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Journalism Showcase: ‘The Power of the Story Will Always Win Out’ as ‘College GameDay’ Adapts to Storytelling’s New Normal

Creativity, collaboration and continuous innovation fuel 'GameDay's' storytelling

Storytelling is ingrained into the tradition of College GameDay, giving fans a grander look at their favorite student-athletes, plays, stories, moments, experiences and more. As the show, and ESPN, continue to adapt to the new norms and navigating the space, one thing remains true – where there’s a will, there’s a way.  

At the beginning of the pandemic when sports were shut down, I tried to think more creatively,” said ESPN Features Producer Sara Johnson. “Is there interview footage we previously shot that wasn’t used and could be repurposed? Is there a feature that could be updated by adding new virtual interviews? With sports somewhat coming back, we’ve had more access, but are still mostly working with school video departments.  There is a real feeling though that we are all in this together so collaborating with the schools has been great…. We may make some (creative) compromises, but there really is a feeling of camaraderie in us all working together to make a story as compelling as it can be while making sure everyone stays safe. 

This weekend, Gene Wojciechowski ‘sits down’ with Miami quarterback D’Eriq King, as they talk about King’s decision to transfer, the death of his father, and what has helped him get through it all. 

D’Eriq King was a force of football nature during the 2018 season at Houston,” Wojciechowski said. “This Saturday will be the one-year anniversary of the beginning of what he calls ‘the chaos’. Given that he now plays for Miami, and GameDay will be there, it seemed like an appropriate time to sit down with him.” 

Finding and telling compelling stories is still at the forefront, but the process has been altered by the realities of COVID-19.  

Travel and access to campuses is an issue, and access to players and coaches is more challenging,” Wojciechowski added. “But at the end of the day, the power of the story will always win out. The pandemic has simply forced us to think and adapt in different ways when it comes to executing those stories. Everyone – producers, reporters, the schools themselves – is doing the best they can in extraordinary times. 

Said Johnson: “We’ve all adapted quickly and the teamwork people have shown to keep things running efficiently is what allows us to continue producing great content. 

Wojciechowski’s feature, produced by Johnson, airs tomorrow (September 19), during College GameDay Built by The Home Depot (9 a.m. – noon ET). King and the No. 17 Miami Hurricanes will face No. 18 Louisville as part of ABC Saturday Night Football at 7:30 p.m., with Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Allison Williams on the call.  

ESPN’s Ryan Smith reporting for tonight’s 20/20 on ABC

In Friday night’s edition of ABC’s 20/20, ESPN’s Ryan Smith, also a correspondent for ABC News, reports on the latest details and legal developments in the mysterious murder case of former NBA player Lorenzen Wright, including lingering questions about what happened to Wright. “Mystery in Memphis” airs at 9 p.m. ET. 

– By Andy Hall

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