ESPN Strengthens Commitment to Journalism with Hires, Re-Signings
Xuan Thai, Sara Coello Join Investigative/Enterprise Unit
Four Journalists Signed to New Multiyear Contracts
ESPN has strengthened its longtime commitment to journalism by adding two journalists and re-signing four prominent reporters in its Investigative and Enterprise Journalism Unit to new contracts. The signings come alongside the addition of a veteran ESPN producer to the unit as well.
Xuan Thai joined ESPN in January as a senior writer and producer. She was previously deputy bureau chief of the south region for NBC News, managing a team of correspondents, producers and assignment editors. Prior, she was a field producer based out of Miami. She started in news at CNN where she covered the White House and Congress, eventually making the move to New York to become a show producer for MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd, and Andrea Mitchell Reports. Among other honors, she was part of the team that won a Murrow Award in 2020 for Continuing News Coverage and the 2018 GLAAD Award for Outstanding TV Journalism Segment. She has a law degree from George Mason University and is a University of Florida alumnus.
Sara Coello also joined ESPN in January, coming from The Charlotte Observer. In Charlotte, Coello led coverage of North Carolina’s SAFE Child Act, which expanded the rights of child sex-abuse victims, and led an investigation into claims that the University of North Carolina School of the Arts failed to investigate decades of alleged sexual assault and abuse by faculty members. Previously, Coello covered criminal and civil courthouses and breaking news at The Dallas Morning News and The Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C., before landing as an investigative reporter in Charlotte.
In addition to the two new hires, four longtime journalists in the unit signed new multiyear contracts: Alyssa Roenigk, Tisha Thompson, Sam Borden, and Tom Junod. Twenty-five-year ESPN feature producer Scott Harves also moved into the unit this month. All have earned widespread recognition and top journalism awards during their careers.
Roenigk is approaching her 21st year at ESPN, having started as an editor with ESPN The Magazine before moving into work for multiple ESPN brands and platforms. She’s been a sideline reporter for college football, X Games broadcasts and the Global RallyCross series, hosted hour-long specials for ESPN and ABC and served as an in-studio host for X Center and SportsNation. She’s covered the Olympics and co-reported a 30 for 30 podcast, “Heavy Medals,” about abuses at the Karolyi Ranch in north of Houston. Outstanding recent work includes a Cover Story on Coco Gauff, a conversation with Mikaela Shiffrin about her unexpected Olympics performances, and the definitive story on racing’s most iconic track.
Thompson joined ESPN in January 2017 from a distinguished investigative and consumer reporting career in local television. Her recent ESPN work includes the government investigations of NFL owner Dan Snyder and the Washington Commanders, the financial health of the WNBA, and sexual assault allegations within the U.S. Snowboard team. She is a member of ESPN’s 2019 Peabody Award winning team for its work on “Spartan Secrets,” and received the 2019 national Gracie Award for Best Online Video Host for her work on “Being Believed: A Conversation with Sister Survivors,” which also received the 2019 Gold Telly Award for Best Online Talk Show. She’s the recipient of more than 100 awards and honors.
Borden joined ESPN in 2017 as a senior writer and global correspondent, having worked most recently at the New York Times from 2011-17. Borden is a versatile journalist whose work at ESPN has included sideline reporting for major soccer matches and frequent appearances on the ESPN Daily podcast and Outside the Lines, for which he won an Emmy Award in 2019. His NFL Countdown piece, The Big Mo Show, won an Emmy and an Edward R. Murrow Award in 2021. Most recently, he covered the funeral of soccer great Pele in Brazil for multiple ESPN platforms.
Junod joined ESPN in 2016 and is one of America’s great longform writers. He is a two-time National Magazine Award winner and also has won a James Beard Award for an essay published in Esquire. Prior to ESPN, he wrote for GQ, Esquire, Life and Sports Illustrated. His ESPN piece with investigative reporter Paula Lavigne, Untold, documented survivors’ stories from a serial rapist at Penn State University and was the most-engaged online story among 28 million pieces worldwide in 2022. The story also spawned the short film, Betsy & Irv, which has been accepted into numerous international film festivals.
Harves is one of ESPN’s best visual storytellers and journalists, having worked in the Features Unit for 17 years. Among his many industry honors, he won a Sports Emmy Award for “Joplin” and an Edward R. Murrow Award for “The Lady Jags: Losing to Win.” He recently completed two major projects: a documentary on Charlie Ward for the ACC Network and an hour-long SC Featured documentary — “The Long Haul” — that chronicles the state of Minnesota’s first critical Covid-19 patient and his effort to complete an Ironman triathlon.
“Xuan, Sara and Scott make an extremely talented group better immediately, and we are thrilled they jumped to ESPN and this unit to continue positively impacting society with their excellent journalism,” said Chris Buckle, Vice President, ESPN Investigative and Enterprise Journalism, who announced the developments. “Part of why they came here was to work with esteemed journalists like Tisha, Tom, Alyssa, and Sam, so we’re beyond thrilled each has re-signed multiyear deals. They are among the tops in the field overall, and we look forward to their contributions for years to come.”
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