ESPN.com continues to push the envelope in online journalism with its latest design approach, accompanying text with visual images, illustrations and videos presented like never before.
The latest piece to undergo this unique treatment is Wright Thompson’s “Here & Gone,” a profile on soccer great Lionel Messi. He’s seen through the lens of his hometown in Argentina he left at the age of 13 to pursue a journey
to professional soccer in Barcelona.
Adding this new visual experience to the gifted storytelling from writers like Thompson and Patrick Hruby’s “The Long, Strange Trip of Dock Ellis” has enhanced the online reading experience for fans. ESPN.com’s Deputy editor, Enterprise, Jena Janovy talks to Front Row about this new approach.
Why was this story chosen to undergo this type of storytelling design?
There were several reasons we chose Wright Thompson’s story on Lionel Messi for this design approach. First and foremost, Wright tells great stories, full of richness, depth and sophistication, that take you places you and show you things — all the while exploring a big idea. In this case, we knew he was exploring the complex relationship between a global soccer superstar who left home at an early age to become a professional athlete and is trying desperately to maintain the connection to his past. As Wright writes, “He’s trying to fill a hole, this boy who was born in Argentina and came of age in Spain. He never liked robots or toy cars, just kicking a ball. He traded his childhood for the game he now plays with a childish joy. Growing up in Rosario might not have shaped him, but leaving it certainly did.” We knew Wright and Enterprise senior editor Jay Lovinger would deliver a compelling read. In addition, the Messi story had the potential for great visual creativity and beauty. And John Korpics, vice president and creative director, Digital and Print Media, led the cross-platform team of designers and photo editors to create an elegant and engaging format that integrated photography, an interactive map and video to enhance the reading experience in the digital space.
How much collaboration is there between the writer (Thompson) and the design team to create this page?
The collaboration happens early in the process, when we meet with Wright and talk about the idea — what’s he going after in the reporting, what are the big-picture themes, where does he need to go, what will he find there. It continues after the reporting and when he’s beginning to write. John Korpics and his team met with Wright and his editors as Wright was sitting down to write his story and discussed the overarching idea of the piece. Once that discussion takes place, Wright goes off and does his thing, and design does its thing. The spirit of collaboration needs to live through the process, and it’s up to the editors, photographers, designers and managers to make sure we’re sharing ideas, providing feedback and thematically all on the same page.
What other stories can fans anticipate next?
We have several under consideration right now and plan to make a decision soon on the next one. Rest assured, we’re looking forward to sharing stories on high-profile sports figures as well as people you might never have heard about – people with stories that we hope our readers will enjoy.