Calderon/ESPN)

Producer Pia Malbran recently joined the enterprise unit at ESPN and has played a significant role in the Will Smith Outside the Lines story. Malbran has been a TV journalist for 20 years and spent 8 years at CBS News working on award-winning investigations and in-depth stories for shows such as 60 Minutes. 

What is the best part about being at ESPN?
Everyone at ESPN is friendly and kind. I love the relaxed atmosphere.

How has your previous work experience prepared you for this current role?
It’s helped in every way. Sports stories, at the end of the day, are human stories. I’m a storyteller who likes to bring issues to light, document human experiences and give voice to the voiceless while uncovering new information.

How has your previous reporting helped you with this story?
I reported on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast and over the course of 10 years, I reported on New Orleans’ progress. Through that, I learned the flavor of the city, its culture and got to know the people. So, I really understand the uniqueness of the city.

Will this report impact the way people view what happened?
It’s hard to say. You never know what kind of an impact a story will have and on who. What I know for sure is that there are lessons to be learned by what happened.

By Molly Mita

Journalism on Display

  • Detroit High school quarterback Jayru Campbell was a top recruit until a video of violent attacks went viral and he was sent to jail. The Undefeated’s Jerry Bembry writes the story of Campbell, a young man whose inability to control his anger crushed his college football dreams. Now playing at Garden City Community College in Kansas, a changed Campbell hopes he’ll get another chance.
  • SportsCenter anchor Linda Cohn, who hosted her record 5,000th show earlier this year and is in her 25th year at ESPN, is one of the finalists for the National Sports Media Association’s (NSMA) 2016 Hall of Fame class in the sportscaster category. The NSMA’s Board of Directors and Hall of Fame committee members shaped the list of finalists and members will vote during the month of December.
  • Brian Windhorst writes on ESPN.com about the development of Toronto’s rising star DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan is becoming known for his aggressive mid-range game just like his idol, Kobe Bryant. After signing the largest contract in Raptors history, a five-year $137 million deal, DeRozan is hoping to build the same kind of legacy in Toronto that Bryant did in Los Angeles.
  • After yesterday’s college football playoff reveal, ESPN senior writer Ivan Maisel discusses a very historic chase for the crown. Maisel describes how different scenarios led to an unusual playoff landscape and whether or not Alabama can extend the winning streak to 27 games. Either way, he writes, the playoff will be making history at the end of this month.

By Molly Mita

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