E:60JournalismJournalism ShowcaseSoccer

E:60: How a Soccer Ball Survived a National Tragedy and Completed Space Mission 31 Years Later

Television producer takes on dual role of writing for ESPN.com in telling "Bonds Of Earth" story

Tonya Malinowski co-produced Sunday’s E:60 (9 a.m. ET, ESPN), “Bonds Of Earth.”

The piece explains how a soccer ball from astronaut Ellison Onizuka’s daughter’s teammates at a high school in Clear Lake, Texas, survived the tragic Challenger space shuttle explosion in January 1986 and finally completed its mission to space 31 years later.

In addition to producing, she wrote the full story on ESPN.com.

Not many people can produce or write but even less can do both. Malinowski says the two are extremely different.

“Working with [producer] Max [Brodsky] to help shape the TV feature was very different than writing the text piece. In a TV presentation, the viewer can be immersed in the sights and sounds of a place or a moment without needing a lot of narration,” Malinowski said. “In a text presentation, you have to conjure the same scene through words alone. There’s a beautiful give and take to both mediums.”

But in Malinowski’s opinion, one is more difficult than the other.

“I find producing for television to be more challenging because you’re limited to what there’s a video record of. When it comes time to put a television story together, you start with what you’ve shot or what exists in the archives and sculpt the story around that video and sound,” said Malinowski. “In writing, you start with a much wider field of possibility.”

But despite the challenges each presents, there is a silver lining in having the ability to do both.

“In working on both sides of the story, I was able to dive in on the historical aspect and comb through the National Archives in Maryland,” said Malinowski. “It was helpful to see it all, because you never know what small detail will become important later.

“There is a kind of magic that happens when someone sits with you and tells you their story, and I consider myself incredibly lucky to get to experience that,” said Malinowski. “The people of Clear Lake and the Onizuka family were so gracious to Max and me throughout production of this story, and I hope viewers and readers feel that same sense of connection.”

Due to the holiday, Journalism Showcase will resume on July 13.

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