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Post Episode Ten: ESPN Michigan State investigation honored with first IRE sports award

ESPN Investigative Reporter Paula Lavigne joins the show to discuss her team's IRE-award winning investigation of Michigan State athletics and sexual assault cases. Other sports investigations are also highlighted.

COLUMBIA, Missouri – In Episode Ten, Post discusses the winner and three finalists of the Investigative Reporters and Editors award for sports investigations. This is the first year the news organization has specifically honored sports journalism in its prestigious annual contest.

This show highlights reporting from ESPN, Boston Globe, Daily Iowegian and The Oregonian.

Investigative Reporters and Editors Executive Director Doug Haddix joins the show to discuss why the awards judges said they chose each finalist and breaks down the most impressive techniques used by the journalists.

Haddix also discusses why sports investigations have broad appeal – because many of the stories are about money and power more than the game.

For example, the Daily Iowegian uncovered a scandal at a local community college in which the paper found evidence of coaches falsifying records so that foreign students could work athletic security jobs and bring money to the team. The print and podcast series by the Boston Globe dug deep into the life and death of football star Aaron Hernandez through jailhouse calls, text messages and other documents. The Oregonian’s piece, “The Swoosh Effect,” took a startling look into the way Nike sponsored youth basketball players and their families – and how that impacts the sport on college and professional levels.

The second half of the episode features an interview with ESPN Investigative Reporter Paula Lavigne. She discusses how her team first began investigating a cover-up within Michigan State athletics that included Larry Nassar, the school’s team doctor and USA Gymnastics doctor, who was ultimately convicted of multiple counts of sexual abuse. The ESPN team looked not only into that case, but a widespread pattern of inaction within the school – ranging from campus police to the athletics department.

ESPN fought legal battles to gain access to documents and names related to specific cases and prevailed in court. Lavigne explains why the team fought and the results of gaining access to records that had long been held secret. She also discusses the difficulties in reporting on sports organizations and universities and how the entire team worked through those challenges.

LINKS to stories discussed in Post, Episode Ten:

ESPN: Spartan Secrets

Indianapolis Star: Larry Nassar Investigation

Boston Globe: Gladiator

Daily Iowegian: Indian Hills Community College

The Oregonian: The Swoosh Effect 

Post is a media review program from InvestigateTV, Gray Television’s streaming channel dedicated to in-depth and watchdog reporting. Post is presented in partnership with the journalism organization Investigative Reporters and Editors. The monthly program is taped at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, a partner of InvestigateTV.