ESPN Strengthens Commitment to Journalism with Re-Signings, Additions
Five Investigative Journalists Signed to New Multiyear Contracts
ESPN has strengthened its longtime commitment to journalism by recently re-signing five of the most prominent reporters in its Investigative and Enterprise Journalism Unit to new contracts. The five signings come alongside the contract renewal of a key features writer, the addition of an accomplished writer, and the move of an editor into a full-time feature-writing role.
The investigative journalism portion of the unit develops investigative stories and breaks news across multiple platforms and under multiple ESPN brands.
The five ESPN investigative journalists who have signed new contracts to remain with the company are Steve Fainaru, Mark Fainaru-Wada, Mike Fish, Michael Fletcher and T.J. Quinn. All have been with ESPN for at least six years and have earned widespread recognition and top journalism awards during their careers.
- Fainaru is a Pulitzer and Emmy-winning journalist who came to ESPN in 2012. His 2017 E60 piece about Syria and the World Cup won a Sports Emmy for Journalism. His work at ESPN also includes, with his brother Mark, dozens of pieces on the NFL’s concussion crisis and an investigation into abuses at NBA training academies in China. Fainaru spent 10 years at The Washington Post as an investigative reporter in sports, national reporter and foreign correspondent. He won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting for a series on private security contractors in the Iraq war.
- Fainaru-Wada joined ESPN in November of 2007 as an investigative reporter. His recent cross-platform expose with freelance reporter Mike Kessler unearthed revelations that a track coach had molested dozens of boys and young men over the past five decades. The reporting led to the coach’s arrest in two separate jurisdictions and won a Sports Emmy for Journalism, among other industry high honors. The story also was included in the 2020 edition of The Best American Sports Writing His work also has included a story reported with his brother, Steve Fainaru, exposing abuses by coaches at NBA-run training academies in China.
- Fish, who joined ESPN in 2005, previously worked at CNN-Sports Illustrated, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and four other daily newspapers. He has written extensively on performance-enhancing drugs in sports and earlier in his ESPN career covered the accidental friendly-fire death of Army Ranger and professional football player Pat Tillman. He more recently wrote stories about NFL players’ investments that funded high-interest loans and, alongside Mike Fletcher, about NBA players and shoe deals in China.
- Fletcher came to the Enterprise Unit in early 2020 from ESPN’s Andscape (formerly The Undefeated) and has focused on politics, criminal justice and social issues. Prior to joining ESPN in January of 2016, he spent 21 years at The Washington Post, where his beats included the national economy, the White House and race relations. His recent work includes a moving piece about Colin Powell, questions about the in-custody death of a former NFL player, and the aforementioned piece with Mike Fish.
- Quinn has been with ESPN since 2007 and recently has reported extensively on the detention of WNBA star Brittney Griner in Russia and the trial related to the drug-related death of MLB pitcher Tyler Skaggs. Previously at the New York Daily News, Quinn, as part of that paper’s sports investigative team, broke numerous stories about doping. He also spent seven years as a Major League Baseball beat writer.
Enterprise writer and reporter Katie Barnes has also signed a new contract and will continue pursuing stories and reporting that appears on the ESPN App, Outside the Lines, SportsCenter and the ESPN Daily Podcast, among other platforms. Barnes, who in recent weeks has covered Lia Thomas at the the NCAA swimming championships and the Women’s Final Four, is a three-time nominee for GLAAD awards and covers culture, LGBTQIA+ issues, women’s basketball, collegiate softball and women’s combat sports.
Joining the Unit is Roberto José Andrade Franco as a writer and reporter who will focus on boxing, soccer and baseball. His work has appeared in Best American Sports Writing, and he has been a finalist for the Dan Jenkins Medal for Excellence in Sportswriting. Based in El Paso, Texas, he has previously written for ESPN platforms on a freelance basis. He recently wrote “Canelo Álvarez and the mystical man behind his quest for immortality.”
Finally, Ryan Hockensmith has shifted duties from deputy editor to full-time writer. Over the past few years as he’s edited some of our best writers, Ryan has put forth memorable and touching pieces of his own, ranging from “The final, beautiful goodbye of NFL legend John Madden” to The secret MVP of Sports to a story last month about How Ken Griffey Jr. saved a man’s life.
“We are beyond thrilled to add Roberto to our talented staff and can’t wait to see what Ryan brings to readers, viewers and listeners on a more-regular basis,” said Chris Buckle, Vice President, ESPN Investigative and Enterprise Journalism, who announced the developments. “For years, ESPN has aired and published the most important stories in sports, stories that range from holding the powerful accountable and giving a voice to those who cannot speak freely to dramatic pieces that take fans deep into sports figures’ lives and provide them access in ways they simply can’t find elsewhere. Our commitment to those ideals continues and is demonstrated with these very exciting moves across the Unit.”
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