The latest podcast in the ESPN Investigates feed, “The Running Man,” debuted Tuesday.
The four-part series tells the story of an obscure former Olympian and alleged serial sexual predator, Conrad Avondale Mainwaring, and the 13-month ESPN investigation by the Outside the Lines team that brought him out of the shadows.
Front Row asked Senior Vice President, Multiplatform Storytelling and Journalism, Alison Overholt, to discuss what can be expected from the new investigative reporting feed.
What’s the goal of the ESPN Investigates feed?
We have some of the best investigative reporters and some of the best narrative storytellers in the business. Fans have always appreciated their written work and their television/video work – so with the rise of storytelling podcasts, we wanted to offer another way to showcase those talents. In the podcast space, true crime and serialized narratives have significant followings. Listeners love a mystery, a journey, and a tale well told. This was a natural next step to connect our storytellers and their work with a new and growing audience.
What types of stories can we expect to be included in the feed? Will they always be serialized?
Some will be familiar, drawn from our archives — stories that are so good and have real staying power, that we want to extend them now to the audio platform. Like “The Running Man” podcast, which was based on the Emmy-winning two-year cross-platform OTL investigation into Conrad Mainwaring by reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Mike Kessler.
Others will be original stories, like our first podcast in the feed: “Bloodlines,” from Wright Thompson, which took listeners on a journey beginning with the mysterious recent deaths of thoroughbred horses in California and ending with troubling answers about the changing business of racing, while weaving insights into American cultural history throughout. What will link all the stories in the ESPN Investigates feed is that they all begin with fascinating questions, introduce riveting characters, and take listeners on a storytelling journey with the reporter-host, all against the backdrop of sports.
What makes podcasts the right medium for these types of stories?
Well, we already know that these stories shine through the written word and through the documentary and video feature mediums, because we’ve had great success with these kinds of stories on those platforms for many years now. What makes them also compelling — you might even say uniquely compelling — as pods is that podcasts are so intimate. They’re a conversation between the host and the listener. And with serialized podcast storytelling, that intimacy offers the opportunity to take listeners along for the reporting journey in a way that you simply don’t experience when you consume a finished written or visual piece. It’s exciting to extend our work into another platform in a way that will feel distinctive and fresh.
What is the next story we can expect from the feed following “The Running Man?”
We have a number of projects in development, some based on E60 features, others drawn from the digital storytelling team and from the investigative unit. Subscribe to the feed wherever you listen to your podcasts, and you’ll be the first to know when the next one is ready.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Below, in a video featured in a Front Row post from August 2019, reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Mike Kessler discuss their investigative process.