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ESPN’s “Journalism Showcase” – February 9, 2018

Good journalists always try to remain neutral when covering a story, but that was a bit tricky for ESPN Features producer Susan Ansman as she worked on the kick-off piece for a new season of SC Featured, “Through the Fire,” proved to be difficult because the human element of it hit close to home.

The Tom Rinaldi-led story of the Cardinal Newman High School football team from Santa Rosa, Calif., carrying on its season after the destructive wildfires of last October resonated with Ansman, who went to Santa Rosa two weeks after the fire. What she heard from people she interviewed came back to her in December when the Skirball Fire came within 10 miles of her home in Los Angeles.

“I remember listening to the weather forecast and them talking about how it was going to be windy and everyone was on high alert for fire,” Ansman said. “I had ash on my car. And all I could think about was, ‘This is how the stories of the people in Santa Rosa started.’ You put yourself in their shoes and it’s really scary.”

ESPN Features producer Susan Ansman, wearing a safety mask, surveys the devastation following the wildfire in Santa Rose, Calif. (Photo courtesy of Susan Ansman/ESPN)

Shooting video around Santa Rosa and interviewing people for the piece that debuts on Sunday editions of SportsCenter was moving, she said.

“It’s incredibly difficult because you’re looking at the devastation firsthand,” she said. “And then you meet with these people and they’re still in shock. They’re telling you the stories of how they ran out of their houses almost with ease because it’s almost too early for them to grieve. They’re still processing.”

Still, she found an uplifting thread while doing the story.

“I hope people look at this team and realize that no matter what adversity you may face, it’s not the end of the world,” she said. “These people lost so many things in that fire, but they’ve turned it around and said what matters is our family’s are alive, our friends are here, the community has supported us and no matter what these boys do with their football season, they’ve really won.”

Watch a preview of “Through The Fire” in the video above. Preview “SC Featured’s” 2018 productions in the video below.

Journalism on Display