Journalism Showcase

ESPN’s “Journalism Showcase” – January 13, 2017

Doctors have recognized the link between head injuries in sports and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and most recently the NFL acknowledged the ties between football and CTE.

However, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman still denies hockey’s connection to the disease. This Sunday on Outside the Lines (9 a.m. ET, ESPN2) reporter Steve Delsohn interviews former NHL player Scott Parker and the widow of Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks enforcer Bob Probert about hockey and traumatic brain injuries.

“It was poignant to talk to a man like Scott Parker who was defined by his toughness and now at times says he feels completely helpless, specifically when he has seizures and he talks about that [in his interview],” Delsohn said. “He says it’s been difficult for him and that this is something he’d never seen coming. He said he didn’t know when he was fighting [during games] that he may end up with long-term brain damage.”

Delsohn’s interview with the widow of Probert, a former NHL player who was diagnosed with CTE after his death, was particularly illuminating for the veteran reporter.

“She [Dani Probert] was very vocal about Bettman’s stance,” he said. “Boston University’s neuropathologist Ann McKee diagnosed Probert with CTE, she’s a leader in her field, and yet the commissioner of hockey is saying there’s no proven link between hockey and CTE. It puts Dani Probert and Gary Bettman on completely opposite sides of this issue. She said it sends a message to not just her, but other families of hockey players who have been diagnosed with CTE.”

Delsohn hopes this piece will encourage people to learn more about the risks involved with playing hockey.

“I hope that our viewers will become more educated about the possible link between hockey and long-term brain damage,” he said. “Right now, there are young football players who are deciding about that sport and they have more information now than five years ago about the potential dangers of football. Young hockey players and their families would also benefit from having more information about the potential risks.”

A Brief Oral History on espnW’s Oral History of Serena Williams

ESPN senior writer Alyssa Roenigk says that when Serena Williams’ name came up in planning sessions for espnW’s 2015 IMPACT25, editor-in-chief Allison Overholt mentioned she wanted something big to honor Williams. The idea for an oral history took root, and Overholt assigned Roenigk to the piece, which Roenigk worked on for more than a year, despite not having many tennis contacts at the time. “I can’t tell you how many colleagues I have to thank for their contacts and introductions and advice and support,” Roenigk said. Here, she describes for Front Row her reporting process for espnW’s five-part oral history, Road to 23: The story of Serena’s path to greatness.

Alyssa Roenigk (right) on SportsCenter Coast to Coast with David Lloyd and Cari Champion.
Alyssa Roenigk (R) on Thursday’s SportsCenter Coast to Coast with David Lloyd and Cari Champion.

Can you describe the interview process?
I cast a wide net, knowing I wouldn’t get everyone I wanted. But my central focus, the interviews I worked hardest to land, were her sisters and mother. I couldn’t imagine this story being properly told without their voices. I also wanted to include the inner circle her fans are most familiar with, the faces they see watching from her box at Grand Slam tournaments: her family, coach, trainer. From there, I got creative. None of it was easy. Serena’s friends and family, her peers and competitors are incredibly guarded about her. I’d never experienced an athlete with such devoted, loyal friends. And not just her friends — this was true of her competitors, sponsors, ghost writers. That in itself was telling.

Who was your favorite interview?
Serena has a lot of colorful people in her life, so I had many entertaining interviews. But the most memorable was her mother, Oracene, and sisters. The day I spent with them in Compton, Calif., they were returning to the city as a family for the first time since their oldest sister, Yetunde, was murdered, and they were opening a resource center in her name. Serena and Venus dedicated refurbished tennis courts, the same courts where they learned the game, to the city. It was an incredibly powerful day, and I felt privileged to experience it.

By Tara Chozet

Journalism on Display

  • Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill’s past is no secret. Hill pleaded guilty to abusing his pregnant girlfriend while at Oklahoma State but has since made changes in his life. ESPN’s Mina Kimes writes about the reality of Hill’s success, one that will forever carry the baggage of his past.
  • Senior writer David Fleming tells the story of the Dallas Cowboys’ dream season through 10-time Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten’s eyes. After Tony Romo fell to injury and lost his starting spot to rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, the Cowboys have had one of their best seasons yet.
  • Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce has emerged as one of the best in the NFL and has been compared to the New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski for more than just his talents on the field. Senior writer Elizabeth Merrill documents Kelce’s journey to becoming an elite tight end.
  • Panelists on Sunday morning’s The Sports Reporters (9:30 a.m., ESPN2, 10:30 a.m., ESPNEWS) will be Mike Lupica (host), Jemele Hill, Manish Mehta and Adam Schefter.

By Molly Mita

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