As a connoisseur of sports journalism, I was blown away by ESPN’s OTL inside account of how the Ray Rice saga went down in Baltimore and the NFL offices. The depth of reporting by Don Van Natta Jr. and Kevin Van Valkenburg, the two “Vans”, was exceptional.
The story shows the power of investigative journalism still rules in the new media age. Nothing beats boots-on-the-ground, making calls, mining sources and doing scores of interviews to provide a perspective on a story you can’t get anywhere else.
In many cases, the reader had the feeling of being in the room with these executives when the important decisions were being made.
Despite the Ravens claims of “inaccuracies” and poor assumptions, you know that OTL’s account is exactly how it went down. The Ravens lobbied the NFL and Roger Goodell to be lenient on Rice, a favorite of the owner. As a result, the league aggressively didn’t want to see and/or learn of the contents of the elevator video.
I also know how ESPN operates, especially for a story like this. Its editors require multiple sources to confirm key information, such as John Harbaugh wanting to cut Rice. Even though the Baltimore coach tried to distance himself from that report Sunday, it’s all just a smokescreen.
The OTL story was a good day for journalism. Congrats to ESPN’s two Vans and all others who were part of this important story.