The multi-platform ESPN Cover Story on Stefon Diggs debuted today. In “Stefon Diggs is Buffalo’s Miracle Man,” ESPN.com global correspondent and senior writer Sam Borden profiles the wide receiver focusing on self-direction, self-evaluation, and waiting to have his full experience with the Bills Mafia. Diggs is excelling in his first season with the Bills – who visit the New England Patriots Dec. 28 on ESPN’s Monday Night Football – after becoming a controversial star with the Minnesota Vikings. In the sidebar below, Borden talks about a unique aspect of his storytelling process.
In the following Q&A, Front Row asked Stacey Pressman, ESPN Director of Talent Production, about what makes an athlete a good match for Cover Story.
How does the team decide who will be on each issue of Cover Story? How did you decide on Stefon Diggs?
Our Cover Story team meets every week where we are constantly fielding ideas and having spirited discussions about who would make for a great Cover Story. We consider who we think our fans would be interested in, who has a great story to tell, and who is also having what we call “a moment.” That’s the start of the recipe. The other deciding factor is access. We can’t feature an athlete unless they’ll agree to participate in creating the full set of multi-platform content that makes up a Cover Story. That includes spending time talking to our writer, sitting for a TV interview, and attending a shoot to take the cover photos.
In the case of Stefon Diggs, he’s an athlete who is clearly having a moment [Diggs is currently leading the NFL in receptions]. He’s also someone who hasn’t done much media and who was willing to give us that time we needed to accomplish gathering these assets. – Stacey Pressman, ESPN Director of Talent Production
In the case of Stefon Diggs, he’s an athlete who is clearly having a moment [Diggs is currently leading the NFL in receptions]. He’s also someone who hasn’t done much media and who was willing to give us that time we needed to accomplish gathering these assets. We also knew [ESPN] would be telecasting two Buffalo Bills’ games in December [a Dec.7 MNF victory over the San Francisco 49ers and the Dec. 28 game at the Patriots]. By generating this Diggs content, we could create synergy that would benefit our platforms and audience.
What’s your role in booking Cover Story?
As Director of Talent Production, it’s my job to help identify the most relevant athletes and to build a bridge of relationship between them and ESPN so that they’ll share their compelling stories with us. I am continually out there talking to athletes and agents, trying to gauge who has a good story and figuring out what we can accomplish with some of the biggest names in sports. In this case, Stefon’s team was familiar with Cover Story and had reached out to me about it earlier this season. They were fielding a lot of interview requests, and I was told they wanted to target one impactful media opportunity. Our cross-platform package appealed to Stefon and his camp.
How has the pandemic changed your role? Has it been easier or harder to book talent for Cover Story?
Like everyone else, the pandemic has made the role more challenging across the board. Cover Story is all about access, so trying to navigate how our reporter will be able to craft observational moments for a written feature when they can’t physically be close to the subject is a challenge. It’s also not easy to shoot stylized cover photos or connect with the athlete remotely. There’s a lot of important nuance our ESPN team misses out on by not being able to be on set. However, despite the added difficulties which have forced us to think differently and innovate, we’ve been able to land fantastic subjects through a lot of hard work and some good luck.