ESPN’s “Journalism Showcase” – March 10, 2017

Britt McHenry reporting from Houston and Jeff Legwold reporting from Denver Broncos.
Britt McHenry reporting from Houston and Jeff Legwold reporting from the Denver Broncos.

Without question, one of the NFL offseason’s biggest storylines is the future of Dallas quarterback Tony Romo. With the the start of free agency looming, ESPN’s Content and Coverage unit ensured that ESPN had every angle – and location – covered this week.

“We often proactively move reporters to locations where we anticipate big news. In this case, we knew something would happen in Dallas with Romo but we didn’t necessarily know exactly what that news would be,” said Coordinating Producer Jonathan Wolf. “Calls to Insiders Ed Werder and Adam Schefter, in addition to frequent conversations with reporter Jeff Darlington and NFL Nation Cowboys reporter Todd Archer, started weeks ago.”

Darlington, who lives in Miami, traveled to Dallas days before Adam Schefter and Todd Archer’s [original] story that Tony Romo would likely be released by the Cowboys.

“We green-lighted our live coverage from Dallas on Tuesday, a day before the breaking news, because Darlington had strong reporting [something was afoot] and our shows’ interest in the story was significant,” Wolf said. “By the time the news of Romo not being retained at 1:50 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Darlington had been doing live shots from Dallas for a day and a half.”

The ultimate goal of the Content and Coverage group for all coverage, not just Romo, is to provide all of ESPN’s platforms with the best people and equipment to create the most insightful and entertaining content possible, even if that means traveling reporters and producers to be in place waiting for news that may or may not happen.
– Coordinating Producer Jonathan Wolf

ESPN also placed additional reporters in other cities based on where Romo could be headed.

“It became clear pretty quickly that Houston and Denver were the overwhelming favorites to land Romo’s services,” Wolf said. “Jeff Legwold, the NFL Nation reporter for the Broncos, was on-call for over a week working his sources in Denver and getting ready to go live once there was news.

Britt McHenry had handled a good portion of our Texans coverage in 2016 so we felt really good about putting her on a plane from Washington D.C. to handle the coverage in Houston,” he said.

ESPN’s forward-looking approach and available resources set it apart from nearly all other news organizations.

“The ultimate goal of the Content and Coverage group for all coverage, not just Romo, is to provide all of ESPN’s platforms with the best people and equipment to create the most insightful and entertaining content possible, even if that means traveling reporters and producers to be in place waiting for news that may or may not happen,” Wolf said. “Our coverage decisions are made with our digital, mobile and social platforms in mind, not just television.”

As the Romo story continues to develop, ESPN will have coverage from all angles thanks to its deep roster of reporters in multiple cities.

Journalism on Display

  • The play of UCLA freshman guard Lonzo Ball has generated many headlines this season as the Bruins’ star continues to increase his stock in the 2017 NBA Draft. Meanwhile, his outspoken father has made basketball the Ball family business, as Scoop Jackson reports for SC Featured. An all-access look at the Ball Family will air in the 10 a.m. ET edition of SportsCenter on Sunday, March 12, and will re-air in other editions of the program throughout the day.
  • ESPN senior writer Ramona Shelburne takes readers through the timeline of events that led to the hardest decision of Los Angeles Lakers owner Jeannie Buss’ life. The decision to fire her brother, Jim Buss. Shelburne reveals the inside story of the Buss drama and answers the question, how did the Lakers get here?
  • ESPN Reporter Pedro Gomez sits down with some of Major League Baseball’s Venezuelan players who are playing for their country in the World Baseball Classic including Kansas City Royals’ Salvador Perez, Seattle Mariners’ Felix Hernandez and Texas Rangers’ Rougned Odor. The men discuss what it means to be playing for their country especially at a time when Venezuela is experiencing such despair and hopelessness. Gomez and the players converse in their native language of Spanish as well as English throughout the enlightening conversation.
  • Panelists on Sunday morning’s The Sports Reporters (9:30 a.m., ESPN) will be Mike Lupica (host), Mitch Albom, William C. Rhoden and Bob Ryan.
  • From "Béisbol Life," (L-R) Kansas City's Salvador Perez, ESPN's Pedro Gomez and Seattle's Felix Hernandez.
    From “Béisbol Life,” (L-R) Kansas City’s Salvador Perez, ESPN’s Pedro Gomez and Seattle’s Felix Hernandez.

OTL: Smith and UCLA’s Alfords
Shelley Smith talks about Sunday’s edition of Outside the Lines (9 a.m. ET, ESPN) that offers an in-depth look at the life of UCLA Men’s Basketball Coach Steve Alford.

How did the idea for this piece come about?
The Bruins got hot. Lonzo Ball was the story and I started thinking what else would be interesting about the hottest team in basketball? I had met Steve Alford years ago when he was at Iowa, doing a story on one of his players (Dean Oliver) whose father was in prison. And more recently I ran into him at a tournament in Las Vegas. He’s a tough one to get to sit still — he doesn’t do many interviews, but when we told him it would be about his family and his journey, he was in. We interviewed EVERYONE. We even went to his parents’ lake house in Nineveh, Indiana.

Then, we went after [Alford’s former coach at Indiana] Bob Knight. Never in a million years did I think he would say yes. But never say never. He was charming and warm in talking about Steve and his family. And he loved reminiscing.

What did you find most challenging about working on this piece?
We didn’t really know what the focus would be going into the piece, but then it started to emerge, how he has been preparing for this moment all his life. His background, his mentors. Coordinating Producers Dwayne Bray and Tim Hays and producer Nick Aquilino, came up with “from son and player to father and coach.” Aquilino was hands on and traveled for all the interviews, and then he found the right video and photos to make the story sing.

What did you learn about Steve Alford that you didn’t know before the interview?
He is intense and focused and his kids make fun of him as much as anyone. I really liked getting to know his wife and daughter, Kayla, who is a marketing major at Cal Lutheran and as much of a superstar in that field as Bryce and Korey are in hoops. Their family is exceptionally faith driven and one another’s best friends.

By Molly Mita