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Three Things To Know About The Making Of “ESPN Cover Story: Jonquel Jones”

Features writer Katie Barnes talks about showcasing the reigning WNBA MVP's personal journey to becoming the face of the league

Connecticut Sun forward and reigning WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones has earned almost every on-court accolade available since her league debut in 2016.

Jonquel Jones (Bronson Farr for ESPN)

She has the game, personality, and even a compelling origin story. Yet few outside of the WNBA faithful are aware of Jones’ impact across the sport and beyond.

Jones, who is Black and gay and describes herself as more masculine, sits at an intersection that has traditionally struggled to attract brands and media, even as the WNBA itself has become the most LGBTQIA+ inclusive professional sports league in the United States.

Features writer Katie Barnes talked with Front Row about showcasing Jones’ personal journey towards becoming the face of the WNBA for this month’s ESPN Cover Story.

How did this story come together?
My favorite part of these projects is getting to feel the ESPN machine go to work, especially because my work concentrates on marginalized athletes in women’s sports. My editor, Susie Arth, and I are always talking about what big swings we want to take. Jones had been on both our radars for years. Susie, to her immense credit, really pushed to make this story happen.

We squeezed in the access during a home stand. It really was a feat of collaboration to fit a TV interview set and two different photo sets in the same small meeting room. After that, it was just me making what felt like 100 trips out to Mohegan Sun to get the last questions answered.

What do you hope the audience takes away from this story?
I hope the audience considers the point of view Jones and other players share regarding the bias that affects who gets what money-making opportunities. All of us have unconscious biases, and it’s important to reflect on why we root for certain players, buy certain jerseys, or greenlight certain stories.

BARNES ON THE ESPN COVER STORY TEAMWORK

A portrait of Jonquel Jones, the 2021 WNBA MVP. (Bronson Farr for ESPN)
Barnes: “Cover Story, like any cross-platform story, requires so much collaboration between groups.
Once we had the piece, it was the entire editorial team who brought the written feature home. And hats off to producer Blake Foeman and photo editor Rob Booth. They were awesome to work with and brought such thoughtful, creative energy to the storytelling effort.”
For more on ESPN Cover Story, visit ESPN Press Room
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