To celebrate Women’s History Month, ESPN has been premiering women’s sports-centric content throughout March across multiple platforms, powered by espnW. As part of that coverage, ESPN will air a TV special, SportsCenter Presents: espnW – History in the Making, premiering tonight at 8 ET on ESPN.
Front Row asked Jena Janovy, senior deputy editor, espnW and Multiplatform Storytelling, and Heather Lombardo, senior managing producer, E60, what to expect from the special.
Where did the idea to create this special come from? What can audiences look forward to?
Janovy and Lombardo: The idea originated in late-January after espnW features editors shared a proposed Women’s History Month story lineup with Scott Burton [executive editor, ESPN.com] and Alison Overholt [then VP, Editorial Director and Executive Producer, ESPN]. The espnW proposal established a vision for a digital presentation, which was to create and curate a collection of stories dedicated to the incredible women who shattered glass ceilings, blazed new paths, and contributed to society in historic ways despite the challenges of this past year. We also created a prime-time television special to bring that vision to life for our linear audience.
Please find time to watch tonight. Important work by impeccable folks on incredible women. https://t.co/pzkBmeMXgK
— Rob King (@ESPN_RobKing) March 16, 2021
How did you choose which moments and achievements to explore in the special?
Janovy and Lombardo: There was no shortage of stories and moments from this past year to showcase – from Sarah Thomas officiating the Super Bowl to Bianca Smith becoming the first Black woman to coach for a major league baseball franchise, to the tireless activism of WNBA players. Based on the espnW team’s selection of stories, we looked to storytelling teams around the company, including E60, The Undefeated, the Features Unit, and ESPN International. We curated an impressive grouping of stories – plus produced a few originals, including a Sarah Thomas conversation and a beautiful essay on Serena Williams by Howard Bryant [senior writer, ESPN.com].
How did the espnW and E60 teams work in tandem to put the special together? How would each of you describe your role?
Janovy and Lombardo: Our teams, ourselves and [espnW editors] Ericka Goodman-Hughey, Susie Arth, Charlotte Gibson and [E60 producer] Robbin Dunn worked in tandem to align on theme, approach, and story ideas.
We took the vision to the Creative Services group who, led by project manager Raya Clay, created a bold, vibrant, and sophisticated graphics package, adding a high-end look to our collection of stories. In each of our roles, we aimed to drive a diverse, inclusive, and collaborative storytelling package on multiple platforms in a way that recognized the amazing contributions from colleagues across the company – including Black History Always plus content from ESPN+, TV, and Audio, Digital, ESPN Deportes, and International.
What did it mean to you to work on a project like this one?
Janovy: It means the world to know the company understands the importance of centering the stories and voices of women. I’m grateful beyond words for the opportunity and appreciate the team’s collaborative spirit in bringing all of this to our fans.