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ESPN’s Kevin Merida Elected To Pulitzer Board, Honored With NABJ Lifetime Achievement Award

SVP and EIC of The Undefeated reflects on two prestigious career citations

The Pulitzer Prize Board today announced Kevin Merida’s election to the prestigious Board that chooses the winners of the Prizes in journalism, books, drama, and music each year.

Merida, ESPN Senior Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of The Undefeated, joins the 19-member Board for three terms of three years for a maximum of nine years.

Saturday, Dec. 19, Merida will receive the National Association of Black Journalists’ Chuck Stone Lifetime Achievement Award, given annually to a journalist who made remarkable contributions to the enrichment, understanding, and advancement of Black life and culture.

Merida shared his thoughts on his two career recognitions in one month with Front Row.

I will bring to the Board all that I’ve learned and experienced as a journalist, storyteller, media executive, dad, husband, Black man, sports fan, beach fan, books fan, and whatever else I have become. Which is to say I will bring my full authentic self to the consideration of who should win a prestigious Pulitzer Prize. – Kevin Merida

In a span of two weeks, you have been elected into the prestigious Pulitzer Prize Board and will receive NABJ’s Chuck Stone Lifetime Achievement Award. How would you describe this moment?
Merida: Both of these honors came as surprises to me. I was literally caught off guard in each instance – but in a pleasant way. This has been a surreal year. Any unexpected joy is a gift.

As one of the leading Black journalists in the country, what do you hope to bring to the Pulitzer Prize Board?
I will bring to the Board all that I’ve learned and experienced as a journalist, storyteller, media executive, dad, husband, Black man, sports fan, beach fan, books fan, and whatever else I have become. Which is to say I will bring my full authentic self to the consideration of who should win a prestigious Pulitzer Prize. I know how much these awards mean to journalists and those who write books, plays, poetry, music. I am honored to join the Board and be part of this process.

If we’re fortunate, and I have been, we do work that is gratifying all by itself. So, getting an award, and one named after the legendary Chuck Stone, is a treat. – Merida on receiving the NABJ LIfetime Achievement Award

What does being honored by your peers with an NABJ lifetime achievement award mean to you?
It always feels good to be recognized. We spend most of our work lives not getting recognized. If we’re fortunate, and I have been, we do work that is gratifying all by itself. So, getting an award, and one named after the legendary Chuck Stone, is a treat. Like getting two of my momma’s sweet potato pies. That said, I like looking ahead and not back. There is much more I want to accomplish, and it mainly has to do with helping others rise and fulfill their dreams and ambitions.

People who reach this level of achievement in their careers are likely those willing to take risks. What are some of the risks you have taken in your career?
Well, it was considered a risk to leave The Washington Post as managing editor to come to ESPN to launch The Undefeated. LOL. But it was a risk that paid off – I haven’t had a single day of regret. The risks I think about are those I am most proud of: hiring people on promise, creating opportunities for those who deserved them but weren’t getting them, pushing for, and embracing unconventional story choices and content executions. We all need someone to believe in us. Go show your belief in somebody. That’s how I’ve thought about it.

What would you tell a young Kevin Merida to get him/her on a path to high achievement in the field?
I’d say to a different young person – not young Kevin Merida because he wouldn’t listen – to not be in such a hurry. Don’t skip steps. Feast on learning. Take max advantage of every opportunity. Go to the gym after hours and work on your game so that you’re ready for the next level of success. I know this is a hard one because sometimes the wind just sweeps you up and carries you. But along the way, make your friends before you need them. They may help you while you’re sleeping. Also, don’t chase titles and cotton candy. And be who you actually are – everywhere. Courage matters. Don’t be afraid to be unafraid.

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