Sometimes there is more to journalism than simply sharing a story. For Lisa M. Fenn, a former producer with ESPN, one story turned into friendship and a special bond with two young men she met in Cleveland.
The original story aired on the sports network in 2009, telling a tale of friendship between Leroy Sutton and Dartanyon Crockett, two wrestling teammates that had a strong connection. In Sutton’s youth, he was hit by a train and lost his legs. Crockett, who is suffering from Leber's Disease, is legally blind.
Tom Rinaldi and Fenn shared the story of these high school athletes, one who would perch on the other's back. Broken homes and broken families made the lives of this pair rough in the inner city ghetto, but that similar experience allowed Crockett and Sutton to connect. They worked together to overcome their obstacles.
"The one with no legs, being carried by the one who could not see. At first, I stayed because I simply could not look away," Fenn said.
For many, that’s where the story would have ended. The crew from ESPN moved on, taking their cameras and crews, finding other stories to tell.
As a member of the media, and one who observes what the traditional outlets in our city do, it is mostly coverage of people at their worst that fills the headlines. The good stories of people overcoming the obstacles and enduring are few and far between. But I know reporters love working on them.
You hope that some good can come from the storytelling. Often, as a member of the media, we are unable to cross the line to see something through.
It was a blessing that Fenn was in a place where she could make a difference.
"I stayed because I would not be next on the list of people who walked out and over their trust," Fenn wrote.
For producer Fenn, this is where the story started. Crockett and Sutton wanted to go on and further their education, but didn’t have the funds to do it. After the story aired, Fenn said the emails poured in. Being a native from the area, she was drawn to helping where she could. She worked with a lawyer friend and created a charitable trust. She helped the two run errands like getting documents in place, transcripts collected. As Rinaldi reported, she was the living difference.
It was a long and difficult road for all three of them, and you can see that story of friendship on ESPN.com.
"Producing the 2009 story, ‘Carry On,’ challenged me in ways I previously had not experienced. Instead of telling the story of an individual accomplishment or remarkable moment, this conveyed a friendship. And in order for the nuances of a friendship to unfold naturally on camera, I needed to become a part of it," Fenn said.
Sutton went to Arizona to study video game design, and Crockett won his way onto the U.S. Olympic Team, as a Paralympic judo competitor. In 2012, he won the bronze. Fenn and Sutton were there to see him in his moment of tears and triumph.
Stories can inform, surprise and delight. But sometimes, if done well, they can move mountains and change lives.
Media is bombarding us everywhere.
Instead of sheltering his brain from the onslaught, Steve embraces the news stories, entertainment, billboards, blogs, talk shows and everything in between.
The former writer, editor and producer in TV, radio, Web and newspapers, will be talking about what media does in our community and how it shapes who we are and what we do.