Behind The ScenesE:60Journalism Showcase

Sadly, Parkland familiar ground for E:60 senior producer Khodabakhshian

Nearly one year ago, a shooting occurred at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., killing 17 people. Among the 17 who lost their lives was assistant football coach and school security guard Aaron Feis. E:60 followed the football team during its first season without Coach Feis to see how the game of football helped through this difficult time. This story is part of a new season of originals debuting in Sunday’s E:60 (ESPN, 9 a.m. ET).

Unfortunately for senior producer Martin Khodabakhshian, this is not his first time he’s told this type of story. Khodabakhshian produced “Sunshine,” a story involving victims of the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting and “Autumn” about survivors from the Las Vegas shooting. His approach is always the same.

“The first thing I do is explain to them that I’ve never been through what they’ve been through and I want them to be comfortable sharing what they want to share,” said Khodabakhshian, who worked with reporter Jeremy Schaap. “We’re not doing this to be exploitive; we’re trying to put the viewers who haven’t experienced what they’ve experienced in the moment, in the best possible way, without being insensitive to them.”

Khodabakhshian says the biggest challenge when spending time in communities who are experiencing so much pain is trying to separate being a human being from being a journalist.

“Some colleagues and people in this industry keep a line and don’t cross it, but I feel like I get more from my subjects by building a relationship and showing authenticity. I talk with them and their families whether they are being interviewed for the story or not. But when I get close to these people it’s hard emotionally,” Khodabakhshian said.

Khodabakhshian says he feels an added pressure in telling these types of stories.

“They are telling me the worst things that they’ve been through in their life and it’s hard to shut that off and not feel the pressure to deliver something that makes them feel good about their decision to do this story,” said Khodabakhshian, a multiple-Emmy winner. “Not just with me but with E:60 and ESPN. I represent us and I want them to see that I’m not just a ‘call letter,’ I’m a person who feels. And the hardest part is to let those emotions subside during and after the process.”

– Molly Mita

1.NBA Friday’s doubleheader tips off in Philadelphia at 7 p.m. when the 76ers host the Denver Nuggets and at 9:30 p.m., the Minnesota Timberwolves face the New Orleans Pelicans. The Houston Rockets and reigning MVP James Harden go head to head with Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder for this week’s ESPN NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC matchup at 8:30 p.m. And on Sunday LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers visit Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers for ESPN’s NBA Sunday Showcase on ABC at 3:30 p.m.

2. E:60 debuts a new season of original programming this Sunday at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN. Sunday’s show includes a profile on sports broadcasting hall of famer Bob Costas, the Stoneman Douglas football team and a Chris Tucker “Tell me a Story.”

3. College GameDay Covered by State Farm will make its way to Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday, Feb. 9, as No. 3 Virginia and No. 2 Duke face off in another top-five matchup.

4. “SC Featured” returns with a new season on Saturday during the 8 a.m. ET hour of SportsCenter. The first episode features NBA star Kevin Durant who makes a visit to his hometown in Princes Georges County, Md. for the grand opening of the Durant Center.

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