As an associate editor at ESPN’s The Undefeated, Rhiannon Walker '11 focuses on the intersections of race, sports, and culture by using traditional and new media—video, aggregation, original reporting, social media, and other storytelling methods. She is a sports fanatic (she’s been an athlete since age four), and is “extremely passionate about humanizing athletes and giving them more than one dimension.”
Before ESPN, Rhiannon was a freelancer for Lacrosse Magazine and a news aide for The Washington Post. She has held full-time internships at the Baltimore Sun, The Oklahoman, USA TODAY Sports, the Houston Chronicle, WUSA9, the Chicago Tribune, and the Dallas Morning News. She earned her bachelor’s degree from University of Maryland, College Park in broadcast journalism with concentrations in history and women’s studies. She is an active member of the National Association of Black Journalists, the Association for Women in Sports Media, and Associated Press Sports Editors.
SSSAS: How do you compete for the attention of readers/viewers in today’s competitive world? What stories do you particularly enjoy telling?
Rhiannon: I think good writing and excellent reporting will always captivate an audience. People are always going to enjoy the work of someone who is consistently fair, readable, and capable of explaining a subject in a way that people can understand. Nowadays, readers also want to see more humor and wit in the writing of their favorite journalists. People in my generation want to see social media being used in smart and savvy ways. I love the way Mic, Al Jazeera, and Huffington Post, use videos to tell the news. For people that don’t want to read a 600-word story, that’s much easier to digest. I think you make content different and engaging by knowing what kind of audience you’re trying to attract and satisfy. Plus, you need to study what keeps them coming back to your product. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does have to be genuine, honest, and thoughtful, which readers appreciate.
I really enjoy enterprise or feature stories. This is my favorite kind of writing because I get to spend more time with the people I interview, get to disseminate more information to the audience, and have more room to be creative with my writing. I love taking people on a journey, making them feel something when they read my work, and I simply enjoy telling stories about people. I recently wrote a seven-page outline for a feature I pitched to my boss. I had to explain why I wanted to write the story, who I would interview and why, and how this story was going to resonate with our readership. I enjoy that challenge.