In a candid and lively exchange with journalism students, athletes, sports reporters, and the general public at Kent State University on Monday, ESPN senior coordinating producer Dwayne Bray traced his career from his early days as a student reporter and baseball player in East Cleveland to his current post as a senior investigative producer for America’s foremost sports reporting outlet.
Bray oversees reporters for ESPN’s well-respected “Outside the Lines” and “Sports Center” programs.
Bray spoke at the Kent State University School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s FirstEnergy Auditorium in Franklin Hall as part of the School’s diversity initiative, exposing students to successful minorities who an serve as role models in journalism and mass communication.
Bray provided an overview of ESPN the media conglomerate and dealt directly with the balance between the network’s business and journalism missions. “How do we report aggressively on teams when we have billion-dollar business relationships with sports leagues? We focus on our mission: to serve the sports fan on any platform, anywhere. We chase the best stories out there,” he said. “My theory is ‘truth to power’ journalism. To have high-impact, we must cover the most powerful players and stories. We don’t let business relationships affect our reporting. We balance our relationships, but no one has ever told me not to go after a story.”
Bray emphasized the importance of solid reporting skills, cultivated first at the local level. “Good stories are based on notebooks filled with good facts and figures. To build good stories, you have to work harder than everyone else. The most important thing is to be competitive in getting the story first. You have to chase the story.”
Bray shared examples of ESPN’s aggressive investigative reporting, including the network’s lawsuits to obtain records from Ohio State University and the University of Texas. “ESPN has also been sued, but when you do investigative reporting, you have to be prepared for that,” he said.
Bray also discussed how sports had shaped his life, first as a child living in East Cleveland, and then as a sports reporter and baseball player at Shaw High School. “My love for sports saved me from a life in the ‘hood,” he said. His passion for sports and sports reporting led to a career in journalism that includes city reporting, police reporting, and sports reporting and editorial assignments in Dayton, Dallas, and Los Angeles.
Speaking of the experiences that have contributed to his success in journalism, Bray noted, “Anyone who wants to be a serious reporter needs to work a police beat,” he told the crowd. “That’s where you learn about getting the facts right.”
Bray believes that American life is increasingly influenced by sports. “ESPN has become even more vital since the recession. More people are staying home, watching us,” he said. “Sports fans are passionate. They scrutinize us and follow everything we do, so we have to get it right.”
Bray shared several ESPN investigative reporting videos, including stories that would not have been covered by other national media outlets, such as gambling on PeeWee football in South Florida.
ESPN is a useful example for journalism students. “Today the lines are blurred between print and broadcast. Students need to be proficient in both writing and shooting video. Dwayne’s experience helps students learn about what it takes to be a sports journalist today,” said Sue Valerian, an adjunct instructor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, who helped to arrange Bray’s visit. “Dwayne is a good role model for aspiring young journalists. He’s a terrific journalist who’s passionate about great stories and uncovering the truth.”
Media contact: Jennifer Kramer, APR, 330-672-1960, firstname.lastname@example.org